Tech Friday: Debugging the WordPress White Screen of Death

motor-1381998_1280Problem: I attempted to change a password for a user of the WordPress web site. I got into the administrator’s dashboard, choose “Users”, found the person’s entry, changed their password, clicked on “save changes” and Poof! I get a blank screen.

 

It turns out there is a name for such screens, and the name is called the WordPress White Screen of Death, or WSOD.

There are a ton of possible causes for this, but many of them relate to a problem with PHP code located someplace  within WordPress, or within WordPress plugins. Since the WSOD is just that…it doesn’t show any kind of detailed error message, one approach to finding the problem is to enable error checking and display at the PHP level. This is a quick entry in the WordPress wp-config.php file located in the root WordPress directory.  Here’s the file as it shows up in FileZilla.

WP_Config

And here is the contents of the file as displayed in Notepad++

WP_DEBUG

The trick is simply to change false to true to enable the display of error codes.  And sure enough,  once I did that and retried the password change operation I saw the following message:

Fatal error: Call to undefined function curl_init() in /var/www/html/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/gmail-smtp/class.phpmaileroauthgoogle.php on line 171

This was an indication that a plugin which I had added was causing the error. Once I removed the plugin, I could change my user’s password without problems and the WSOD was banished, at least for now.

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