WordPress 101: Fixing the White Screen of Death

fixing the white screen of death

In the world of WordPress, there is a horrifying, mysterious, and ever-infuriating phenomena that is referred to as… *dun dun dun* …The White Screen of Death. The terrifying affliction comes on quickly, and you’re often left wondering what exactly you did to cause it. The good news? It’s not a big deal, and you can remedy it relatively easily. Follow along as we help you on your journey of fixing the white screen of death!

What were you doing right before the White Screen of Death occurred?

This is powerful knowledge! The White Screen of Death doesn’t appear just because it feels like it. Something had to make it appear. Use this bit of information to troubleshoot your problem further.

Were you editing your functions.php file?

If you were editing your theme’s functions.php file or another PHP file and made a mistake, you will see the white screen of death. PHP code is very sensitive; if you have one thing out of place, it will essentially break your site. The damage, however, is never permanent nor serious. Since the White Screen of Death locks you out of your WordPress admin area, you’ll need to have access to your site via FTP or cPanel to fix the problem. Once you’re in, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Find the directory where your main WordPress files are located
  2. Open the wp-content folder
  3. Open the themes folder
  4. Open the folder for your current theme
  5. Download or edit the functions.php file (or whatever file you edited pre-White Screen of Death). Find the area you were working on and fix the code.


    Upload a fresh, untouched version of the functions.php file (or file in question) so it overwrites the offending file.

It’s good to always make a copy of your files before editing them. This way, you will have an untainted version of the offending file on hand if you need to restore it.

Did you just activate/update/edit a plugin?

Not all plugins are created equal, and sometimes a plugin may negatively interact with another plugin on your website, stirring up drama. If you just activated a new plugin that didn’t play well with your site, just go to the Plugins page and deactivate it. If you’re not able to access your WordPress admin area, you’ll need to access your site’s files via FTP or cPanel. Once you’ve gained access, complete the following:

  1. Find the directory where your main WordPress files are located
  2. Open the wp-content folder
  3. Open the plugins folder
  4. Find the plugin you just activated/updated/edited and rename the folder. For example, if the plugin folder’s name is “Best_Wordpress_Slider”, change it to “OLD_Best_Wordpress_Slider”. This will deactivate the plugin. (If you don’t need the plugin files, delete the folder instead.)

In more extreme cases, it might be hard to tell exactly which plugin is the problem. In that case, you might have to go through these steps for each plugin to rule out which one is the offender.

Still not sure?

If you can’t identify the problem exactly, try turning on the “debug” mode which can help you pinpoint the issue.

Other causes

Mistakes in PHP files and Plugin Problems are the two main causes of the White Screen of Death. However, there is a slight chance it could have to do with something else.

  • Corrupted file(s): Your WordPress files or database could be corrupted with malware, or due to another cause. In this case, you will need advanced troubleshooting.

  • Hosting downtime: It’s possible the server you are hosted on could be experiencing some downtime. Usually, your host will notify you via email of any planned downtime. If the problem persists, contact them regarding the status of the server.

This article covers most all White Screen of Death causes and solutions. Generally, this is the type of error most ‘regular’ users of WordPress are going to be dealing with. If you’re experiencing a different WordPress issue, refer to this discussion of Common WordPress Errors to learn more.