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Let’s face it. At some point, while running your WordPress site, you will run into issues and errors and may ultimately have to ask yourself…
A backup & restore may not resolve your issue, and a plugin may not display itself as the source of your problem, at least, not immediately. It’s hard to tell exactly what is causing your site issues just by looking at it. This can get pretty serious in some cases and can range from a large variety of issues. In this tutorial we will cover the basics on troubleshooting problems with your WordPress installation to try and correct common issues seen with WordPress. The first place you need to look for the source of your problem is within the error log.
The most common or likely seen error log used within WordPress investigations does not actually stem from WordPress but rather from your PHP installation on the server. The php.ini file used to control PHP settings for your site will determine if and where the error log is reporting. If this is enabled you can usually find the error log in the directory (or folder) of your WordPress installation. In most cases, this file is titled error_log
but is dependent on the setting in the php.ini
file. You can also find the WordPress PHP error log (if enabled) within the wp-content
folder in a file called php.error_log
. If you see neither of these and your site is not loading properly, you need to enable debugging mode or enable PHP logging in your php.ini.
You can enable debugging for WordPress within the wp-config.php
file. This is essential when trying to determine why a site is no longer loading or is erroring. You may never understand why a site does not load without seeing the errors generated. To better see what is occurring simply edit the following line within your wp-config.php file:
And change the false to true
Changing the value to true enables debug mode and will display any errors site code directly on the page. This can be useful when trying to track down site issues or to see if upgrades have created any new issues. If you change PHP versions and the site no longer loads this method will tell you why. Wp-config.php is also the location where you can enable the WordPress PHP error log and log directly to a file rather than printing to the screen. You can do this by adding the following code to the wp-config file:
This code creates the WordPress PHP error log (php.error_log
) if errors are present and are being generated. You can find this file within the wp-content
folder of your WordPress installation. You may not see this error file if errors are not being generated so the lack of presence, after enabling this setting, may mean no errors are being reported. For instance, if your .htaccess file has a syntax error the php.error_log will not show the error because it is not a PHP related error.
If you would rather enable PHP error logging you can add values to the php.ini
for the domain or via .htaccess
if your configuration supports them:
Open your site’s php.ini file. If you are unsure where this is located, you can use a phpinfo page to show the location or you can also run the following in command line:
cpUser=`pwd | cut -d/ -f3`; for i in `pwd`; do touch $i/phpinfo.php; chown $cpUser. $i/phpinfo.php ; echo "<?php phpinfo(); ?>" > $i/phpinfo.php; done
Manually create a phpinfo.php
file within your sites public_html
folder with the following code.
// Show all information
Afterwards, access this file via a browser at the location you created it. You will find the php.ini path under Loaded Configuration File
Once you find this location, edit the file and add the following code if it does not exist:
;;; log php errors
display_startup_errors = false
display_errors = false
html_errors = false
log_errors = true
track_errors = true
error_log = /home/USER/logs/error_log
error_reporting = E_ALL | E_STRICT
You can change the path for error_log
to wherever you want this to be stored within your users home directory. The WordPress install is bound to the same access rights as the user installing it so it will not have the permissions to write outside their home directory.
On older setups you can change the logging information via .htaccess if your configuration supports php_flags
(using DSO aka as Data Source Object)
# log php errors
php_flag display_startup_errors off
php_flag display_errors off
php_flag html_errors off
php_flag log_errors on
php_value error_log /home/path/logs/error_log
Most likely newer and up-to-date configurations are not using DSO and you will need to modify this via the php.ini file.
To understand how to read the output of these logs look at the following entry:
[09-Sep-2018 22:57:20 UTC] PHP Fatal error: Allowed memory size of 41943040 bytes exhausted (tried to allocate 32768 bytes) in home/USERNAME/public_html/wp-content/plugins/wordpress-seo/inc/class-wpseo-meta.php on line 477
You can see the date and timestamp followed by the general message and path this stems from. This tells you most of the details you will need to determine where the problem lies. You can see from the timestamp of this error when the error is occurring and if that relates to the current issue or if it was a different error. The path will usually show if this stems from a plugin or theme and the location of the software generating the error. This will even display the line in the document or file that triggered the error which can be further reviewed by your sites developer.
The “fatal error” is the most common type of error seen and the cause can vary from coding, like “undefined function”, indicate the function and problematic line of code to memory errors (like the one used in the above example). This usually occurs when the server has run out of memory or the PHP memory limit is not set high enough to run the code’s requirements. To fix these errors you may need to update software (themes and plugins usually) as it may be using deprecated code and or functions. You may also need to increase the PHP memory limit or locate any heavy resource usage on the server that may be consuming memory.
This generally means there is an issue with the database in use or the configuration of your WordPress setup. This could mean your database is corrupt or the configuration settings used in your wp-config
are not correct or have been modified. Check your wp-config file has the correct credentials and syntax to ensure your database can communicate with your WordPress files. You may also see this error when the server has heavy load or the MySQL service is down. You’ll need to investigate resource usage on the server to determine why.
A standard 404 error means your server could not locate the file being called by the software in use on the domain. This usually occurs when ownership or permissions are incorrect, the file path is called incorrectly or the file is completely missing.
WordPress can sometimes run for a while without issue but some common errors can be solved with a little bit of background. As always our helpful support experts are here to assist with any WordPress related errors. Should you need assistance with troubleshooting your WordPress installation and we even offer a Managed WordPress hosting platform
with WordPress error experts to investigate many issues.