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    The 5 most common WordPress errors (and how to fix them)

    by Lewis Reeves QA & Testing

    If you’ve run a WordPress site for any length of time, it’s highly likely that you’ll have encountered some of the most common errors. If you’re unlucky enough to encounter one, read on to find a cure.

    1. Endless “Briefly Unavailable for Scheduled Maintenance”

    When you apply updates to your website, such as plugins or a core WordPress upgrade, your website will become temporarily unavailable for visitors. It’s a normal part of the process, as your site wouldn’t load properly if it was mid-update. In practice, the site is normally “down” for a few seconds.

    But sometimes, you’ll perform the updates and the site remains unavailable, with a “Briefly Unavailable for Scheduled Maintenance” message replacing your site permanently.

    The likely cause is that you’ve closed the window or tab in which the WordPress dashboard was running before the installation had completed. It can also happen when you’re trying to do too many updates in one go.

    To restore your site, use your FTP client to visit the core directory where WordPress is installed. There’s a file called .maintenance there – delete it. Your site should now run, although you might need to update your plugins again. Make sure you wait till the process is completed before closing the window or clicking a link.

    2. Changes not applying

    Another error happens where you’ve added pages or edited a blog post, clicked Publish and … the site looks exactly as it did before.

    Nine times out of ten, this is down to caching. Your cache is a snapshot of your site that is held on your server and speeds up the delivery of pages. However, if someone visits the page and the cache is old, they’ll probably get an older version of the page or the site.

    All you have to do is clear your cache. If you’ve got a caching plugin, the “clear” button is usually at the top of the dashboard, and the process takes a second or two. Then go to your browser window and refresh the page you were trying to view.

    3. “The White Screen of Death”

    On Windows it’s blue, but on WordPress it’s white – a blank browser screen. When this happens after your site has been running perfectly, think about what you have just done to your site.

    Most of the time, you’ll find that a plugin or theme you’ve just installed or updated has caused compatibility issues with your site, so it has gone into a loop or simply failed to load.

    First, try and revert or disable any plugins or themes you’ve just worked with. Do it one by one so you can identify the culprit. If you have automatic updates, it could be down to any plugin, so you might need to go through them all one by one to see which one has failed.

    4. Internal Server Error

    This is a pretty generic error message, but it can usually be traced back to the .htaccess file, which again is stored in the WordPress root directory. Log into your FTP client and rename the .htaccess file, then refresh your page. If that works, go to settings > permalinks and reset your permalinks, which creates a new .htaccess file. You can then delete the one you renamed as it’s corrupted.

    If that doesn’t work, try disabling all your plugins and revert to a default WordPress theme (e.g. Twenty-Twenty-Three). Reactivate your plugins one by one and refresh your live page each time. If it suddenly gives the error message again, you’ve located the fault.

    5. Error Establishing Database Connection

    This error usually occurs when there’s a problem with the wp-config.php file. Open it up in FTP and make sure the Database name, Database username, Database password and Database host are all correct.

    It could also be a problem with your hosting company. Errors do happen when they do their own maintenance, and they usually pick up on it pretty quickly. Check their service status page if they have one.

    Worst case, your site has been hacked and someone has interfered with the internal files. Contact your host and ask them to restore an old backup of the site, then beef up your security.

    Still need help? If you’re having problems with your WordPress installation, call the experts.