Don’t Panic: Common WordPress Errors and How to Fix Them (Part Two)

In part one of this series we looked at some of the most common errors that occur with sites using the WordPress-based Content Management System (CMS). And while the first set of errors were among the most experienced, it turns out there’s a lot of simple things that can go wrong with websites operating on the platform.

Of course that isn’t to say that the WordPress program isn’t safe, secure, easy to manage and very intuitive: it’s all those things and more, which is no doubt why it captures market share—in a big way—among CMSs available today. But as with all things in the virtual world there are bound to be ghosts in the machine, so with that in mind here is another batch of frequently occurring errors, why they happen and how to fix them quickly. And as in part one, most of these problems are easily solvable by the site owner or administrator, whereas others may require a bit of help from the WordPress help forum board or, in rare circumstances, from a WordPress expert.

A Lost Admin Password

It’s not uncommon for the administrator of a WordPress-based site to forget or otherwise lose their password. And while it’s no doubt frustrating, the problem is compounded when the email retrieval protocol for lost passwords isn’t functioning. It goes down something like this: you enter your username or email address into the “Lost Your Password?” page but fail to receive a link to create a new password. When this occurs, first log into your “cPanel” and click on “phpMyAdmin” under “Databases.” Then select your database, go to “wp_users” and click on browse, click edit under your username and reset your password by inserting a new value into “user_pass.” Then click the drop down menu under “Function” and choose MDS. Finally, click the “Go” button and you should be able to once again access your admin capabilities.

A Misbehaving Admin Dashboard

Sometimes the WordPress admin dashboard can appear incorrectly, with all the links not arranged properly. Often this occurs because a firewall is messing with your Internet connection, and some of the tools for the Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) are not allowing files to load properly. Start by clearing your proxy or firewall cookies and cache and press “Ctrl” and “F5” to refresh your page.” If this doesn’t work try upgrading any plugins that were installed specifically for the admin menu. If an upgrade doesn’t work, deactivate the plugin completely.

A Blank Blog or Admin Page

This normally happens right after your update the WordPress core program or install a new theme: your entire blog appears as a blank page as does the admin login page, and therefore you don’t have a way to access your dashboard. First try renaming the theme folder you currently have installed via FTP, which will force WordPress to choose the default theme for your site. You should be able to then access “wp-admin,” where you can check to ensure your new theme is compatible with the current core version of WordPress. If this doesn’t solve the problem reset your plugin folder—also via FTP— by navigating to the wp-content directory and renaming the plugins folder to “plugins-temp.” Then create a new plugins folder and attempt to log into “wp-admin.” After this move your “plugins-temp” to “plugin” and activate them one at a time. This will tell you if any of the current plugins are incompatible with your current version of WordPress.

403 Error

When you receive a message stating “You are not authorized to view this page,” after you enter your username and password into the admin login page, the problem most likely exists because your blog is hosted on a Windows-based server and there’s an issue with the Directory Indexes. Log into the Control Panel, click on “Web Options,” go to “Directory Indexes” and add “index.php” to the Directory Indexes. This should absolutely solve the problem, and if it doesn’t consult a WordPress pro as the problem may be beyond the control of a layman or novice user.

404 Issue (WordPress Admin Login)

You try to login as the WordPress admin and get a 404 error page. If this occurs you’ll first need to update the site’s URL in your database. If you’re able to access “phpMyAdmin,” try updating the URL here: click on the cPanel, click on “phpMyAdmin” under Databases, select your specific database, click on “wp_options,” then “Browse.” Search for “siteurl” under the “option_name” field and hit “Edit Field.” Then change the URL in the box marked “option_value” and, at the bottom of the page, click the “Go” button.

The “Unavailable” Page

Sometimes, after an automatic WordPress upgrade is completed, you’ll receive the message “briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance.” This happens because the program inserts a file named “.maintenance” during the upgrade to notify visitors to your site that it is temporarily undergoing, well, maintenance. To remove the “.maintenance” file access your root directory via FTP, locate the offending “.maintenance” file and remove it from the directory. Then run the WordPress automatic upgrade once again to ensure it completes and that your site is functioning properly.

A Plugin That Can’t Be Deleted

When you can’t seem to delete an unwanted or non-functioning plugin— it still appears despite the fact that you have purged it from your directory via FTP—it’s likely the plugin has uploaded hidden files into your directory that you can’t see. If your site has a Secure Shell (SSH) capability, log in via SSH, under “commands” navigate to “wp-content/plugins/” and use “ls-al” to see the full list of folders. Then simply delete the particular plugin folder with “rm (Folder Name).

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