Site Down — How to Troubleshoot an Inaccessible WordPress Blog

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It might happen to your WordPress blog that it breaks for no apparent reason. Having a site down requires your immediate attention. Here are some simple techniques to determine the cause of your site being down and to help you bring it back online.

When your website becomes inaccessible, you have no access to it — all you get is a blank white screen without any content.

stosu.com homepage not showing

stosu.com homepage not showing

Also, you won’t be able to access your WordPress dashboard via yourdomain.com/wp-admin or yourdomain.com/wp-login.php.

stosu.com wp-login.php not showing

stosu.com wp-login.php not showing

What will you learn in this post?

In this post I will show you:

  • how to decipher HTTP error codes
  • how to make sure that your site is really down for all visitors
  • how to check for technical issues at your hosting provider
  • how to check for problems in your .htaccess file
  • how to disable all WordPress plugins via your SQL database

Look for HTTP Error Codes

In the simplest site inaccessibility cases you will see an error code in your browser.

For example, a 403 error means that you have been denied access to the site. This is usually a result of your IP address being banned via the site’s .htaccess file.

Related Post

How to Ban Unwanted Visitors from Accessing Your WordPress Blog


In my experience, it’s best to ban blog visitors who only post hurtful or negative comments. Trolls don’t change their behavior even after being asked to do so.

On the other hand, a 503 error means that the server where your site is hosted is temporarily down — usually for maintenance purposes.

4xx codes refer to client-side errors, whereas 5xx codes are server-side errors. Here is a list of all HTTP status codes including all error codes.

However, in more complex cases, you won’t get an error code.

Is Your Site Down for Sure?

Therefore, the only way to make sure that your site is really down is to use a third party service, such as Down for Everyone or Just Me?

Down for Everyone or Just Me?

Down for Everyone or Just Me?

or Is It Down Right Now?

Is It Down Right Now?

Is It Down Right Now?

Either one of these sites will let you know whether they could successfully access your website or not.

Check with Your Hosting Provider

Another good idea to troubleshoot a site down is to check with your hosting provider whether they are having connectivity problems. There are a number of reasons why your site might be down due to problems at your hosting provider — fire, flood, cut cables, major technical failures, etc.

The hosting company I use, the Swiss Cyon, has a dedicated Twitter profile to let clients know about any problems. Other companies, such as GoDaddy, have special status web pages created for the same reason.

To find your specific provider’s status Twitter profile or systems status page, google provider status twitter or provider status page. But instead of the word provider type the actual name of your hosting provider.

Check Your Root .htaccess File

The next thing to check out is your site’s root .htaccess file.

This file contains important rules regarding how your site is accessed and displayed. It might get overwritten or completely removed when some upgrades are done to your WordPress site.

This is a good place to emphasize the importance of keeping fresh backups of both your WordPress database and your hosted files and folders. A backup makes it much easier to go back to the archived copy of the rewritten .htaccess file.

To check you .htaccess file, access your hosting provider’s FTP server using WinSCP.

To access the files you have hosted on your hosting provider’s server, you will need the FTP address of the server, a user name and a password. These information were given to you by your hosting provider when you first started your cooperation.

Check Your WordPress Installation’s SQL Database

If nothing of the above helped bring the site back online, you will need to access your site’s SQL database. Again, you will need the access information you received from your hosting provider — the database’s URL, a user name and a password.

You need to access the SQL database, so that you can disable all your WordPress plugins in one swoop. This is the best and easiest way to troubleshoot the issue of an inaccessible site, given that the above methods failed to remove the problem.

Manually disable all plugins in the wp_options table

Click on your site’s database name in the left pane of phpMyAdmin.

Click on the table called wp_options. The prefix doesn’t necessarily have to be wp_, although it usually is.

Then look for the option name called active_plugins. The simplest way to find it is to search for it.

Search in database

Search in database

The second simplest way is to sort all the data in the table by the option_name column.

Sort database table by option_name

Sort database table by option_name

When you locate the active_plugins option name, click Edit at the beginning of its line.

Edit active_plugins option

Edit active_plugins option

And replace the existing option value with this:

active_plugins original option value

active_plugins original option value

active_plugins new option value

active_plugins new option value

Disable all plugins using an SQL query

Another way to disable all your WordPress plugins within your SQL database is to use an SQL query, such as this:

Important Note

Again, make sure that you are using the correct prefix for the table. For example, GoDaddy adds another prefix to all the database tables, so that they look something like this: wp_rrpd3wx1ps_options.

Once you have successfully deactivated all your plugins, check your site again whether it is now showing some content. It should be back up, visually incorrect (as per all the inactive plugins) but up and running nevertheless.

Now, enter your WordPress dashboard via yourdomain.com/wp-admin or yourdomain.com/wp-login.php and re-activate all plugins one by one, refreshing your site after each each activated plugin.

If one of the plugins breaks the site, that’s the one you need to permanently deactivate or delete altogether.

Final Thoughts

Of course, none of the above might solve your specific site down problem. There might be problems with your WordPress theme or your site might have been hacked.

In case you need help with getting your WordPress site back online, don’t hesitate to hire me for the job.

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