The Two Most Common Fixes for WordPress Problems

As a (mostly) former WordPress consultant, I’ve had a lot of people call or e-mail me frantically to say “My site’s not working!!” There are a lot of things that can cause your WordPress install to break, but let me share the two most common fixes for WordPress problems.

Resave the Permalinks

You can clear up a lot of problems by simply resaving the permalinks. Go to Settings → Permalinks, scroll to the “Save Changes” button and click it. (You don’t have to make any changes, just click to save.)

To put this in the simplest terms, this is like rebooting a computer.

It’s most likely to solve the following problems:

  1. Your admin area is working, but the public part of your site is blank.
  2. Your front page is visible, but when you try to go to a single post/page/archive it’s all blank.

It can solve other issues as well, those are just the two most common ones I’ve run into. This is obviously not a fix for when you’re unable to access the site’s admin area.

This can occur after you’ve made big site changes, after you’ve moved a site*, or sometimes it just happens.

*If you’ve just moved a site, had wp-cache running, and are getting a blank page. a particular line in wp-config.php may be causing the problem. If resaving permalinks doesn’t help go into wp-config.php & delete the line that says it was added by wp-cache, something like:

define('WP_CACHE', true); //Added by WP-Cache Manager

Deactivate Plugins

Best case scenario: You can access the admin part of the site (which may or may not be a little wonky) but the site is having problems.

In this case, go to Plugins, select the “Active” tab, select all the plugins, and deactivate.
If the problem has stopped, then you know it was a plugin (if it’s still broken, go to “Recently Active” and reactivate in bulk).

  1. Go to “Recently Active” and reactivate them one-by-one. Start with any that are critical to your site displaying well or moderating spam. Do NOT start with anything social media related, as these are often the culprit.
  2. Use common sense and save any plugins you’ve recently updated for last (in fact, if all this happens moments after you upgraded a plugin or plugins, try just deactivating those and reactivate one-by-one to find out which it was).
  3. Test for the error over and over again until it happens.
  4. Deactivate the last plugin you activated.
  5. Continue and keep testing (you want to be sure it’s just the one).
  6. Once you’ve identified the problem plugin(s), simply delete.

Less-awesome scenario: You can’t access the admin area of your site at all.

  1. Go to your host’s file manager (either via your cPanel/control area or via FTP) and find wp-content/plugins/.
  2. Rename the directory plugins1.
  3. See if you can access your site’s admin area. If not, you can rename the plugins1 directory back to plugins. Your solution is in another castle.
  4. If you can now access the admin area, then create a directory called plugins in wp-content and begin adding the plugins again (either via FTP or from the plugin installer).
  5. Now that you can access the admin area, follow the previous set of instructions for testing plugins one-by-one. You may need need to keep open your FTP/File Manager if the plugin, once reactivated, will cause your admin area to become inaccessible again.

Plugins can cause errors for any number of reasons. If you just upgraded WordPress, your plugin might no longer be compatible (Headspace 2, an awesome plugin, caused post save errors in WordPress 3.0 before the plugin author updated and fixed it). Search for the error and don’t activate the plugin again until it upgrades.

If you just upgraded your plugin, the plugin author may have made an error in the most recent version, keep an eye out for an update. Most plugins are backwards-compatible, so you can upgrade the plugin even if you’re not yet ready to upgrade WordPress, but it’s possible that they wouldn’t be.

Note: I am currently not fixing broken or hacked WordPress installations via this site or the comments section. This post is purely for outlining 2 simple fixes. But if you contact me I can put you in touch with someone who can help you out.

This troubleshooting tutorial assumes that you’re familiar enough with WordPress and/or your hosting system to perform the steps. Please read through the entire post before attempting a fix. The site and its owner do not accept liability for anything you break while attempting to fix your site. If you’re unsure, contact a professional or ask me about putting you in touch with one.

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3 Comments

  1. 1

    Rosalind September 1st, 2010 at 11:20 am

    I’ll have to bookmark this! We’re still playing on wordpress.com right now, but I’m sure someday we’ll navigate it to our own domain and then I will break something!

    Rosalind

  2. 2

    Link love (Belatedly powered by long days and communal chocolate) « Musings of an Abstract Aucklander September 5th, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    [...] a practical level, Being Ruth presents the two most common fixes for WordPress [...]

  3. 3

    Craig September 23rd, 2010 at 11:37 pm

    Resaving Permalinks drove me crazy when I switched hosts!! I thought I did everything correctly (I did) but I couldn’t get the site to work properly. Then the magic fix – Resave Permalinks. If only life had a resave permalinks button…

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