Common WordPress Errors & How to Fix

common wordpress errors

The WordPress CMS (content management system) has made website creation more efficient since its inception. However, it isn’t perfect and sometimes, errors do occur. This guide covers common WordPress errors and how to fix them.

WordPress powers more than 36% of all websites on the web, which is a lot of websites. We’ve worked with WordPress for over 15 years and have encountered practically all the most common errors.

Please ensure you backup your entire website and database before trying any of the fixes in this guide. To jump ahead, simply click on what you want from the table of contents below to learn how to fix the particular error.

Common Errors How to Fix
404 Page Error HOW TO FIX
500 Internal Server Error HOW TO FIX
Connection Timed Out HOW TO FIX
Error Establishing Database Connection HOW TO FIX
Lost Admin Email and Password Retrieval is not Working HOW TO FIX
Memory Exhausted Error HOW TO FIX
Parse Error/Syntax Error HOW TO FIX
Stuck In Maintenance HOW TO FIX
White Screen of Death HOW TO FIX
You’re Unable to Upload Images HOW TO FIX
You’re Unable to Access the Admin Area HOW TO FIX
Your Site’s Sidebar Appears Below the Main Content HOW TO FIX

404 Page Error

The 404 error is a common WordPress error that can be caused by many things.

The usual causes are outdated or misconfigured rewrite rules and permalink issues.

Symptom

You’ll see a page much like the one on the screenshot below when attempting to access certain areas of your site.

404 not found

In most cases, you’ll be able to access the admin area and website’s homepage but not single pages or posts. However, we’ll show you how to fix this issue if you can’t access the admin area too.

How to Fix: When WordPress Admin is Accessible

First, check to make sure your permalinks are correct if you can still access the admin area. Log in and hover or click on ‘Settings’ from the left navigation menu. This will load all the menu options under Settings. Then click on ‘Permalinks’.

permalink settings

From there, you can select one of the common settings or a custom structure by applying any of the available tags. Once done making adjustments, click on Save Changes.

When Admin is Inaccessible

Here’s what you need to do if you cannot access the admin area due to a 404 error. First, log in to your CPanel interface and click on ‘phpMyAdmin’ located under DATABASES.

cpanel mysql settings

FREE WORDPRESS SEO ANALYSIS

Want more traffic to your WordPress website? Take our free WordPress SEO Analysis and see how you can improve your traffic to get more sales online.

Select your WordPress database name from the available list located on the left navigation panel. Then find ‘wp_options’ and click on ‘Browse’. Locate siteurl under option_name and click ‘Edit’.

wordpress database edit

In the input box (option_value), change your URL and click the ‘Go’ button located on the lower right to complete the process. Now you should be able to access the admin panel.

500 Internal Server Error

The 500 error occurs whenever the webserver cannot be reached and isn’t specific to WordPress but quite common. In WordPress, the issue is often caused by a plugin or your theme’s functions file. Sometimes, a corrupt .htaccess file and your PHP memory limit can also cause this debacle.

Symptom

You’ll get a web page with the number ‘500’ displayed and one or more proceeding error messages.

How to Fix: Check for .htaccess File Corruption

Log in to your CPanel and click on ‘File Manager’ located under the FILES section. You may get a popup box asking whether to display hidden content and if so, show them. You can also access your server contents by using an FTP (file transfer protocol) client or a program like FileZilla.

Once in, rename the ‘.htaccess’ in your WordPress installation folder to something like ‘.htaccess-old’. Do it by slow double tapping on the file or right-clicking and selecting ‘Rename’.

WordPress will automatically generate a fresh .htaccess file when you try accessing your domain again.

Deactivate Every Plugin

You can try deactivating every plugin and reactivating each one back slowly. The most efficient way to do this is via an FTP program but you can use File Manager too. Simply access your files via FTP or CPanel File Manager and rename the plugins folder.

The plugins folder can be found by going to wp-content in your WordPress installation folder. There, simply rename the folder.

filezilla ftp client

Change the name back to ‘plugins’ and WordPress will return things to normal, except, all plugins will remain deactivated.

You can also disable plugins from your WordPress dashboard by selecting ‘Plugins’ located on the left navigation menu if accessible. Then, select all plugins and choose ‘Deactivate’ from the Bulk Actions menu.

deactivate plugins wordpress

You’ll know that it’s a particular plugin issue if the 500 error disappears after deactivating all plugins. From here, just reactivate plugins one-by-one and reload your site each time to find the culprit.

Connection Timeout Error

A timeout error occurs whenever the browser fails to receive a timely response from your server. In other words, this error happens when two servers fail to connect. This error can also happen due to bad hosting configuration, not just server connection issues. The connection timeout error is also referred to as 504 gateway time out.

Symptom

You’ll see a white screen with the term, “504 Gateway time-out”, whenever you try accessing a page.

How to Fix: Page Reload, VPN, Firewalls, and Proxies

The first thing you should do is attempt to reload the page after a few minutes (preferably, 15 – 30 minutes). That’s because this kind of error is often caused by a temporary glitch in your server.

If the problem persists, check to see if you’re using a VPN (virtual private network) and turn it off. In some situations, the VPN service is simply failing to connect or receive a response from your hosting server.

If that doesn’t work, try turning off your website’s firewall (e.g. Cloudflare) and disable any proxies. Also, try using a different Internet connection or computer to see if your site is only down for you and not everyone else.

DNS Change

Change the DNS (domain name system) servers because the current ones might be down. To do this on a Windows computer, search for Network and Sharing Center from the Start menu or go to Control Panel and then click on ‘Network and Sharing Center’.

On a Mac, access your System Preferences, select Network, and click on ‘Advanced’ located on the lower left. In the window that opens, select DNS from the tabs located above.

Change your DNS settings to something public like Google’s (IP addresses 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4).

change dns on mac

Other Things to Try

Sometimes, you just need to clean up your WordPress database. You can install a plugin like Wp-Sweep or manually do it yourself via phpMyAdmin. Just make sure you back up your database first.

If that doesn’t work, then try disabling all plugins and reactivating them one at a time as we discussed earlier. There may be one or more plugins sending too many requests, which can cause a time out error.

Error Establishing Database Connection

The reason this error occurs is pretty straightforward. It means your website is unable to access the database.

Symptom

The user sees a screen that notes “Error establishing a database connection”.

How to Fix: Checking Your Database Credentials

The most likely cause is wrong database credentials so that’s where we’ll begin.

Log in to your CPanel, find DATABASES and click on ‘MySQL Databases’. From there, find the Privileged User under Current Databases. Next, scroll down to Current Users and change the password for the Privileged User. Make sure you write down the new password and username somewhere because you’ll need it for the next step.

Access the files in your WordPress installation directory using FTP or File Manager and open wp-config.php. You’ll need to look for the following lines of code (see screenshot), then edit the database password and username accordingly.

edit wp config file

While you’re there, make sure your database host (‘DB_HOST’) information is correct too. This is typically located right below ‘DB_PASSWORD’.

Repair Your WordPress Database

You can also try repairing your database. Add the following line of code to wp-config.php to trigger the WordPress database repair function but make sure it’s added as the first line after the PHP tag and/or notes.

define(‘WP_ALLOW_REPAIR’, true);

Next, visit yoursite.com/wp-admin/maint/repair.php to proceed.

repair database

Once the repair is complete, make sure you go back and remove that line of code, otherwise, anyone can access the database repair tool.

Sometimes, updating your WordPress URL can fix database connection issues too. Refer to the section about fixing 404 errors for details.

Lost Admin Email and Password Retrieval is not Working

If you lost your admin email address and can’t use password retrieval, there’s an easy fix.

Symptom

You simply can’t log in most likely because your password or username is wrong or have no access to the admin email address.

How to Fix: If You Have Access to Admin Email

Go to yourwebsite.com/wp-admin and below the login box, you’ll see ‘Lost your password?’.

wordpress update password

Click on ‘Lost your password’, enter your email address in the next screen, and click ‘Get New Password’. You’ll receive a link via email for creating a new password.

No Admin Email Access

You can reset your password by accessing the database and directly changing it. Access phpMyAdmin via your CPanel as discussed earlier (the section on 404 errors) but this time, look for the ‘wp_user’ option after selecting your database name and then, click on ‘Edit’.

mysql edit wordpress password table

You’ll now be able to edit the password and email address directly.

Memory Exhausted Error

This error usually occurs when a plugin or other script is exceeding the default memory allocated for such programs.

Symptom

You’ll typically see a page with white background and black text specifying the issues (begins with ‘Fatal error’).

How to Fix: Increase PHP Memory Limit

You can increase your PHP memory limit if you’re using it up. The PHP memory limit is the amount of memory a script is allocated in bytes whenever a request is made.

We’re going to use a file called php.ini to fix the issue.

  1. Create a blank file and name it php.ini
  2. Specify a memory limit by pasting or typing the following, memory=64MB. Change the number to whatever you want.
  3. Save the file and upload it into the wp-admin folder located in your WordPress installation directory.

You can also increase your PHP memory limit via the CPanel interface. First, log in to CPanel and look for ‘Select PHP Version’ under SOFTWARE.

wordpress easy installl

On the new page that loads, click on ‘Switch to PHP Options’ located on the top right. Scroll down to find ‘memory_limit’ and increase the limit to the next level higher or more.

change wordpress memory limit hosting

The aforementioned can work for admin-only 500 errors too.

Parse Error/Syntax Error

This issue arises whenever an incorrect code has been used, which results in a PHP parse/syntax error.

Symptom

An error message beginning with the term ‘Parse error’ that indicates a path to the file causing the error, including the beginning line (e.g. line 539).

How to Fix

Log in via FTP or CPanel File Manager and then use the path provided by the error message to locate the problematic file. The line number provided by the error message points to the area of page code where the bad syntax is. Correct the syntax by verifying that the code you added is accurate.

If you know what you’re doing, you can also improve or just edit the code.

Stuck in Maintenance/Unavailable for Scheduled Maintenance Error

This is something that usually happens due to an unfinished or ongoing WordPress update. A slow server response time or memory issue can interrupt the update process, which prevents WordPress from deleting the maintenance notification file.

Symptom

You’ll see an error message that notes “Briefly Unavailable for Scheduled Maintenance”.

How to Fix

All you have to do is first access your website files using FTP or File Manager. Make sure hidden files are displayed, which is normally the default case on FTP programs. Then, look for the .maintenance file in your WordPress installation folder and delete it.

wordpress maintenance file

White Screen of Death

The white screen of death is named after the famous Windows blue screen of death. It’s often caused by an exhausted PHP memory limit or bad server configuration. Also, it can happen on certain sections of your site, not all pages.

Symptom

Like it sounds, it’s a white screen with no error messages. Yikes!

How to Fix

Check to see whether the issue is happening to other websites that run WordPress in your server if you have some. If not, you can install a test WordPress installation on a fresh folder. It’s something to do with your server if other installations are having the same problem. If it is, reach out to your hosting service provider for assistance.

Try the following to fix the error once you’ve ruled out your server as the issue.

  • Increase your PHP memory limit – Follow the steps laid out in the ‘Memory Exhausted Error’ section.
  • Disable all plugins – Follow the steps discussed in the ‘500 internal server error’ section.

Revert to Default Theme

You can try reverting to a default theme. Access your website files using an FTP client or File Manager. Navigate to /wp-content/themes/ from the WordPress installation folder. Be sure to back up your current WordPress theme by downloading it.

Next, delete the current theme. This will force WordPress to use any available default themes (e.g. Twenty Fourteen). Reload your website and if the issue is gone, look at your original themes functions.php file for errors. You can also just replace that particular file by re-acquiring the original theme package.

Enable Debug Mode

Add the following lines of code to wp-config.php right after the opening PHP tag and/or notes, located in your WordPress installations folder.

define( ‘WP_DEBUG’, true);

define( ‘WP_DEBUG_LOG’, true );

Reload your website and you should see errors displayed. If not, log in to your server via FTP or File Manager and access the wp-content folder. Look for debug.log and open it to read its contents.

wordpress debug file

The log file will tell you where the problem lies for further troubleshooting.

You’re Unable to Upload Images

This is usually caused by incorrect file permissions. For the WordPress platform to function properly, it needs the right access permissions to modify contents in your server.

Symptom

You get an error whenever you attempt to upload an image or images disappear from your media library.

How to Fix

You need to set appropriate permissions. Log in to your webserver using FTP or CPanel File Manager. Open the wp-content folder and in there, you’ll find the uploads folder. Right-click on ‘uploads’ and select ‘File Permissions’. In some Mac systems, you’ll have to select ‘Get Info’. Make sure the numeric value or Octal is set to 755 and click ‘Apply to Enclosed’ or ‘Recurse into Subdirectories’ or something similar. This will depend on the FTP client.

uploads folder

Next, you’ll need to set all files inside the folder and subfolders to 644. Use the same process discussed earlier but this time, access each folder individually and select all files inside (ctrl + A in Windows and command + A in Mac).

You’re Unable to Access the Admin Area

We’ve already covered some of the issues that can make it near impossible to access the admin area (refer to the 404-page error section). However, there’s something else that can cause this debacle. You may need to enable cookies or clear cache.

Symptom

The page refreshes every time you try to log in.

How to Fix

The steps for clearing and enabling cookies are very similar between browsers. We’ll show you how to do it in Chrome since it’s the most used browser. That will give you a good idea of how to do it with others.

For Google Chrome, click on the three dots located on the top right of your browser. Then look for ‘More Tools’, and click on ‘Clear Browsing Data’

google clear browsing history

In the popup that appears in Chrome, make sure Cookies and other site data is selected and click ‘Clear Data’.

delete browsing data google chrome

After that, check to make sure your browser allows cookies by clicking on ‘Site Settings’ under Privacy and Security.

google privacy settings

On the page that appears, under permissions, make sure Chrome is set to allow cookies and if not, click on ‘Cookies and site data’. Then allow sites to save and read cookies.

Your Site’s Sidebar Appears Below the Main Content

This is a common problem people face in WordPress and it’s usually caused by the theme being used. Sometimes, there’s an unclosed div or improper width and float settings in CSS.

Symptom

Your sidebar appears below the content instead of next to it.

How to Fix

Troubleshoot the aforementioned causes. Check your theme’s width and float settings plus make sure there are no unclosed divs.

Wrapping Up

Bookmark this guide and use it whenever you have a problem with WordPress. In most cases, you’ll find a solution to your situation.

Lastly, WordPress is still a fantastic platform and the best CMS for websites. It’s super SEO-friendly, easy to use, and comes with lots of expansions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *