WordPress: How to Debug the “White Screen of Death”

Photo By stuartpilbrow

So you’ve got a fresh version of WordPress installed and you’ve got your new website up and running, but you would also  like to add some new functionality to it.  Here’s where those handy WordPress plugins come in. 

After installing some plugins, you are shocked to see that your entire site is a blank white screen.  In the WordPress community, this problem is coined as the “white screen of death”.

Disabling Plugins

Before you start pulling your hair out, there are a few ways to debug and get around this issue.  Firstly,  if you can access the WordPress admin area, disable all of your plugins one by one and then check to see if your site is back to normal.  By using the process of elimination, you can narrow your debugging down to one single plugin.

However, if you are unable to access the WordPress admin area to disable plugins, you have two options: delete the plugin files or disable all plugins in your database.  If you have FTP access, then FTP into the /wp-content/plugins directory and start deleting.  This method isn’t recommended because you will essentially have to start from scratch.  If you have access to PHPMyAdmin and are comfortable working in this area, create an SQL query:

UPDATE `wp_options` SET option_value=” WHERE option_name=’active_plugins’;

This will disable all active plugins.

Now that all of those plugins are disabled and you are able to narrow it down to the pesky one, this leaves you with two options: you can either ditch the faulty plugin for a similar one, or you can attempt to fix the plugin’s issue.

Let the Author Know

Either way, it is a good idea to let the plugin author know about your issue.  When doing so, it is very important to provide as many details as possible.  Details include:  Which WordPress version?  What server type (Apache or IIS)?   What version of PHP?   What browser are you using?  What other plugins are installed?  What were you doing that may have caused the issue?

Debugging Options

Okay, so you’re feeling adventurous?  First off, you will need a helpful plugin called Error Reporting.  This handy plugin will create error logs for nearly everything in WordPress.  It will allow you to pinpoint which line in the plugin that the problem is occurring.   This is recommended for advanced users with PHP experience.


Sometimes things just break.    It’s important to take a deep breath and to keep an open mind.


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