500err

From time to time, its not unheard of to see the dreaded 500 error when working with WordPress. Whilst most errors that occur can be fairly obtuse (making it easier to find the culprit) – the 500 error is vague and doesn’t really tell you whats caused the problem to begin with. Today’s post aims to guide you through the steps needed to find the issue and get your site back up and running again.

Create a Backup

During the following steps, you will be making some big changes to your WP setup to try and sniff out the problem, so the first thing you need to do before anything else is to create a full backup so you can revert should things go badly wrong. If you have no backup solution in place (shame on you!) we have an excellent guide in place for this very task – check out Setting Up a Backup/Restore System.

Once you have everything backed up, its time to get your hands dirty, so to speak.

Undo Recent Changes

This may seem obvious, but is most cases a recent change you have made (such as a installing new plugin or customization) may very well be the cause of your issue, so its a good idea to retrace your recent changes and undo them one by one until you no longer experience any issues, however, if your unlucky enough for this not to work, then continue reading for further tips.

Disable all Plugins

If you still have access to your wp-admin area, you should begin by deactivating all plugins. To do this simply head to Plugins in your admin area and use the bulk options to deactivate all plugins in one swoop.

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If you are unable to access your WP Dashboard, then you will need to rename your plugins folder manually. To do this, either connect to your site via FTP or use your hosts file management system to navigate to wp-content > plugins and then rename the plugins folder to something like ‘plugins_original’ – this will force WP to disable all plugins and with a little luck you should now have access to your admin area.

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From here you should be able to activate your plugins one by one to determine the culprit if your problem, if not, keep reading.

Enable WP Debug

If things are still not working, then you should now enable WP’s built in debugging tool which can help shed some light on your issue. To do this, connect to your site via FTP (or use your hosts file management system) so locate your sites wp-config file (at the root of your site) – within this file you will fine the following line of code:

define('WP_DEBUG', false);

Set this to true, like this

define('WP_DEBUG', true);

Once done, take another look at your site and keep and eye out for any error messages you see, this will lead to your root cause of the problem so you can remove it and continue as normal.

Use a Fresh Theme

If your still having issues, then your final step should be to upload the latest, unmodified version of your theme – this is especially true if you have been customizing your themes code. If, once you have switched to a fresh copy of your theme, things work as normal, then you will need to revisit any changes you have made and see where you have gone wrong.

As you may not have access to your WP admin area, this step should ideally be done via FTP.

Contact your Hosts

This is a last-ditch remedy, but in some cases, the issue may be deeper than what the above steps can cover (such as your server not having enough memory/resources to handle your site) so if all else fails, its time to contact your hosts for further support.