August 20, 2020

Common WordPress Problems and Solutions

WordPress is incredibly stable software that powers a huge percentage of websites on the internet. But that doesn’t mean it can’t experience its share of bugs from time to time. Lucky, given the popularity of WordPress, if you have a problem, chances are, someone else has seen it too. With such a vast community, issues rarely go unresolved.

In this guide, we’ll look at a few of the most common WordPress problems you can have with a website and how to fix them. It should be noted that this guide is not for the technologically wary. You will need to do things like edit code and connect to web servers with FTP clients to fix a lot of these issues.

Before Proceeding: Make a Backup

When addressing problems where data is concerned, it’s always a good idea to do a backup. If something goes wrong, you’ll have a valid backup from before you made changes.

Depending on how and where your website is hosted, you can back up your WordPress website using your web host, using a plugin, or do it manually.

White Screen of Death

The notorious and admittedly vague white screen of death has plagued WordPress for ages. Most of the time it’s caused by a faulty plugin or theme. Occasionally, it’s caused by an issue with the web server.

If you can still access your admin portal, go into your plugins and themes and disable them all, then check to see if you still see the white screen. If not, then you can enable your plugins and themes, one by one, until you find the problematic one.

If you can’t access your admin portal, you’ll have to connect to your web server with an FTP client. Once connected, locate the plugins and themes folders inside the wp-content folder and rename them. Check to see if you still have the issue. You can likewise go through these one by one, renaming each plugin and theme folder.

If this doesn’t solve the problem, then it’s likely an issue with your web server’s configuration and you should contact your web host for assistance.

Internal Server Error

The Internal Server Error is, as it says, a problem with the server that’s hosting WordPress. A few culprits can be the cause of this particular error.

Like the white screen of death, this problem can be caused by faulty themes or plugins. And it can be investigated in the same manner, by renaming the themes and plugins folders using your FTP client.

If that doesn’t solve your problem, the next step is to try adjusting the memory limit of your WordPress installation. To do this, you’ll access your web host with an FTP client, just like you did in the previous step, and look for a file called wp-config.php.

Once you’ve found the file, you’ll want to download it to your desktop and then open it with a text editor. Once opened, add the following lines of code:

define(‘WP_MEMORY_LIMIT’, ’128M’);  ini_set(‘post_max_size’, ’ 128M ’);  ini_set(‘upload_max_filesize’, ’ 128M ’);

Save the file and then re-upload to your web server and check to see if the problem is solved.

If you’re still experiencing issues, it’s likely going to be a corrupt .htaccess file. This file gives instructions to the server on how to interact with the website. It’s in the same directory as wp-config.php and can be modified in the same way, so go ahead and download and open it.

The best way to handle situations with this file is to simply reset it to its default configuration. You can find the configurations on the WordPress website, which are specific to your WordPress version.

Be careful when modifying this file as incorrect edits can break your web server. Simply copy the text, as is, from the site above and enter it into the file. Then you can save and re-upload and your problem should be solved.

Error Establishing a Database Connection

WordPress uses a database to store and retrieve all the data on your website. Occasionally, the connection between WordPress and its database is broken, and this is the resulting error. The problem is caused by wrong credentials for the database, database corruption, or problems with the database server.

It’s highly unlikely the credentials have been modified—you’ll want to look at the second reason instead. Database corruption isn’t common but it does happen. Thankfully, WordPress has a way to deal with this problem.

Open up your trusty FTP client and connect to your web host. Once again, you’ll be editing your wp-config.php file. Add the following line and save and re-upload:

define(‘WP_ALLOW_REPAIR', true);

Next you’ll need to navigate to the repair tool on your WordPress website. Do this by going to your website’s homepage and then adding this to the end of the URL:


Confirm that you want to run the repair and then let it do its thing. Once it’s done, your problem should be resolved. Be sure to remove the line of text you added to your wp-config.php so that other people can’t execute this on your website.

Stuck in Maintenance Mode

Many people aren’t aware that a maintenance mode exists. WordPress uses this mode when running updates, but since updates usually only take a few seconds, you rarely notice it. That is, until your website gets stuck in it.

Occasionally, an issue arises during the update process and the maintenance mode lock doesn’t get removed afterwards. To fix the problem, you need to connect to your server with your FTP client and look in the root directory for a file called .maintenance. Simply delete this file to fix the issue.

WordPress Connection Timed Out

This is a problem that arises when there aren’t enough resources to handle the requests your website is making. This can be caused by one of three things:

  • Your website is making far too many requests due to a plugin or theme
  • There’s not enough memory allocated to WordPress
  • Your hosting is inadequate for your needs

You can investigate the first possibility the same way as in previous problems. Simply connect to your web host and rename your plugins and themes folder to see if that’s the cause.

If that doesn’t fix it, you can try upping the memory limit in your wp-config.php following the same methods outlined above.

If you’re still having issues, it might be time to look at your web hosting requirements. A lot of shared hosting providers give the bare minimum necessary for a WordPress website to run. If your website requires more resources and a higher number of requests, issues like this will start creeping in.

Final Words

There is a definite feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment in solving your own technical problems. And many methods outlined here can be used for other issues too: They’re great tools to have in your toolkit. At some point, however, you may find that you’d rather focus on growing your website rather than fixing issues.

Using a business like WP Assist to take care all of your technical WordPress needs will ensure your website stays in top form while you focus on your customers, clients, and readers. Along with our technical experts who keep your site running smoothly, we also provide backup strategies and web hosting that’s specifically engineered for WordPress. Sound good? Book a call and we’ll talk.

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