How to Fix WordPress Critical Error? (Causes, Fixes and Prevention Tips)

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Have you ever tried to log into your WordPress website and see the following error message? (Or maybe some variant of it.)

“There has been a critical error on this website. Please check your site admin email inbox for instructions.”

Although many of the common WordPress errors can be quite concerning, the word ‘critical’ makes this one sound a little worse. But don’t worry, with the right instructions, you can take care of it in no time at all.

That’s why I have compiled some excellent methods the dedicated WordPress developers use to deal with this WordPress critical error. And I’m going to share everything there is to know about it.

Let’s begin with what this error is.

What is a WordPress Critical Error?

The WordPress critical error is exactly as the message says. 

“There has been a critical error on this website. Please check your site admin email inbox for instructions.”

wordpress critical error message

You’re right to think it’s a little vague in its message. That is because various factors, including issues with plugins, themes, PHP code, database corruption, or server problems, could cause the error.

When this WordPress critical error message appears, this CMS usually sends an email to the site administrator with more detailed information about the error. It also includes the potential steps to resolve it. The email typically contains a “Recovery Mode” link that allows the administrator to log into the WordPress admin dashboard in a limited mode. So you can effectively troubleshoot and fix the issue.

What Causes the WordPress Critical Error?

Whether you are creating and launching a WordPress website or have hired a professional WordPress development company, the process and elements would be roughly the same. There are so many dynamic elements that you need to understand which one can cause the WordPress critical error and how. Well, here’s a list:

  • Plugin or Theme Conflicts: One of the more common causes of critical errors is conflicts between plugins or between a theme and a plugin. When different plugins or themes have conflicting code, it can lead to errors that render the website inaccessible.
  • PHP Errors: WordPress is built on PHP, and errors in PHP code can lead to critical errors. These errors can be caused by custom code added to themes or plugins or even by server misconfigurations.
  • Theme Issues: Themes that are poorly coded or not updated can cause critical errors. A theme might rely on outdated functions or features that are no longer supported in newer versions of WordPress.
  • Server Problems: Server issues such as low memory limits, insufficient resources, or misconfigured settings can trigger critical errors. For example, if your server runs out of memory while processing a request, it can cause the website to crash.
  • Database Corruption: Issues with the WordPress database, such as corruption or incomplete updates, can lead to critical errors. This can happen due to server crashes, incomplete updates, or incompatible plugins.
  • File Permission Problems: Incorrect file permissions on your server can prevent WordPress from functioning correctly. If certain files or directories aren’t accessible by the server, it can lead to errors.
  • Outdated Software: Using obsolete versions of WordPress, plugins, or themes can create vulnerabilities and conflicts that result in critical errors.
  • Incompatible PHP Versions: Running WordPress on an outdated or incompatible PHP version can cause issues. WordPress has specific PHP version requirements that need to be met for optimal performance and security.
  • Security Plugins or Settings: Overly aggressive security plugins or settings can sometimes block legitimate requests or functionality, leading to critical errors.
  • Code Modifications: If you’ve made custom code modifications to your WordPress site (such as in your theme’s functions.php file) and those modifications contain mistakes, it can lead to critical errors.
  • Resource Limitations: If your website experiences a sudden spike in traffic that exceeds your hosting resources, it can lead to critical errors or temporary outages.
  • Third-Party Services: Some critical errors can be caused by external services or APIs that your website relies on. Your site might be affected if these services go down or if you experience issues.

Now, with so many potential causes of WordPress critical errors, it can be a little overwhelming. If you’re not comfortable troubleshooting on your own, seeking assistance from WordPress experts or your hosting provider’s support team can be helpful.

But if you are, let’s move on to how you can resolve this critical error message. 

How to Fix the WordPress Critical Error?

As we mentioned earlier, along with the critical error message comes a little solution as well. 

As standard, WordPress sends an email to the website administrator’s ID regarding the WordPress critical error and others like it. These emails provide more information about the error and often include instructions on how to address the issue.

So, when looking for a fix, WordPress critical error troubleshooting can be performed in two ways. You can either follow the email and go about the official process recommended by WordPress or fix this error manually. 

Let’s take a look at the email process first. 

Method 1: With the Debugging Email

WordPress has a feature that sends emails to the website administrator when critical errors or certain other important events occur on the website. It may also be on the email you have registered with the hosting provider. (That is the case if you have installed WordPress through the hosting provider. )

For example, in the case of a critical error, WordPress would send an email with a subject line like “Your Site is Experiencing a Critical Error” or something similar. The email usually includes a brief description of the error, a link to the admin area, and instructions on how to access the recovery mode. That allows the administrator to log in and address the issue more effectively.

email from wordpress for wordpress critical error

Now, let’s say your website is experiencing a WordPress critical error due to a fault with a particular plugin. Then, you can visit the website in the recovery mode. 

When you receive the email about the critical error, it should include a link that allows you to access the Recovery Mode. Click on that link. You’ll be prompted to log in using your administrator credentials.

In Recovery Mode, your website’s functionality is limited to prevent potential issues caused by the problematic plugin. You can still access the dashboard, but some features might be disabled.

Once you log in, there will be a notification about the critical error, what’s causing it, and what you should know. If the problem is with a plugin, it will say, “One or more plugins failed to load properly.” or something similar. Just below that, there will be a link that will take you to the particular plugin and even show exactly what part of the plugin code the fault exists.

In case of this type of issue, you can choose the best WordPress plugin that helps serve your purpose and solve the issue. Or, since the fault is more technical, you may contact WordPress development experts. The same goes for the themes.

There is another way to manually troubleshoot the WordPress critical error.

Method 2: Through Manual Troubleshooting

The manual process of fixing the critical error in WordPress means going about the troubleshooting without the aid of the email from WordPress.

That entails covering 7 tasks to fix the WordPress critical error effectively. Let’s take a look at them one by one.

1. Check Error Logs

Error logs are files that record various events and occurrences on your web server. When an error occurs, whether it’s related to the server, website software, or other components, relevant information is written into these logs.

Checking error logs is an essential step when diagnosing and troubleshooting any kind of technical issue, including critical errors on a WordPress website. WordPress development services use the error logs for detailed information about errors, warnings, and other issues that occur on your server. They give valuable insights into what might be causing problems.

There are three ways to check the error logs in WordPress. The first is through the control panel (cPanel) provided by the hosting provider. Log into it and look for the sections related to error logs. The errors might be categorized by date or type.

Second, you can use the FTP client for WordPress if your hosting control panel doesn’t offer access. Navigate through the directory to where your WordPress installation is located. Error logs might be in folders like “logs” or “wp-content”. Look for files with names like “error.log” or “debug.log”.

Third, WordPress also has its own error logging mechanism that you can enable to capture more detailed information about errors. Edit ‘wp-config.php’ in your WordPress file and directory structure. Look for the line ‘define(‘WP_DEBUG’, false);’ and change ‘false’ to ‘true’.

There’s also an option to add lines like ‘define(‘WP_DEBUG_LOG’, true);’ and ‘define(‘WP_DEBUG_DISPLAY’, false);’ to log errors to a debug log file and hide them from the screen.

After finding the error, look for lines that contain error messages or codes. These messages can help you identify what’s causing the critical error. The timestamp in the error logs can help you correlate errors with specific events on your website.

Error logs contain technical information that might be difficult to understand for someone without experience in web development and things around it. So, if you’re unsure, I recommend you consult with WordPress specialists.

2. Shift to a Default WordPress Theme

Themes in WordPress control the visual appearance and layout of your website. Sometimes, themes can have conflicts with plugins, other themes, or WordPress updates, leading to errors. That includes the WordPress Critical Error. By switching to a default theme, you can verify if the problem is theme-related or caused by other factors.

Here’s how you can shift your website to a default WordPress theme.

Step 1: Access Your WordPress Dashboard: If you can, log into your WordPress admin dashboard.

Step 2: Navigate to “Themes” through the “Appearance” section.

Step 3: By default, WordPress comes with a few default themes like Twenty Twenty-One, Twenty Twenty, etc. Select one of those and activate it. The process is the same as normal WordPress theme installation

Step 4: After activating the default theme, visit your WordPress website to see if the critical error still occurs. Check multiple pages to ensure that the error is consistently resolved.

If the critical error disappears after switching to the default theme, it’s likely that the problem was caused by your previous theme. If you liked your previous theme for your website, you can do some things to take care of it. However, due to the process’ technicalities, you may opt for our WordPress theme design and development services. They’ll take care of the theme and try to resolve the WordPress critical error effectively.

3. Deactivate the WordPress Plugins

Plugins can introduce conflicts with one another or with your theme, causing errors or unexpected behavior on your website. By deactivating all plugins, you can determine if the critical error is due to a plugin conflict.

Here’s the step-by-step for deactivating all WordPress plugins:

Step 1: As with the themes, log into the WordPress dashboard.

Step 2: Look for “Plugins” and click on “Installed Plugins”.

Step 3: Look for a checkbox at the top of the plugins list that allows you to select all plugins.

Step 4: After selecting all plugins, choose “Deactivate” from the “Bulk Actions” dropdown menu.

Step 5: After deactivating all plugins, visit your website to see if the critical error still occurs. Check multiple pages to ensure that the error is consistently resolved.

If the WordPress critical error is no longer there when you visit the website, the error was because of one of the plugins. Now start installing the WordPress plugins one by one and see which one caused it by logging back into the website to check.

When you hit a snag, that particular plugin is the problem. As simple as that. 

Now, you have four choices. 

  • Update the Plugin: If the plugin has an update available, updating it might resolve compatibility issues.
  • Seek an Alternative Plugin: If the problematic plugin isn’t essential, consider replacing it with an alternative that serves a similar purpose.
  • Contact the Plugin Developer: If the plugin is crucial to your website and there’s no alternative, contact the plugin developer or support team for assistance in resolving the conflict.

You may also access our WordPress plugin development services. Our experts will try to fix whatever’s leading your plugin to cause the WordPress critical error.

After addressing the issue with the problematic plugin, you can reactivate your other plugins that were not causing conflicts.

4. Reinstall WordPress

Reinstalling WordPress is a more advanced troubleshooting step that you might consider if you’ve exhausted other options and are still facing critical errors or issues that affect your website’s functionality.

Reinstalling WordPress can help address issues that stem from corrupted core files, incomplete updates, or deeply embedded conflicts that are difficult to pinpoint. However, this step should only be taken when other troubleshooting methods have failed.

Here’s the process for reinstalling WordPress:

Step 1: Before proceeding with any major changes, including a reinstallation, it’s crucial to create a full backup of your website. This ensures you can restore your WordPress website to its previously saved state if something goes wrong.

Step 2: Use an FTP client or log in to your hosting control panel to connect to your website’s server.

Step 3: Visit the official WordPress website ( and download the latest version of WordPress. Extract the downloaded ZIP file to your computer.

Step 4: In your FTP client, navigate to the root directory of your WordPress installation. Delete all the files and folders except for the ‘wp-content’ folder and the ‘wp-config.php’ file. These contain your themes, plugins, and configurations.

root directory folder

Step 5: Using your FTP client, upload the extracted files from the new WordPress download to the root directory, replacing the files you deleted.

Step 6: After uploading the new WordPress files, visit your website to ensure it’s functioning correctly. This might take you to the WordPress installation screen if you’ve replaced the core files successfully.

Finally, complete the installation process as recommended by the platform and then restore your content and settings.

5. Turn on the WordPress Debugging

Enabling debugging can provide insights into what’s causing the WordPress critical error and where it’s occurring in your code. By default, WordPress hides many PHP errors and warnings, which can make it challenging to diagnose problems. Enabling debugging allows you to see these errors, warnings, and notices, which can be incredibly helpful for identifying the root cause of critical errors.

The steps to turn on the WordPress debugging are as follows:

Step 1: Log in to your WordPress admin dashboard.

Step 2: Find and edit the ‘wp-config.php’ file located in the root directory of your WordPress installation.

Step 3: Find the following line of code in the wp-config.php file:

define('WP_DEBUG', false);

Change the “false” to “true”. The result will be the following:

define('WP_DEBUG', true);

Now, the next step is optional. But it’ll be better if you do it.

Step 4: Log errors into a separate debug file by adding the following line below the ‘WP_DEBUG’ definition:

define('WP_DEBUG_LOG', true);

It will create a debug.log file in your ‘wp-content’ directory, where you can find detailed error information.

Step 5: By default, WordPress doesn’t display errors on the front end of your website for security reasons. If you want to see errors on the screen, add this line below the ‘WP_DEBUG’ definition:

define('WP_DEBUG_DISPLAY', true);

Understand that displaying errors on the screen might not be ideal on a live website.

After making the necessary changes, save the ‘wp-config.php’ file. After that, with debugging enabled, visit your website or perform the actions that were causing the critical error.

If you’re not familiar with PHP or debugging practices, it’s a good idea to consult with experienced PHP programmers.

6. Restore the Website Backup

Website backups are like safety nets. Let’s say you encounter a WordPress critical error or any other issue that disrupts the functionality of your website. Then, restoring a backup will let you undo recent changes and get your site back to a working state.

Here are a few things to do to restore your website’s backup:

Access Your Backup Solution: Depending on how you’ve set up your backups, access the backup solution you’re using. This could be a plugin, your hosting provider’s backup service, or a manual backup you’ve created.

  • Backup Plugin: If you’re using a backup plugin (such as UpdraftPlus, BackupBuddy, etc.), follow the plugin’s instructions for restoring a backup. Typically, you’ll access the plugin’s settings, locate the backup you want to restore, and initiate the restoration process.
  • Hosting Control Panel: Some hosting providers offer backup and restoration features through their control panel. Log in to your hosting account, find the backup section, and follow the steps to restore the desired backup.
  • FTP/SSH: If you’ve manually created backups using FTP or SSH, you’ll need to upload the backup files to your server and replace the existing files with the backup files. Be cautious while overwriting files.

Backup Frequency: Choose a backup version that predates the occurrence of the critical error. For example, if you perform daily backups, select a backup from the previous day when your website was functioning properly.

Database Restoration: Many backups include both the website’s files and the database. If your backup includes the database, you might need to restore it separately. Access your hosting control panel or database management tool (phpMyAdmin) to import the database backup.

Check Your Website: After restoring the backup, visit your website to verify that it’s functioning as expected and the critical error is resolved.

Monitor for Data Loss: Depending on the timing of the backup, any changes made to your website since the backup was created might be lost. Check for any data, comments, orders, or other interactions that occurred after the backup date.

Keep in mind that restoring a backup will revert your website to the state it was in when the backup was created. Any changes made after that backup will be lost.

7. Upgrade PHP Version

Each new PHP version brings improvements in terms of speed, security, and features. By upgrading to the latest PHP version, you can benefit from these enhancements and ensure your website runs optimally.

Here are a few steps to upgrade the PHP version of your website and fix the WordPress critical error. 

Check Current PHP Version: To determine which PHP version your website is currently using, log in to your WordPress admin dashboard. Then, go to “Tools” → “Site Health”. Check “PHP Version”  under the server drop-down menu.

site health in wordpress dashboard

Check Compatibility: Before upgrading, ensure that your theme, plugins, and the WordPress core are compatible with the PHP version you plan to upgrade to. Most well-maintained themes and plugins will list their PHP compatibility on their respective websites.

Contact Hosting Provider: Your hosting provider controls the PHP version available on your server. Contact them to find out which PHP versions are supported and to understand any implications of upgrading.

Backup Your Website: Before making any changes, including upgrading PHP, it’s crucial to create a full backup of your website. This ensures you can revert to a working state if anything goes wrong during the process.

Choose PHP Version in Hosting Control Panel: Access your hosting control panel (e.g., cPanel, Plesk, etc.). Look for the PHP version or PHP configuration section. Choose a higher, supported PHP version from the available options.

Test Your Website: After upgrading the PHP version, visit your website and test its functionality thoroughly. Check different pages, features, and interactions to ensure everything is working as expected.

Check for Errors and Compatibility: Some plugins or themes might not be fully compatible with the new PHP version. Monitor your website for any new errors, warnings, or issues that might arise after the upgrade.

Update Themes and Plugins: If you encounter compatibility issues after upgrading PHP, update your themes and plugins to their latest versions. Developers often release updates to ensure compatibility with newer PHP versions.

Upgrading the PHP version can also help improve the performance and security of your WordPress website. Always make changes to your website, especially server-related changes like upgrading PHP, with caution. Or, otherwise, hire a WordPress website development company to do it properly.

FAQs Related to Fixing the WordPress Critical Error

What is the difference between a WordPress critical error and a WordPress warning?
A WordPress critical error is a more serious error that prevents WordPress from loading. A WordPress warning is a less serious error that does not prevent WordPress from loading but may indicate a problem.
Do you offer any services that can take care of the WordPress critical error and anything similar?
Yes. You can opt for our WordPress website maintenance packages according to your requirements.
Is there a way I can prevent the WordPress Critical Error?
Here are four tips to help you prevent the WordPress critical error.
  • Keep your WordPress software up to date: WordPress releases regular updates that fix security vulnerabilities and bugs. Keeping your software updated will help protect your website from errors.
  • Use quality plugins: Only install plugins from reputable developers. Plugins that are poorly coded can cause errors.
  • Back up your website regularly: This way, if you do experience a critical error, you can restore your WordPress website to a previous point in time.
  • Be careful what you do with your website: Don't make any major changes to your website without backing up first. And if you're not sure what you're doing, ask for help from a WordPress expert.

To Summarize

There are several errors associated with website building, whether you are using WordPress or any other CMS. But when the word “critical” comes into play, it becomes a little more serious. 

The WordPress critical error can be due to various reasons, including faulty themes and plugins, server and database issues, corrupted WordPress installation, or maybe something else. However, the seven approaches will help you fix the WordPress critical error quite well.

  • Check Error Logs
  • Shift to a Default WordPress Theme
  • Deactivate the WordPress Plugins
  • Reinstall WordPress
  • Turn on the WordPress Debugging
  • Restore the Website Backup
  • Upgrade PHP Version

If you perform the WordPress critical error troubleshooting well, that dreaded error screen will be gone in no time at all. But in case you find the job to be too technical, I recommend you talk to our experts today!

Jigar Shah is the Founder of WPWeb Infotech - a leading Web Development Company in India, USA. Being the founder of the company, he takes care of business development activities and handles the execution of the projects. He is Enthusiastic about producing quality content on challenging technical subjects.

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