Complete Guide to Solving 11 Critical WordPress Problems: Updated for 2020

Those of you who have worked on WordPress would agree that it’s one of the best platforms for custom website development. It’s fairly simple, and both the beginners as well as advanced users can use it with ease.

However, we also know that WordPress is far from perfect. It’s full of errors that can drive you crazy, and drain you out of energy.

Thankfully, there is a fix for everything. There are still many users who encountered these errors and successfully fixed & reported them. It’s because of their expertise we have been able to come with this helpful guide in which we will discuss 11 common WordPress errors and how to fix them. Let’s begin:

Before You Make Any Changes

Take a backup of your website. Doing so will make sure you can easily roll back to the previous state in case any error occurs while making changes. You can take the backup anywhere on Google Cloud, OneDrive, or any other Cloud service provider of your choice.

Common WordPress Errors and How to Fix Them

Critical WordPress Problems

Error 1: Internal Server Error

Internal Server Error or “500 Internal Server Error” is one of the most frustrating errors any WordPress developer can come across.

Do you know why? Because “500 Internal Server Error” basically means that there is something wrong with the website, but the server cannot find what it really is. So, you have to spend hours conducting your own investigation and trying to figure out the root cause of the problem, thus draining you out of energy and driving you nuts.

Potential reasons for Internal Server Error

Here are some of the factors that may result in “500 Internal Server Error”:

1. The .htaccess file is corrupted

Sometimes, WordPress may display the Internal Server Error because the .htaccess file is corrupt. Thankfully, fixing this error is very easy. All you need is to:

  • Access your site root through your file transfer protocol (FTP)
  • Rename the .htaccess file to .htaccess_old
  • Finally, load the site to see if the problem is solved

If the problem is solved, reset your permalinks from Settings > Permalinks. This will create a new .htaccess file for you.

2. There is an issue with the Plugin or Theme

This can be another reason behind the “500 Internal Server Error”. In this case, you can try deactivating the plugins or reverting to the previous theme that was active when the website was working. The problem will be solved immediately.

3. You have reached your PHP Limit

You have probably reached your PHP limit if you see the message after logging into your WordPress dashboard or when you try to upload an image in wp-admin.

If this is the case, try to increase your PHP limit. Here is how you can do so:

  • Create a blank text file called php.ini.
  • Paste this code into it: memory=64MB.
  • Save the file and upload it to your /wp-admin/folder using FTP.

The problem will probably get solved. However, you must know that it will only solve your problem temporarily, and the error will keep occurring unless you figure out why the memory was exhausted. Poorly coded plugins or theme functions can be a few main reasons. Moreover it is suggested to get in touch with a web hosting company and look into your server logs to determine the root cause of the issue.

What if the issue still persists?

Try to re-upload the /wp-admin and /wp-includes by installing WordPress again. Make sure you replace old files by selecting Overwrite, first.

Error 2: 403 Forbidden Error

403 Forbidden – You don’t have to access / on this server.

This WordPress error is so frustrating that it may take 3-4 hours to fix it. Actually, it’s not only us. Many WordPress developers have lost their peaceful sleep on it.

You usually get this error during the following scenarios:

  • Access denied on WP-admin or WordPress login page
  • While installing WordPress
  • When you visit any page on the WordPress site

Note: Sometimes, you might also see the message as “Access Denied” or as “Access to yourdomain.com was denied. You don’t have the authorization to view this page.”

Reasons behind 403 Forbidden

Poorly configured security plugins are the root cause behind this error. They sometimes block several IP addresses, which they believe to be malicious.

Here are some other causes:

1. Corrupt .htaccess file

This is the only way to find out:

  • Locate the .htaccess file. It’s usually located in the same folder containing /wp-content and /wp-includes/
  • Download the .htaccess file so that you have a copy of it.
  • Delete the existing file from your server and try accessing the website again.

If the problem is solved, it’s confirmed that the .htaccess file was corrupt.

What to do next?

Follow the steps we had mentioned in a fix for “500 Internal Server Error“, i.e.

  • Log into your WordPress admin area
  • Create a fresh .htaccess file
  • Finally, go to Settings > Permalinks and save the changes.
2. Incorrect File Permissions

If you think that the “403 Error” has been caused by incorrect file permissions, you can contact your hosting provider to look into the matter.

However, if you find yourself in a situation where you have to fix the problem yourself then,:

  • Connect to your WordPress site using an FTP client
  • Go to the root folder which contains all the WordPress files
  • Right-click each folder and select File Permissions from the menu

Now, you have to make sure:

  1. All the folders must have a file permission of 744 or 755
  2. All the files on the WordPress site must have a file permission of 644 or 640

Fix these parameters and access your website again. The 403 Forbidden Error must be gone.

Note: You can also set the file permission of the root folder to 744 or 755. Check the box next to ‘Recurse into subdirectories’ and then check the option that says ‘apply to directories only.’ Click ‘OK’ and repeat the process for WordPress files.

Error 3: 4O4 Page Not Found

Another common WordPress error that you might face is 404 Page not found, which occurs when you search or open a post that cannot be found. The error generally occurs if there are permalink issues in your WordPress site, you have accidentally deleted the .htaccess file, or something is wrong with the rewrite rules.

4O4 Page Not Found

How can you fix this?

To fix the issue, you first have to reconfigure permalink settings. This is how you can do so:

  • Go to Settings > Permalink and click on Save Changes.

This will update permalink settings and flush rewrite rules. There is 99% surety that the error will be solved using this trick.

If the issue still persists, you will have to manually update your .htaccess file, which you can do by logging into your FTP and searching for the .htaccess file. Once you have found the file, you can make it writable by changing the permissions to 666. Once again, change the permissions back to 660.

You can also add the following code to the .htaccess file:

# BEGIN WordPress

RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteRule ^index\.php$ - [L]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /index.php [L]

# END WordPress

Error 4: White Screen of Death (WSOD)

White Screen of Death (WSOD) is another common WordPress error which manifests as a blank screen with no information.

Here are a few reasons behind the White screen of death (WSoD):

  1. Plugin Compatibility Issues: You can fix the issue by deactivating and reactivating plugins.
  2. An issue with Your Theme: Log in to the dashboard and activate the default WordPress theme or roll back to the theme that was active when the website was working.
  3. Missing or renamed theme directory: Switch themes on the admin side renamed your directory or edit the “theme” and “stylesheet” records in wp_options.

You can also refer to this guide to resolve the White Screen of Death (WSOD) issue.

Error 5: Error Establishing a Database Connection

“Error Establishing a Data Connection” occurs when there is a problem with the connection to your database. There can be several reasons behind that, such as:

  1. Incorrect wp-config.php information: The error occurs by the error in your wp-config.php file. To fix this: Check your wp-config.php file and make sure database username, database password, and database host are correct. In case all the configurations are correct, manually reset your MySQL password.
  2. Problems with the web host: Either the server can be own, your database limit has reached, or your database has been shut down. Contact your web host if you think there is such kind of issue.
  3. The website has been hacked: Another reason behind the database connection error can be that your website has been hacked. In that case, you will have to scan your website to confirm the issue using website security and protection software. There are several such tools in the market that can fix your website in less than 60 seconds. Try them.

Error 6: WordPress Fails to Auto-update

Sometimes, WordPress may fail to auto-update, and you may see the following:

  • A blank white screen with no information
  • A warning that the update has been failed
  • A PHP error message

The error is generally caused by a glitch in connection with main WordPress files, internet connection problems during the upgrade, or incorrect file permissions. You can fix the issue either by manually updating your WordPress website or restoring a previous working website backup.

Error 7: Connection Timed Out

The main reason behind this error is that your website does not have enough accessible memory, and it is trying to do more than the server can manage.

How can we fix this error?

  • Ask your hosting provider to increase your memory limit. But if you are comfortable working with PHP, you can do it on your own. All you need is to add this line of code at the end of your wp-config file: define(‘WP_MEMORY_LIMIT,” 64M’);
  • Increase maximum execution time in your php.ini file. You can refer to an in-depth instruction by WordPress for this.

Error 8: Being Stuck in Maintenance Mode

In Maintenance Mode WordPress error, you will see persistent maintenance mode messages across your website. This is a rare WordPress error that occurs when WordPress gets interrupted during the maintenance mode.

You can simply fix the issue by deleting the .maintenance file from your WordPress installation directory and refreshing your website.

Error 9: Syntax Error

Syntax Error

In this WordPress error, you will see a message on the browser that reads something like this:

Parse error- syntax error, 
Unexpected $end in 
/public_html/site1/wp-content/themes/my-theme/functions.php on line 278

The error indicates that there is an unexpected thing found in your code, along with the location of the script where the error has occurred, and the line number. It usually occurs when you are trying to add snippets of code to WordPress and may have missed something or added an incorrect syntax.

You can fix the issue by correcting the problematic syntax, which is usually just a missing bracket or a strange character.

Error 10: Getting Locked Out of WordPress Admin (wp-admin)

This is the worst that can happen if you are using a WordPress website. This usually happens when you forget your password and don’t have access to the recovery email.

Other reasons can be:

a) An incorrect password

Usually, you would use the normal password recovery method to fix this issue. However, if you are a victim of hacking or other cybercrimes, the method may not work.

In that case, you will have to reset the password from phpMyAdmin which you can do by following the following steps:

  • Step 1. Login to the cPanel dashboard of your WordPress hosting account.
  • Step 2. Click on the PhpMyAdmin icon under the database.
  • Step 3. Once it launches, select your WordPress database.
  • Step 4. You will see the list of tables on the WordPress database. Search for the one with the label “{table-prefix}_users” (i.e.: wp_users) and click ‘Browse’.
  • Step 5. Look for the username whose password you want to change and click Edit.
  • Step 6. Finally, change the value under the label user_pass, and replace it with a new password.

Note: Make sure you have selected MD5 from the dropdown menu. This will ensure the software is encrypted with MD5 hash when we store it in the database.

b) Lost Admin Privileges

You can lose admin privileges if your website has gotten hacked. In this case, you may be able to log in but would not see any admin functionality.

You can fix the issue by adding a new admin user to your database via MySQL, which you do with the help of this guide.

Error 11: WordPress <div> sidebar content error

Another frustrating WordPress issue is WordPress<div>sidebar content error in which the sidebar, which is usually located next to the content (either left or right, depending on the theme), shows below the main content area of the website.

Here are a few possibilities of this error:

1. Corrupt/Invalid HTML Code

The way to fix this is to correct and fix the invalid code. For this, detect the error and right-click on the page to view the source code. Then, copy the code and use an HTML validation checker program to see the error in the code and fix it. This might include some manual labor because every theme is different and has hundreds of files.

2. Corrupt theme

In this case, you will either need to update the theme to the latest version or reinstall it once again.

3. Improper Width Ratio

The only way to fix this is to make sure the content you are adding in the container perfectly aligns with it.

4. Float property

Usually results due to improper CSS coding. If you have a knowledge of CSS, you can fix it on your own. Otherwise, you will need to contact a WordPress developer.

5. Broken style.css file

If you are well-versed in this WordPress coding style, great. Otherwise, you will have to hire a developer to fix this.

If these WordPress issues were bothering you from a very long time, just refer to this blog, and you will fix them in no time.

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