Common WordPress error messages and how to fix them

This article details the most common WordPress errors experienced by WordPress users, and provides a starting point for fixing them.

The white screen of death

Most of the time a white screen of death means that you’ve exhausted the memory limit. This could be caused by a plugin that you may be using that is not functioning properly. It could also be caused by a poorly coded theme that you are using.

Try deactivating all plugins. If the white screen goes away, then try reactivating the plugins one at a time to find out which plugin was the offending one.

If the plugin troubleshooting doesn’t fix the issue, then you should try replacing your current theme with a default twenty sixteen theme. The best way to do this is by backing up your theme folder. Then deleting your theme. WordPress will automatically fall back to the default theme.

If this fixes the issue, then you should look at your theme’s functions.php file. If there are extra spaces at the bottom, then you should consider fixing it. If you are using a poorly coded function in your theme’s functions.php file, then it can cause this as well.

If none of these solutions fix the issue, open a support ticket through your HostPapa dashboard and we’d be happy to help!

Internal server error

Read this article on how to troubleshoot an internal server error.

Error establishing database connection

If you get a page featuring the message “Error Establishing Database Connection,” this means that there is a problem with the connection to your database and there could be a number of reasons for this. The following are possible reasons and solutions.

Incorrect wp-config.php Information

“Error establishing a database connection” is usually caused by an error in your wp-config.php file. Access your site in your FTP client. Open up wp-config.php and ensure that the following are correct:

  • Database name
  • Database username
  • Database password
  • Database host

Learn more about editing wp-config.php.

Problems with your web host

The next step is to contact your web host. The following hosting issues may be causing the problem:

  • Your database has met its quota and has been shut down
  • The server is down

Contact your hosting provider to see if either of these issues are causing your problem.

Compromised website

If you have checked wp-config.php for errors, and confirmed with your host that there is no hosting issues, it is possible that your site has been hacked.

You can upgrade to Optimized WordPress Business Pro account which has advanced Jetpack protection included for free.

Failed auto-upgrade

There will be situations when the WordPress auto-update feature fails. Symptoms include:

  • A blank white screen and no information
  • A warning that the update failed
  • A PHP error message

The WordPress automatic upgrade feature may fail due to a glitch in the connection with the main WordPress files, a problem with your Internet connection during upgrade, or incorrect File Permissions.

To update your WordPress site manually, see the Manual Update article.

Connection timed out

The “connection timed out” error appears when your website is trying to do more than your server can manage. It is particularly common with shared hosting where your memory limit is restricted. Here are some things you can try:

  • Deactivate all Plugins. If deactivating all the WordPress Plugins on your site resolves the issue, reactivate them one-by-one to see which plugin is causing the problem. If you are unable to access your Administration Screens, read about how to manually deactivate your Plugins.
  • Switch to the default WordPress Twenty Sixteen Theme. This should rule out any Theme-related problems.
  • Increase your memory limit in wp-config.php. If you are on shared hosting you may have to ask your hosting provider to increase your memory limit for you.
  • Increase the maximum execution time in your php.ini file. This is not a WordPress core file so if you are not sure how to edit it, contact your hosting provider to ask them to increase your maximum execution time.

Maintenance mode following upgrade


When WordPress updates, it automatically installs a .maintenance file. Following the upgrade, you may receive a message that says “Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance. Please check back in a minute.” The maintenance file may not have been removed properly.

To remove this message do the following:

  1. Log in to your website using your FTP program
  2. Delete the .maintenance file, which will be found in your site root

You make changes and nothing happens

Read this article on how to troubleshoot changes that are not updating. [link to making changes but nothing is happening article]

Pretty permalinks 404 and images not working

If you are experiencing 404 errors with pretty permalinks and a white screen when you upload images, mod_rewrite may not be enabled in Apache by default. Mod_rewrite is an extension module of the Apache web server software which allows for “rewriting” of URLs on-the-fly. It’s what you need to make pretty permalinks work.

WordPress Multisite networks usually experience this, but it can also occur with shared hosting providers or after a site migration or server move.

Reset your permalinks through Settings > Permalinks. If this does not work, you may have to edit the .htaccess file manually.

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

If you are not familiar with editing your .htaccess file, contact your hosting provider to ask them to turn on mod_rewrite rules.

Custom post type 404 errors

You may experience problems with 404 errors and custom post types. Try the following steps:

  1. Make sure that none of your Custom Post Types and single pages have the same name. If they do, rename the single page, including the slug.
  2. Log in to your WordPress Administration Screens, go to Settings > Permalinks. Select the default permalinks. Save. Then reselect your preferred permalinks. This will flush the rewrite rules and should solve your problem.

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