The White Screen of Death: What is It and How Can You Fix It?

The infamous “white screen of death” is a term coined by the WordPress community to describe a blank, white page showing instead of a website. Unfortunately, this page is typically completely empty, without an error message describing the problem. 

Any time your website is down, it can be both frustrating and concerning. After all, this can lead to decreased views, ad revenue, and eCommerce sales. But don’t worry — there are few simple measures you can take to get your site back up and running properly.

What causes the white screen of death?

The WordPress white screen of death is typically caused by code errors like plugin conflicts, theme issues, or low memory limits. This blank screen can appear across your entire website, or only on certain pages.

It’s important to note that the white screen of death is much more common on self-hosted WordPress sites, rather than ones hosted on WordPress.com (see the differences here). That’s because WordPress.com takes a lot of the potential issues away from users by handling things like file permissions and memory limits. If you have a self-hosted WordPress site, check here for common errors and solutions.

However, it’s still possible that you run into this problem with a WordPress.com site. 

How to solve the white screen of death for WordPress.com

Let’s take a look at a few steps you can take to troubleshoot and solve the white screen of death.

1. Clear your browser cache

Browsers store copies of websites that you’ve visited, so that they’ll load faster the next time you open them. Clearing the browser cache ensures that you’re seeing the latest version of your site rather than a saved copy. Ultimately, this can resolve the white screen of death problem if it’s just appearing on your end.

The instructions for clearing your cache vary based on your specific browser, but here are the steps for three common ones:

2. Check your browser settings 

There are also some browser settings that can interfere and cause you to see the white screen of death. Again, these are things to check if you’re the only one having the problem with your site.

First, make sure that your browser is updated to the latest version. In Google Chrome, you’ll see a red Update button at the top right of your browser window if there’s an update available. 

If you click this button, you’ll see the option to Relaunch to update Chrome. 

Clicking this will reload your browser and update its software. Firefox and Safari have similar instructions for updating.

If this doesn’t solve the problem or if there’s not an update available, your next step is to ensure that your browser has JavaScript enabled. JavaScript is a programming language used by websites and browsers — if it’s disabled on your browser, it can cause problems loading websites. Enable-Javascript.com has instructions for turning on JavaScript using all major browsers.

Finally, you may need to disable any extensions or ad-blocking software you’re using in your browser. While these add functionality that increases privacy or improves your web experience, it’s possible for them to damage how a website loads in your browser. You can find specific instructions for your browser in their documentation.

3. Deactivate your plugins

If you have a WordPress.com Business or eCommerce plan, you have the ability to install plugins on your website. These add lots of helpful features, like additional blocks, security tools, design capabilities, online store functionality, and more. 

But, they can occasionally conflict with one another, or with your theme of choice. To find out if this is the cause of your problem, go to Plugins → Installed Plugins in your WordPress dashboard. Select Deactivate next to each plugin, testing your site between each one.

If your website starts working after you deactivate a specific tool, you know that’s the culprit.

Now, you’ll need to either find an alternative plugin to use or reach out to the plugin’s support team for a fix. 

4. Switch to a default theme

A problem with your theme can also be the cause of the WordPress white screen of death. To determine if that’s the cause, you’ll need to switch to a default theme like Twenty Twenty-Two.

To do this, go to Appearance → Themes in your WordPress dashboard. Search for Twenty Twenty-Two in the bar at the top of the page, then click on one of the template options that appear. Click the Activate Design button at the top.

If activating this theme solves the issue, then you know it’s a problem with your original theme. You may need to either find a new one, or reach out to the theme’s support team for a solution.

5. Restore a backup

If you run into problems on your site, including the white screen of death, backups will be your best friend. If you have one on hand, you can quickly restore it and get your site up and running exactly how it was before the problem occurred. 

Backups are available if you have a Business or eCommerce plan with WordPress.com. They happen in real time instead of once a day (or week, or month) so WordPress will make a copy of your site every time you make a change, like updating a page or adding a product. This allows you to always have the most recent version of your website on hand.

To restore a backup, go to Jetpack → Activity Log in your WordPress dashboard. There, you can find the exact point you want to go back to, using filters or simply by scrolling through the activities that happened on your site. Then, just click the Restore button.

You’ll be asked to confirm which parts of your site you want to restore. In most cases, you’ll want to check the box next to all of them. However, if you know that a plugin update was the cause of the issue, you could try restoring just the WordPress Plugins folder.

Finally, click Confirm Restore and you’re good to go! You’ll receive a notification when the restoration is complete.

6. Reach out to support

If all else fails or if you’d just like our guidance, don’t hesitate to reach out to WordPress.com support. We’ve got WordPress experts standing by to help with anything you need — and they’re called Happiness Engineers for a reason! They can help you determine the exact problem and get your site back up and running again.

Ready to start your own blog?

Check out our FREE blogging course to learn about blogging, build your strategy, and launch your site!

Or

Jump in to our Quick Start: Blogging webinar on demand or live with one of our experts.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The WordPress.com Team

At WordPress.com, our mission is to democratize publishing one website at a time. Create a free website or build a blog with ease on WordPress.com. Dozens of free, customizable, mobile-ready designs and themes.

More by The WordPress.com Team

%d bloggers like this: