5 Minute Fix for the HTTP Error 500 in WordPress

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Your WordPress website is probably a snap to run and manage most of the time. After all, a lot of work has gone into making sure you can carry out day-to-day administration without a hitch. However, at some point, you’ll likely experience an issue such as an HTTP Error 500.

Amazing Phil saying "Know your place."

While your initial panic is understandable, you’re not totally out to sea. In fact, there’s a lot you can do to get back up and running as quickly as possible. It’ll involve breaking out some tools and trusting in your diagnostic abilities, but it’s achievable regardless of your skillset.

In this post, we’ll discuss what the HTTP Error 500 in WordPress is, why it happens, and how to fix it. There’s plenty to discuss, so let’s get to it!

In This Article 📝

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What Is an Internal Server Error 500? 🤔

The HTTP Error 500 in WordPress goes by a number of different names, one of them being an Internal Server error. No matter what you call it, it can be a lot of trouble for your website.

💻 The HTTP Error 500, the Internal Server error – regardless of its name, it can wreak havoc on your site. #WordPress Click To Tweet

This error is not actually specific to WordPress. In a nutshell, it’s is your website’s server telling you that something has gone wrong, but it’s not sure what. The issue often stops your site from displaying. In its place, visitors will see an error message, the wording of which varies.

A similar problem is the vague HTTP error that sometimes appears when you try to upload files to your Media Library:

Media upload HTTP error.

Although they’re not technically the same, you can fix this issue and the Internal Server Error by many of the same means, including the solutions we’ll cover in this post.

Why Are You Getting an HTTP Error 500 In WordPress? 🤷🏽‍♂️

As we already mentioned, the HTTP Error 500 is one of the vaguer problems you can encounter in WordPress. The messages it displays usually don’t give you any indication as to what the source of the issue is.

That said, there are four primary reasons why you might be seeing this error on your WordPress site:

  • You’ve reached your site’s PHP memory limit. If this is the source of the error, you’ll usually see it when trying to log into your admin dashboard or when uploading a media file.
  • Your .htaccess file has been corrupted. If your internet connection dropped while changes to this file were being written to your server, it may now contain errors that are causing larger problems for your site.
  • There’s a plugin conflict on your site. Plugin conflicts occur when the code of two or more plugins work against each other, your theme, or WordPress core.
  • The error is at the server level. As ‘Internal Server Error’ suggests, this problem sometimes has to do with your server and not your website.

Since the HTTP Error 500 message doesn’t tip you off as to which of these scenarios is the case for your site, you’ll likely have to try multiple solutions. We’ve included fixes for all these causes below, as well as a few others.

How to Fix the HTTP Error 500 in WordPress (4 Possible Solutions) 🛠

Before you dive into fixing the HTTP Error 500 in WordPress, you’ll need to make sure you have the proper tools on hand. These include:

  • Root access to your server if you have a Virtual Private Server (VPS) or dedicated hosting.
  • A File Transfer Protocol (FTP) client. You’ll want to choose a client such as FileZilla or Cyberduck. Make sure you’re up to speed on the basics of using it. However, you shouldn’t need advanced techniques to carry out the steps below.
  • A text editor. While this isn’t totally necessary, a suitable tool for editing your code will come in handy.

You may also want to turn on debugging mode. Once you have the tools you need, it’s time to get to work. Here are the methods we’ll cover:

  1. Increase Your Site’s Memory
  2. Check Your .htaccess File for Errors
  3. Deactivate and Test Each Installed Plugin and Theme
  4. Switch Your Default WordPress Image Editor

Although some advice discusses waiting a few minutes before testing again, switching browsers, or checking your file permissions, we’ll skip over these solutions. We figure you’ve already tried these before reading this article, during your initial panic.

With that said, let’s get on to the first method!

1. Increase Your Site’s Memory

Websites can push and pull immense amounts of data at times. If there’s not enough PHP memory to cope, your server can crash. You’ll often see the HTTP Error 500 in WordPress as a result.

While WordPress can usually dynamically adjust to visitor demand, your host may have capped your site’s memory limit for various reasons. Even so, this is something you can change quickly.

To do so, access your site’s wp-config.php file via FTP, open it in a text editor, and add define(‘WP_MEMORY_LIMIT’, ’64M’); underneath the first <?php tag on line 1:

Changing the memory limit in WordPress.

Next, save and re-upload the file to your server (overwriting the original), and check to see if the error is gone. If the problem is fixed, you’ll want to contact your host to ask for a permanent memory upgrade.

Bear in mind that this could be considered a band-aid, depending on whether other factors are at play. As such, you should remove the code again and run through the other solutions in this list before deciding to contact your host.

2. Check Your .htaccess File for Errors

Your .htaccess file – a configuration file for your server – can be rather finicky. As such, it’s often a cause of issues on your site:

The .htaccess file.

You can check whether your .htaccess file has become corrupt by:

  1. Accessing your site’s files via FTP
  2. Looking for the .htaccess file, located in your root folder
  3. Renaming it to something like .htaccess_backup
  4. Checking if the error persists

If the problem has resolved itself, you’ve found the source of your HTTP Error 500 in WordPress. From here, you have a few options.

You can go through your .htaccess file line by line to find the code that’s causing the problem. Although the .htaccess file isn’t usually that long, this can still be a time-consuming process. Plus, you run the risk of introducing new problems if you’re not familiar with code.

Another option is to reset your .htaccess file. This is actually fairly simple, as you just need to replace the contents of your file with the default code available in the WordPress Codex.

The problem with this solution is that it will remove any custom settings you’ve added. If you have a recent backup, you might try restoring the .htaccess file from that version of your site instead.

3. Deactivate and Test Each Installed Plugin

If neither of the solutions above worked, then it’s time to test for a plugin conflict. To do so with access to your admin dashboard is simple. Just log in and deactivate all of your plugins:

Deactivating plugins in WordPress.

However, if you’re locked out of your back end, you’ll need to access your site via FTP, look for your site’s plugins folder (usually within the wp-content directory), and rename it to something else. Then, check the front end of your site. If it’s back to normal, you know the issue lies with your plugins.

You’ll now want to change the name of your plugin directory back, open it, and rename each individual plugin to deactivate them. You can then restore their original names one by one to reactivate them and find the potential culprit by noting when the error message returns.

Once you’ve discovered the problem plugin, it’s wise to contact the developer and request a fix. You may also want to remove or replace it entirely to prevent future issues.

4. Switch Your Default WordPress Image Editor

Editing an image within WordPress.

This method is a lesser-known one, but it might solve the HTTP Error 500 for your site. If you’re not familiar, WordPress actually includes two different image editors within its core installation – Imagick and GD Library. The Imagick editor can cause the HTTP Error 500 in WordPress on occasion.

The solution is to make GD Library your one and only editor. To do so, you’ll want to log into your site via FTP again, and look for your functions.php file. It’s usually within your active theme’s folder.

In your text editor, add the following code:

function wpb_image_editor_default_to_gd( $editors ) {
$gd_editor = 'WP_Image_Editor_GD';
$editors = array_diff( $editors, array( $gd_editor ) );
array_unshift( $editors, $gd_editor );
return $editors;
}
add_filter( 'wp_image_editors', 'wpb_image_editor_default_to_gd' );

Then save and reupload functions.php. It’s important to note that unless you’re running a child theme (which we recommend), this modification will be overwritten when you update your theme.

Again, check the front end of your site and see how it looks. As with increasing your memory, we’re not 100 percent comfortable recommending this as anything other than a temporary solution unless otherwise instructed by your host.

As such, contacting them is a smart idea if this does solve the issue. They’ll likely want you to turn on debugging mode to help them understand why you’ve had to resort to this particular method.

What To Do If You Can’t Fix the HTTP Error 500 in WordPress ⚰️

At this point, if you’ve tried all of the methods above to find the culprit of the HTTP error 500 and haven’t succeeded, the problem probably isn’t at the site level. It’s time to contact your host for help.

You now have a lot of information on what isn’t causing this error, which will be helpful to your hosting support team. They’ll be grateful for your findings so far, and they should be able to uncover the problem quicker now that you’ve carried out some of the diagnostic steps.

🖥️ Your host should be able to diagnose the cause of the HTTP Error 500 in WordPress, even if you can't. #WordPress Click To Tweet

At this stage, you’ll often find that there’s a server issue causing your problems, such as a PHP versioning conflict, or something gone awry with your hosting. As such, a quality host will be able to help get your site back up and running in no time.

Wrapping Up 🛌

Site errors are never fun to discover, especially when they completely restrict access to your front end. The HTTP Error 500 in WordPress is one of the worst, although you’re not helpless when it comes to making things right again.

A systematic approach to fixing this error is all that’s needed. Once you have the right tools on hand, you can check elements such as your PHP memory limit, .htaccess file, plugins, and more. If none of these solve the problem, your host should be able to root out the cause.

Of course, the best thing you can do to improve your site is to support it with premium maintenance services. At WP Buffs, we have all your needs covered with our WordPress Care Plans!

Want to give your feedback or join the conversation? Add your comments 🐦 on Twitter!

Image credit: Pixabay.

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