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WordPress and the Internal Server Error

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September 10th, 2010
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WordPress, WordPress FAQs, WordPress Troubleshooting

Internal server errors, aka Error 500, can happen under WordPress just as often as they happen under practically anything else running on a server. You may think that the error itself will tell a tech all they need to know, but it really doesn’t say anything. In fact, internal server errors are the server equivalent of a patient explaining to a doctor, “I did something and now I don’t feel well.”

Before you ask for support, internal server errors are often caused by plugin or theme function conflicts, so you should start by manually resetting all of your plugins and your theme, which we already covered in WordPress and the White Screen of Death. If that doesn’t resolve the issue, it’s possible that a .htaccess rule could be the source of the problem. To check for this, access your server via FTP or SFTP and rename the .htaccess file. If you can’t find a .htaccess file, make sure that you have set your FTP or SFTP client to view invisible files.

If you weren’t able to resolve the issue by either resetting your plugins and theme or renaming your .htaccess file, it’s time to ask for support, but it would certainly help the supporter if you could offer a more detailed error message. Internal server errors are usually described in more detail in the server error log. If you have access to your server error log, generate the error again, note the date and time, then immediately check your server error log for any errors that occurred during that time period. If you don’t have access to your server error log, ask your hosting provider to look for you.

Once you have all the relevant details, ask either your hosting provider or the WordPress Support Forums for further help. Be sure to describe what you were doing before the error occurred, all the troubleshooting steps that you have taken thus far, and include the quoted error message(s) from your server error log.

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  1. Jess Planck (4 comments.) says:

    One of more unusual sources of error 500 that I’ve seen was a permissions problem. This issue I dealt with had files moved from a server where the user and group names were different and didn’t exist on the new server. Somehow the new server tried to use the old server user and groupnames. I won’t name hosting service, it was an oops moment for them This also happened once moving a site from an enterprise backup system to a new server.

  2. Carrie (2 comments.) says:

    Yep I had a weird 500 error and it suddenly went away after I changed the blog post title. And it was the only thing on the site that had that error was one lonely blog post. The good part, I only had to mess with it once to figure it out. Lucky guess.

  3. cimddwc (3 comments.) says:

    And if you didn’t change anything when these errors sometimes show up, and you’re on a really cheap shared hosting environment, they may be caused by other users using up the server resources – and resource-saving measures on your behalf might reduce the errors a little, but couldn’t prevent them.

    If, then, the support replies with text modules ignoring that you already said you didn’t change anything but giving useless advice instead, it’s really high time to find a new hoster…



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