One of the most frustrating things that can happen to a webmaster is when your website crashes, particularly if you are not very good at the technical sort of stuff.
Usually you will find that the cause of the problem is one of two things. The first scenario being that your website has been hacked by someone else, and the second scenario being that one (or more) of your plugins has been poorly coded, and is not compatible with some of the other plugins that you have installed.
Getting hacked is becoming more common these days, and is a huge concern. I personally believe that WordPress should design their software to be a lot harder to break though, but rather than waiting for this to happen you can try to prevent it by installing a plugin called Login LockDown.
This plugin saves the I.P. address and the time of every failed log in attempt, and if more than a specified amount of failed logins happen within a quick time frame the hacker is locked out of the site. This is a preventative solution though, rather than being a cure. If you have been hacked then I would suggest you contact your hosting provider to ask for help.
The topic of this article though is about plugins crashing your website, and what you need to do to fix the problem. Common problems you may encounter are error messages showing up on your website, or not being able to access the backend dashboard of WordPress at all.
Let’t look at what you need to do to get your website back to how it was originally.
1. Back Up Your Website
Ideally you should have your website set up to back up automatically every day already using the WP-DBManager plugin, in which case you can try to restore your website to how it was before you had the problem. This will most likely not solve the problem, but is worth a try because it is quick and easy.
If you have not been backing up your website, then back it up now just in case you make it worse later on when trying to fix it up. From personal experience it is vital to back up your website before you start tampering with the configuration.
Anything can happen when playing around with your settings, and it gives you peace of mind if you do a regular back up. You can set the WP-DBManager plugin to automatically email your database to you on a specified time period. Personally, I set it up to send it to me daily as this minimises any loss of data.
2. Deactivate (Or Move) All Of Your Plugins
If restoring your website to a previous back up does not work then the next thing to do is to turn off all of your plugins.
If you can still access your dashboard then simply go the plugins menu option, and click on the check box at the top that says Plugin, and then choose “Deactivate” and then click on “Apply”. See image below for an example.
If you can not access your WordPress dashboard, then you need to find the files via FTP on your websites server. You should be able to find the folders for your plugins in the following directory:
Once you have found the plugin folders you will need to cut and paste them into another temporary directory somewhere on your server. All you need to do is create a folder in a place that is easy to find, and then name it something that is easy to remember.
Once the files are moved into this temporary directory, or if you have deactivated the plugins on the dashboard, then you are ready for the next step.
3. Start Activating Your Plugins One By One
Now we will try to discover which is the corrupt plugin using the process of elimination.
If you are using the FTP method described above, you will now need to move all of the plugin folders back into the directory that they were in before. This directory should be public_html/wp-content/plugins. You should now be able to access your WordPress dashboard after doing this.
Now we start activating the plugins as normal, one by one and test our site after each one has completed activating. Don’t rush this step as it is easy to miss the plugins that you are looking for if you are not paying attention. It can be a painstaking exercise if you have a lot of plugins, but this method usually ends up working.
4. If You Have Found The Bad Plugin Stop Using it
This is fairly obvious but needs to be emphasised. Once you have found which plugin is corrupt or not compatible with your site for any reason then simply delete it and forget it. Even if it is your favourite plugin then it is no good if it is going to crash your site.
One thing you can do if you are desperate is look for the support section on the plugin’s home page and leave a request for help. If you have paid for the plugin then I would definitely recommend taking this action. Free plugins usually have much less support than premium plugins for obvious reasons.
5. Be Prepared To Possibly Have A Group Of Bad Plugins
Sometimes it is not just one plugin that is causing the damage, but two or more plugins that are reacting poorly with each other. This is rare but is a possibility. You may find what you thought was the bad plugin, only to discover that your site is still experiencing problems. If this is the case then it is time to hire a professional to fix it up.
6. Hire A Professional To Fix The Problem
If you have got to this stage and your blog is still not working properly then you most likely have problems with your configuration settings in PHP. Unless you know what you are doing I would not recommend that you start playing around with your PHP settings.
Hiring someone to fix your website should not cost much at all, and should be relatively straight forward for a professional programmer. You can find plenty of decent coders from developing countries that will do an excellent job for you without charging a fortune. And once you do find a good one, it is a great idea to stick with them for future problems as well.