WordPress: Find & Fix 500 Internal Server Error

Maintenance October 6, 2018

the 500 internal server error is one of the most common server errors in WordPress. But where does this error message come from and how can the cause be tracked down and rectified? We have compiled everything about the 500 Internal Server Error in combination with WordPress in the following article.

The 500 internal server error

The server error that this article is about is by no means a WordPress-specific issue. This error can also occur in combination with other content management systems. Unfortunately, the error message itself does not give any details about the cause. For this reason, troubleshooting and subsequent correction is often extremely difficult, especially for laypersons. In addition, this error is not always identical due to the different servers, configurations and browsers. Sometimes the status error code is transmitted, sometimes only a white, blank page is displayed. It doesn’t matter whether it’s “HTTP 500”, “Error 500” or “500 Internal Server Error” – it always means the same thing – something went wrong.

No need to panic – there is a solution for everything. Although the 500 internal server error does not only plague WordPress users, common sources of error can of course be defined in combination with the CMS. The error can often be found and corrected quickly using the process of elimination.

Fix WordPress 500 Internal Server Error

We have therefore summarized the most common causes and approaches below. As a rule, the error has been eliminated when all of these points can be checked and ruled out.

Checking the .htaccess file

The first order of business when looking for the 500 Internal Server Error should be to check the .htaccess file. This is located in the main directory of the WordPress installation (root). Due to the fact that this is a server configuration file, it is extremely error-prone and even a typo can limit the functionality of the website.

You can find out whether the .htaccess file is the culprit by temporarily renaming it. This means that all rules, such as for permalinks, are lost for a short time, but then you are a little smarter again. If the 500 internal server error has not disappeared even after reloading the website, then there does not seem to be an error at this point. On to the second possible cause.

Increasing the memory limit

Another possible reason for the mentioned server error could be the PHP memory limit. This is the maximum amount of memory, in bytes, that a script can allocate on the server. Exceeding this limit may result in a 500 error. The minimum requirement of WordPress is at least 32 MB, 64 MB is better. If you use a lot of plugins, you should increase to 128 MB or 256 MB if the hosting provider allows it. We have already explained in detail in this article how the memory limit can be increased quickly and easily.

Error source plugins

A common cause of errors and problems with WordPress is the installed plugins. Especially the use of too many or wrong, bad plugins can really turn a WordPress website into a problem. Not only bad loading times, but also security problems or functional limitations can be the result of plugins.

In order to be able to rule out that one or possibly even several plugins are the cause of the server error, all plugins can be temporarily deactivated. This can be done via the WordPress backend, in which all extensions are deactivated manually, or via FTP. All you have to do is rename the /plugins/ directory (found under /wp-content/). If this does not correct the error, the directory only needs to be renamed correctly. We also recommend checking in the backend whether all plugins have been correctly activated again.

Corrupt WordPress Core Files

If WordPress itself is damaged, this can also lead to our error. However, the “reinstallation” is done in no time at all. To do this, download the currently installed WordPress version again. If the latest version is not in use, older releases can also be obtained from the WordPress website. Simply unpack the ZIP archive and replace the two directories /wp-admin/ and /wp-includes/ on the server.

The /wp-content/ directory contains all customizations such as the theme or the installed plugins. Under no circumstances should this list be replaced. This will update the WordPress core files while leaving the website untouched.

Check error logs

If the hosting provider provides so-called error logs, you should comb through them for the possible cause of the error. The error logs can be found either on the server (usually in a separate directory called /logs/) or in the customer panel. Under certain circumstances, notes such as programming errors could also be listed there.

Contact the hoster

If the above tips and measures have not led to a troubleshooting, you often have no choice but to contact the hosting provider. This step also makes sense if no access to the log files is granted. A support team often evaluates the error logs for their customers and, in the best-case scenario, provides the crucial information.

On the subject

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