WordPress and the White Screen of Death

I can’t help dabbling with the design of my wordpress site, a new plugin or a design tweak here and there. I have a few wins, usually with incremental improvements in my blog layout but it still feelsĀ like I’m walking a tightrope.

We are all just one save away from the white screen of death which wipes out your wordpress site and all access to your wp-admin control. There is no miraculous undo button and hitting the back button on your browser my make you feel momentarily relieved but it will all be for nought. Your wordpress site is kaput!

This happened to me again today and left me sick to the pit of my stomach.
whatapalaver visits
I’d been experiencing a rather unexpected flurry of visitors as my iPad controlled Raspberry Pi had been featured on Lifehacker. I thought I should take the opportunity to spruce up my site a little and add a new social share feature in the hope that I could ride the popularity wave a bit longer.

I added on box to my thesis 2 theme, pressed save and wham! Everything gone. I’d just managed to turn my website into a white screen of nothingness on the busiest weekend of its public life.

It’s not the first time I’ve managed to do this and no doubt it will not be the last. I’ve decided to jot down some tips for the next time:

What triggered the catastrophic failure of your wordpress site?

For me this time it was adding a new box to the wordpress theme thesis 2 but on previous occasions it has related to the installation of a new thesis skin or a new wordpress plugin. Sometimes it is not quite so obvious but likely suspects will be an incompatibility with one or more plugins

Disable the most likely culprit of the White Screen of Death

What did you decide was the most likely culprit?

I knew it was the thesis box so needed to disable it, if you suspect a plugin you need to disable that and so on.

As we can’t access our wp-admin page anymore we are going to have to access our files via ftp. I use Filezilla to access my webpages. If you haven’t set this up yet I suggest you find a tutorial for setting up ftp access and find all the relevant login details from your webhost – you will need to do this.

The easiest way to disable a feature of wordpress is to rename the folder in which it resides. The effect is instantaneous, so you can see immediately if its worked and you can change it right back if it hasn’t.

To disable the thesis boxes, I navigated to the wp-content/thesis/boxes area of my blog, and renamed the boxes folder to boxes_old

I then went to test my site with a refresh and miraculously it appeared again. Having confirmed it was the thesis boxes I proceeded to delete the one I had just installed, then changed the name of the folder back to boxes. I refreshed the site and was back to normal.

If you need to disable plugins after the wordpress white screen of death you can follow a similar method and go to wp-content/plugins via your ftp client. For a very quick way to tell whether the problem lies with your plugins you can change the name of the entire folder to plugins_old and refresh your site. If the site reappears you know that one of the plugins is at fault and you begin the process of whittling them down. I think (but haven’t tested this) that changing the name of the individual plugin folder will deactivate it so you can deactivate them and reactivate one by one to catch the culprit.

If you still have problems and are using the thesis theme, you should head over to the DIYThemes forum where they are extremely helpful – Good Luck.

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