How to Fix Internal Server Error


Among the perplexing errors encountered by WordPress beginners is the ‘Internal Server Error’ or ‘500 Internal Server Error.’ This issue arises when something is amiss, yet the server cannot pinpoint the exact problem location. As the error message lacks specific guidance, the onus is on you to identify the issue. We’ve assembled a list of potential solutions for you to try, confident that one of them will assist in resolving the error.


Understanding the 500 Internal Server Error:

The 500 internal server error is a prevalent web server issue that is not exclusive to WordPress; it can occur on any website.

Technically, the ‘500’ in the error message represents an HTTP error code. A standard lookup of this code provides the following description:
‘500 Internal Server Error response code indicates that the server encountered an unexpected condition that prevented it from fulfilling the request.’

Essentially, this error is a generic catch-all message, signaling that the server couldn’t provide a more specific explanation when facing the issue.

The appearance of the error page varies based on the web server software (Nginx or Apache) and the browser you are using. It can be particularly frustrating for beginners, as the error doesn’t offer clear guidance on resolving the issue.

Addressing the 500 Internal Server Error without specific details is akin to seeking medical advice for pain without specifying its location. However, understanding common triggers of this error allows you to methodically address them and resolve the issue without causing further complications.

What are the causes of Internal Server Error in WordPress?

The internal server error in WordPress is frequently the result of a corrupted .htaccess file, poorly coded plugins, or issues with your active WordPress theme.

Additional potential causes of the internal server error in WordPress include reaching the PHP memory limit or encountering corrupted core WordPress files.

Under specific circumstances, this error may only appear when attempting to access the WordPress admin area, while the rest of the site functions normally.

With that in mind, let’s explore the steps to troubleshoot and resolve the internal server error in WordPress.

Resolving the 500 Internal Server Error in WordPress

Before diving into troubleshooting, ensure you have a comprehensive backup of your WordPress website.

For those with access to the WordPress admin area, utilize a WordPress backup plugin like Duplicator to create a complete backup.

Alternatively, if you lack access to the WordPress admin area, manually generate a WordPress backup using phpMyAdmin and an FTP client.

Following this precaution, proceed with the subsequent steps to diagnose and resolve the internal server error on your website.

Clear WordPress and Browser Cache

At times, browsers and WordPress caching plugins may unintentionally retain a cached version of an error page.

Begin by clearing your browser cache as the initial step.

Next, if you can access the WordPress admin area, navigate to your caching plugin’s settings page to clear the WordPress cache.

Refer to our tutorial on clearing WordPress cache for more detailed instructions.

Verifying the Integrity of .htaccess File

The .htaccess file serves as a server configuration file utilized by WordPress for establishing redirects.

A prevalent cause of the internal server error is a corrupted .htaccess file.

To address this, visit the Settings » Permalinks page in the WordPress admin area and click the ‘Save Changes’ button without making any alterations.

WordPress will attempt to update or generate a new .htaccess file. Check if this resolves the internal server error by visiting your website.

If the error persists, confirm that WordPress successfully generated or wrote to the .htaccess file. Permissions issues can sometimes hinder file creation or writing.

Try replacing the .htaccess file manually by logging into your website through FTP or the File Manager app in your hosting account control panel.

  1. Rename your existing .htaccess file to .htaccess_old to keep it as a backup that WordPress won’t recognize.
  2. Create a new .htaccess file in the site’s root folder via your FTP client or File Manager app.
  3. Open the new file and add the default WordPress rewrite rules:
					# BEGIN WordPress
<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteRule ^index.php$ - [L]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /index.php [L]
# END WordPress

This code represents the default rule set employed by WordPress. Ensure you save your changes and upload the file back to the server.

Visit your website to check if this resolves the internal server error. If successful, congratulations on fixing the issue.

Crucial: Before proceeding, go to Settings » Permalinks in the WordPress admin area, and click ‘Save’ without any modifications. This regenerates the .htaccess file with correct rewrite rules, preventing post pages from returning a 404 error.

If the attempt to address the corrupt .htaccess file did not resolve the issue, please proceed with reading further in this article.

Boosting the PHP Memory Limit

Occasionally, the internal server error may occur if a script surpasses the PHP memory limit.

To increase the PHP memory limit, carefully edit the wp-config.php file. Exercise caution, especially if you’re a beginner, as inaccuracies in WordPress core files can potentially break your site.

Start by connecting to your WordPress website via an FTP client or the File Manager app in your hosting account control panel.

Locate the wp-config.php file in your website’s main folder, right-click, and select ‘Download’ to create a backup.

After saving the backup, right-click the file again and choose ‘View/Edit.’

Within the wp-config.php file, add the following code just above the line that says ‘That’s all, stop editing! Happy publishing’:

					define( 'WP_MEMORY_LIMIT', '256M' );

For additional guidance, refer to our tutorial on increasing the PHP memory limit in WordPress.

Note: If setting it to 256M doesn’t resolve the issue, consider increasing it to 512M.

If the internal server error appears only during attempts to log in to your WordPress admin or upload an image in your wp-admin, follow these steps to increase the memory limit:

  1. Create a blank text file on your computer and name it php.ini.
  2. Insert the code memory=256MB in the file.
  3. Save the file.
  4. Upload it to your /wp-admin/ folder using FTP.  

Keep in mind that increasing the memory limit addresses the issue temporarily. You still need to identify the root cause depleting your memory limit, which could be a poorly coded plugin or theme function. Consult your WordPress web hosting company and request assistance in reviewing server logs for precise diagnostics.

If adjusting the PHP memory limit doesn’t resolve the problem, additional troubleshooting steps are needed.

Disable All WordPress Plugins

If the previous solutions did not resolve the issue, a specific plugin on your website is likely causing the error. It could also be a combination of plugins conflicting with each other.

If you can access the WordPress admin area, navigate to the plugins page and deactivate all WordPress plugins.

Alternatively, if access to the admin area is not possible, deactivate all plugins using FTP. Connect to your WordPress website via an FTP client or file manager app in your hosting account control panel.

Once connected, locate the /wp-content/ folder and rename the plugins folder to plugins.deactivated.

WordPress searches for plugins in the plugins folder. If not found, it automatically deactivates all plugins.

Check your website to see if this resolves the internal server error.

To restore your plugins, rename the ‘plugins.deactivated’ folder back to ‘plugins’. Although restored, the plugins remain deactivated.

Activate plugins individually, checking your website each time, to identify the plugin causing the internal server error.

Refer to our guide on deactivating all WordPress plugins without WP-Admin for detailed instructions.

If deactivating all plugins does not resolve the internal server error, please continue reading for further troubleshooting.

Switch to a Default WordPress Theme

A potential cause of the internal server error may lie in the code of your WordPress theme. To investigate, switch your theme to a default WordPress theme.

If you can access the WordPress admin area, navigate to Appearance » Themes. If a default theme is already installed, click ‘Activate’ to make the switch.

If no default theme is installed, click ‘Add New’ and install a default theme (Twenty Twenty-Three, Twenty Twenty-Two, etc.).

For those without admin area access, connect to your WordPress website using an FTP client. Navigate to the /wp-content/ folder, right-click the themes folder, and download it as a backup.

Next, delete the themes folder from your website and create a new themes folder. This new folder will be empty, indicating no installed WordPress themes.

Visit the WordPress themes directory, download a default theme (Twenty Twenty-Three, for example), and unzip the downloaded file on your computer.

Upload the theme folder to the empty themes folder using your FTP client or File Manager.

Once uploaded, WordPress will automatically switch to the default theme.

Check your website to see if this resolves the internal server error. If not, you can revert to your original theme using the backup.

No need to worry; there are still additional steps to troubleshoot and resolve the error.

Re-Uploading Core Files

If the previous steps with plugins and themes did not resolve the internal server error, consider re-uploading the /wp-admin/ and /wp-includes/ folders from a fresh WordPress install.

This action will not delete any of your data but can address the issue if any file is corrupted.

Start by visiting the website and clicking the ‘Download’ button to download the WordPress zip file.

After downloading, extract the zip file to reveal the wordpress folder.

Next, connect to your WordPress website using an FTP client and navigate to the root folder (containing wp-admin, wp-includes, and wp-content).

Open the WordPress folder on your computer in the left column of your FTP client.

Select all files inside the wordpress folder and upload them to your website.

Your FTP client may prompt you to overwrite files. Choose ‘Overwrite’ and then ‘Always use this action.’

This process replaces your existing WordPress files with fresh copies. If corruption in your WordPress files caused the internal server error, this step should resolve the issue.

Activate Debug Logs in WordPress

WordPress includes a built-in debugging system to maintain logs for debugging purposes.

Enable it using the WP Debugging plugin. Refer to our guide on installing WordPress plugins for detailed instructions.

Once activated, the plugin will enable debugging logs on your WordPress site.

If you lack access to the admin area, turn on debugging by adding the following code to your wp-config.php file:

					define( 'WP_DEBUG', true);
define( 'WP_DEBUG_LOG', true); 

After enabling debug logs, access them through an FTP client by navigating to the /wp-content/ folder.

Debug log
Open the debug log file in a text editor to view a list of errors and warnings occurring on your website.

While some errors and warnings may be inconsequential incidents not requiring immediate attention, if you are encountering an internal server error, these logs can provide valuable insights to guide you in the right direction.

Seek Assistance from Your Hosting Provider

If none of the methods successfully resolve the internal server error on your website, it’s advisable to seek additional help.

Reach out to your web hosting support team. They possess the expertise to examine server logs and identify the underlying cause of the error.

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