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5 Common WordPress Errors and How to Fix Them

WordPress has many strengths as a CMS, but there are also a number of things that can go wrong when you're working with it. From plugin conflicts to incorrect file permissions, there's a wide variety of errors you might run into on your site. Here are five WordPress errors you may encounter, along with their standard fixes.

WordPress is a stable and secure platform, but that doesn’t mean you won’t encounter errors on your website. There are several issues many users face that prevent their visitors from accessing content and carrying out key functions.

By learning about the most common WordPress errors and hiccups, you can prepare yourself to resolve them quickly. Getting your site back up and running fast will minimize any losses of traffic or revenue.

In this post, we’ll share five of the most common types of errors that could show up on your WordPress site. We’ll also give you information on what to do if you encounter them. Let’s dive right in!

1. Plugin Conflicts

One of the best things about WordPress is how easy it is to customize your site’s functionality with plugins. Unfortunately, because these extensions, the platform itself, and its available themes are all created by many unique developers, they don’t always get along.

Plugin conflicts may result in many frustrating problems for your site, including:

  • Certain features not working. This is a little vague, but plugin conflicts aren’t always easy to diagnose. If part of your site is broken and you aren’t sure why, checking for incompatibilities is a standard troubleshooting best practice.
  • Timed Out Connections. An error reading “Connection timed out” may be an indication that there is a plugin conflict on your site.
  • A Call to Undefined Function. This means that a plugin on your site isn’t able to access code that it needs to work properly. Sometimes this is due to incompatibilities.
  • The White Screen of Death (WSoD). This error causes your site to appear as a blank white screen. It’s often the result of a plugin conflict.

The standard practice for dealing with these common WordPress errors is to switch to a default theme and deactivate all your plugins. Then, reactivate them one by one until the symptoms reappear. You’ll know that the most recently activated tool is the one causing the conflict.

If you’re locked out of your admin area, you can do this by connecting to your server via File Transfer Protocol (FTP) with an FTP Client such as FileZilla. Then, navigate to wp-content > plugins and rename each of the directories:

Renaming plugin directories in FileZilla.

To reactivate your plugins, restore their original names. Once you’ve identified which tool is the source of the problem, it’s best to remove it.

The best way to run these tests is to use a staging site, which is an exact copy of your live WordPress site. Typically, hosting providers will provide staging sites for testing purposes.

2. Error Establishing a Database Connection

At some point or another, you may see an error message reading “Error Establishing a Database Connection” while trying to access your site’s back end:

The Error Establishing a Database Connection in WordPress.

This means that your website isn’t able to reach your database. Often, this is because the credentials listed in your wp-config.php file are incorrect.

To resolve this issue, first find your correct database credentials. Most web hosts will make them available somewhere in your account dashboard.

Then, connect to your server using FTP and locate wp-config.php:

Locating wp-config.php via FileZilla.

Right-click on it and select View/Edit. Compare the information listed in the following lines of code with that you found in your web hosting account:

/** The name of the database for WordPress */
define( 'DB_NAME', 'database_name' );

/** MySQL database username */
define( 'DB_USER', 'database_username' );

/** MySQL database password */
define( 'DB_PASSWORD', 'database_password' );

If there are differences, make the necessary edits and re-upload the file to your server. In the event that the credentials in the file are correct, you’ll want to contact your hosting provider to determine if the problem lies with your server.

Whenever you’re making changes to a file such as wp-config.php, it’s always recommended to keep a backup of the original file on your desktop. Should something go wrong when you upload the updated file, such as not noticing there might have been a typo, you can quickly restore the original version in the same way while you figure out the exact cause of the problem.

3. 404: Page Not Found

As a user, being met with a 404: Page Not Found error is both disappointing and frustrating:

The WP Mayor 404 Error page.

For site owners, this error means that visitors aren’t getting to your content. That’s a missed opportunity for a conversion.

There are a few situations that may lead to visitors running into your 404 page:

  • There are broken links on your site. This means that a user has attempted to navigate through your site via internal links, but was directed to a non-existent URL.
  • Outside sources include broken links to your site. Other websites may also have links that are supposed to point towards your site, but have become broken or were written incorrectly.
  • Your Pretty Permalinks settings are incorrect. This occurs most often when you’re using WordPress Multisite or Custom Post Types.

To find and fix broken links on your own site, you might consider a tool such as Broken Link Checker:

The Broken Link Checker plugin.

This plugin detects links on your site that aren’t working and notifies you in your dashboard and by email.

Dealing with external broken links is a little trickier. One way to find them is with SEMRush’s Site Audit Tool:

The SEMRush Site Audit tool.

This will highlight broken internal and external links. You can then reach out to the owners of the sites containing them and ask to replace these paths with working ones.

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If you believe the source of the problem is your Pretty Permalinks, you can usually fix this by navigating to Settings > Permalinks in WordPress and selecting the Plain option:

Resetting Pretty Permalinks in WordPress.

4. WordPress Is Stuck in Maintenance Mode

Whenever you run an update on your WordPress site, it automatically goes into ‘maintenance mode’. Any visitors who attempt to access your site during this time will receive a message that your site is “unavailable for scheduled maintenance”:

The "unavailable for scheduled maintenance" message in WordPress.

Once the update is complete, everything should go back to normal. Unfortunately, sometimes WordPress gets stuck in maintenance mode, making your site unavailable to users for an extended period of time.

The solution to this error is fortunately relatively simple. Connect to your server using FTP, and look for a file named .maintenance:

Deleting the .maintenance file via FTP.

Delete it, then return to your site. Everything should be back in working order.

5. Incorrect File Permissions

‘File permissions’ refer to a native security feature of WordPress. Based on your user role, you’re allowed to perform certain actions on your site, such as installing plugins or updating content. This prevents other users or hackers from making unauthorized changes.

However, sometimes your file permissions can be set incorrectly, preventing you from making administrator-level changes. This can result in several different issues. In some situations, you may see a message that reads “Sorry, you are not allowed to access this page”:

The "Sorry, you are not allowed to access this page" message in WordPress.

Other times, incorrect file permissions may prevent you from:

  • Installing or updating themes and plugins
  • Moving posts or pages to the trash
  • Uploading files to your Media Library

The best way to put your permission back in order is by using FTP. Once you connect to your server, select wp-adminwp-includes, and wp-content. Right-click on them, then select File permissions:

Opening the file permissions settings in FileZilla.

In the resulting window, set the Numeric Value to 755. Select recurse into subdirectories and apply to directories only. Repeat this process, but set the Numeric Value to 644 and select recurse into subdirectories and apply to files only:

Changing the file permissions settings in FileZilla.

Then, select the rest of the files in public_html. Right-click on them and select File permissions once more. The Numeric Value should again be 644, but there’s no need to worry about the other settings.

Conclusion

There are many issues you may encounter while working with WordPress. Knowing what to expect ahead of time will help you prepare for them so you can enact a resolution quickly.

This post has shared five common types of WordPress errors as well as their possible solutions:

  1. Plugin conflicts: Deactivate all of your plugins, then reactivate them one at a time to find the source of the problem.
  2. Error Establishing a Database Connection: Edit your wp-config.php file to ensure your database credentials are correct.
  3. 404: Page Not Found: Check for broken links and change your Pretty Permalinks setting back to the default option.
  4. WordPress is stuck in maintenance mode: Delete your .maintenance file using FTP.
  5. Incorrect file permissions: Change them back to the recommended Numeric Values via FTP.

Do you have any questions about common WordPress errors or how to troubleshoot them? Let us know in the comments section below!

Featured Image Credit: Sarah Kilian.

Will Morris
Will Morris
Will Morris is a staff writer at WordCandy. When he's not writing about WordPress, he likes to gig his stand-up comedy routine on the local circuit.

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10 Responses

  1. Thanks so much for sharing, this article has helped me with my wordpress problem, thanks so much. I have been having this problem for sometime now. You have helped me to solve the problem

  2. I have setup a blog in my website and unable to update in file permission. I want to setup with 10 authors and don’t want to give him direct permission to edit anythings. How to do possible?

  3. WordPress is a very easy way to build your website but mostly beginners face those kinds of issues, this article helps those people, so thanks for the helpful article.

  4. Hi Will,

    I have been fixing WordPress websites for the past 3 years 🙂 The article is spot on. One more common issue is the HTTP 500 error. I would add that to the list!

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