500 Server Error or White Screen of Death

If you are a WordPress developer, chances are, you will get this annoying problem from time to time. Don’t be panic, there are ways to get you out of trouble. You just need to know the root of the problem, then apply the solution. Here are few tricks to help you quickly locate the problem.

What is White Screen of Death (WSOD)

Very much like the famous windows Blue Screen of Death, White Screen of Death is the symptom when WordPress gets into trouble. By default, DEBUG mode is disabled in WordPress, there are no error messages output on screen, therefore, only a pure white page.

To Disable the Trouble Maker

If you never touched any source code, then the trouble is caused by conflict components, the plug-ins, or active theme. You should know this right after install / update a plugin, active / update a new theme, or sometime, change few settings. The first thing to get you out of trouble is to remove the trouble maker.

For example, after applying update for a plugin (ABC), you get this White Screen of Death. Because it is a WSOD, you unlikely have access to the admin panel to disable the troubled plugin. The fastest way is to remove ABC out of /wp-content/plugins/ directory via FTP client. Normally, I put it under /wp-content/disabled/. This can sure you regain access to admin panel, and work on your alternative solution.

To Debug the Error

If it is a plugin or theme, there isn’t much you can do about it, unless you are good at coding. In most case, rolling back to earlier state is the safest solution.

If it is your own code or you are interested in hacking the code, enable WordPress debug mode in wp-config.php can get you detailed information about error message and the exact location.

* For developers: WordPress debugging mode.
* Change this to true to enable the display of notices during development.
* It is strongly recommended that plugin and theme developers use WP_DEBUG
* in their development environments.
define('WP_DEBUG', true);