How to Find the Cause of Internal Server Error

It happens to the best of us.  We’re rocking away on our blog, we install a couple great plug-ins, then BAM!  The white screen of death.  Otherwise known as “Internal Server Error”.  I’m here to tell you how to find the cause and then fix it, so before you freak out, take a deep breath, then read on for the diagnosis and cure.

How to Fix Internal Server Error  |  Sweet Tea & Saving GraceBack when I first made the switch from Blogger to my self-hosted WordPress site, I had no idea what it would do to my blog when I started adding plug-ins left and right.  I was just trying to make my blog more functional, run faster, and accessible.  But how accessible is a blog that is shut down and all you see is this:

ErrorOr maybe you see nothing at all – you have the white screen of death!  You can’t get back to your dashboard, you can’t even see your homepage!  It’s crazy town around here!

Breathe.  It’s going to be ok.  Promise.  Let’s do this together, ok?

{Please note:  This is a step-by-step guide to determining an Internal Server Error caused by a plug-in.  If you are seeing the white screen of death for other reasons, this will not help you.}

1. Log in to your hosting site and launch your web hosting.

error2I use GoDaddy for my hosting service, so when I log in, this is what I see.  From here, you’ll just click “Launch”.  Then you’ll be taken to the web hosting dashboard which looks similar to this:

How to Fix Internal Server Error  |  Sweet Tea & Saving Grace2. Access your Files.

As you can see in the image above, you’ll need to click over to “Files & FTP”.  Check the tabs at the top of your dashboard to find this link.  You’ll see a list of file folders like this:

How to Fix Internal Server Error  |  Sweet Tea & Saving Grace3. Go to the Plug-ins folder.

In the list of folders on the left, click on “wp-content”, and another list of folders will appear.  In this folder you’ll see another subfolder titled “plugins”.

How to Fix Internal Server Error  |  Sweet Tea & Saving GraceFrom here, you can do one of two things:

Option A: Deactivate the entire plug-in folder and reactivate each plugin individually.

This is good if you don’t know which plugin is causing the problem, or if you need to see if in fact a plug-in is the issue at all.

Option B: Deactivate only the plug-in that you think is causing the error.

If you have recently installed a new plug-in, and you started receiving the error message shortly thereafter, you can simply deactivate just that one plug-in to regain access to your WP dashboard.

Let’s look at each option, shall we?

Option A: Deactivating the entire plug-in folder:

If you are unsure as to which plug-in is creating the problem, or you just aren’t sure if in fact it is a plug-in at all, this is a great way to find out.

1. Rename the plug-in folder.

How to Fix Internal Server Error  |  Sweet Tea & Saving GraceAt the top of the list of subfolders, you should see either an option to rename, or an option to click “More”, which will then give you the option to rename your folder.

Simply add “.hold” behind the plug-in folder name.  Your folder should now read “plugins.hold”.   Do not include the quotation marks.

2. Attempt to gain access to your WP dashboard.

If a plug-in is the culprit, you should be able to gain access to your WP dashboard at this point.  If you are able to log in, navigate to your plug-ins list.  It’s going to look a bit odd, so bare with me and we’ll fix it.

How to Fix Internal Server Error  |  Sweet Tea & Saving GraceYou’ll probably see a bunch of crazy sauce that looks like this mess above.  That’s because you have temporarily deactivated all of your plug-ins, but this has regained you access to your WP dashboard, so you can fix the issue.  That’s good!

3. Rename your plug-in folder again.

Now that you are back into your dashboard, go back to your hosting site and change the name of your folder BACK to it’s original name by removing the “.hold”.

4. Reactivate each plugin individually.

Refresh your plug-in page in your WP dashboard, and it’ll most likely look like this:

How to Fix Internal Server Error  |  Sweet Tea & Saving GraceThat looks a bit more normal, doesn’t it?  Yay!  Progress!

Ok, you’ll notice that, while all of your plug-ins are still there, none of them are activated.

Activate each plug-in one at a time.  I recommend starting with the ones you know aren’t the problem.  After each one is reactivated, if you are able to continue to access your WP dashboard, you’re golden.  If you reactivate one plugin and start to get an error message again, you’ve found your culprit!

Delete that bad boy, count your losses and move on.  You don’t want a bad plug-in messing up your blog anymore.  Reactivate the rest of your plug-ins one at a time to be sure there’s only one bad egg, then pat yourself on the back for fixing the problem all by yourself!

Option B: Deactivating one plug-in.

Let’s say you just installed a new plug-in, and almost immediately began having issues that led to the white screen of death.  You know exactly which one it is, and you don’t want to mess with reactivating each individual plug-in as we did in Option A.  Ok then.  Let’s roll!

1. Open plug-in folder.

Instead of renaming the plug-in folder, double-click it to open all of your plug-ins.

2. Navigate to the folder for the mean, nasty plug-in and rename just that folder.

We’re going to go all “Mean Girls” right now and point fingers at the annoying little twerp causing all these problems.

How to Fix Internal Server Error  |  Sweet Tea & Saving Grace{Sidenote: I used this particular plug-in for example purposes only, but truly I love Popup Ally and it never gave me issues.}


Once you have located the plug-in that is causing the drama, you need to rename it.  Simply add an underscore ( _ ) BEFORE the name of the plug-in, then save.

3. Access your WP dashboard.

You should be able to access your dashboard at this point.  Navigate to your list of plug-ins and delete the bad plug-in.  Again, count your losses and move on with your day.

HUZZAH!!!  You’ve found the culprit and fixed the problem all by your lil ol’ self!  WOOT WOOT!

Feels pretty good, doesn’t it?!

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I'm Kirsten & I'm happy you're here! Sweet Tea & Saving Grace supports women seeking to find balance in the busy, deepen their faith, and instill joy and love in their homes, lives, and blogs by providing encouraging and inspiring content and valuable resources. My prayer is for you to leave here better than when you came. Be blessed!