Solve ‘There Has Been A Critical Error on This Website’: A Step-by-Step Guide

Encountering a “There has been a critical error on this website” message can be a heart-stopping moment for any website owner or visitor. It’s the digital equivalent of hitting a brick wall, and it can leave you feeling frustrated and unsure of what to do next.

I’ve been there, staring at that daunting message, wondering how something like this could happen and, more importantly, how to fix it. It’s a common issue, but the good news is that it’s often solvable with the right approach and knowledge. Let’s dive into understanding what causes these critical errors and how you can get your website back on track.

What is a “Critical Error on this Website”?

When I first encountered the “There has been a critical error on this website” message, I must admit, I was momentarily stumped. It’s a daunting notification that can send a wave of panic through any website owner’s heart. But, understanding what this error means is the first step toward resolving it. Critical errors, usually known as fatal errors, indicate that something on the website has gone severely wrong, hindering the site’s functionality or making it completely inaccessible to users.

These errors are most often triggered by issues in the website’s code—be it a theme or plugin that’s not compatible with the current version of the website software, or perhaps even a recent update that conflicts with existing scripts. It’s a signal that the website cannot operate normally, and it requires immediate attention.

In practical terms, encountering a critical error means that the PHP code of your website has encountered a problem it couldn’t work around. PHP is the backbone scripting language for many websites, especially for those powered by WordPress. Therefore, issues with PHP code can potentially take your whole site down.

why does this matter? For website owners, critical errors can mean loss of traffic, reduced user engagement, and potentially lost revenue. For visitors, it creates a frustrating experience that might discourage them from returning. Plus, it signals to search engines that there might be significant issues with your site, which can negatively affect your site’s SEO rankings.

Thankfully, despite the scary initial impression, these errors are often more manageable than they seem. With the right troubleshooting steps, you can identify the cause of the error and take corrective action to get your website back up and running.

Common Causes of Critical Errors

When I encounter a “There has been a critical error on this website” message, my first step is to diagnose the cause. Understanding common triggers can save time and frustration.

One primary culprit is plugin compatibility issues. Plugins enhance website functionality but when they’re outdated or incompatible with other installed plugins or the WordPress core, they can cause critical errors. I’ve experienced scenarios where simply updating or deactivating a problematic plugin resolved the error.

Another significant cause is theme issues. Themes control a site’s appearance and layout and are updated regularly. If a theme isn’t compatible with the current version of WordPress or with certain plugins, it can break the site. I recommend keeping themes updated and, if problems persist, switching to a default WordPress theme temporarily to diagnose the issue.

Faulty custom code is a less common but more complex problem. If you’ve added custom PHP code to your theme’s functions.php file or a site-specific plugin and made a syntax error, it can cause a critical error. My advice? Always back up your site before tinkering with code and use a child theme for customizations.

Exceeding memory limits set by your hosting provider can also lead to critical errors. WordPress sites require a certain amount of memory to run efficiently, and complex sites might need more than the default limit. Increasing your site’s memory limit through the wp-config.php file might solve the issue.

Cause Solution
Plugin Compatibility Issues Update/Deactivate Plugins
Theme Issues Update Theme/Switch to Default Theme
Faulty Custom Code Use Child Theme/Restore Backups
Exceeding Memory Limits Increase memory limit in wp-config.php

With these common causes and solutions in mind, I’m better equipped to tackle critical errors effectively. Remember, pinpointing the exact cause takes patience and a methodical approach.

How to Troubleshoot a Critical Error

When I first encountered the dreaded message “there has been a critical error on this website,” I’ll admit, my heart sank. But over time, I’ve learned that troubleshooting such errors isn’t as daunting as it seems. Here are the steps I take to get my site back up and running.

Firstly, I enable debugging in WordPress. To do this, I access the wp-config.php file and set WP_DEBUG to true. This move doesn’t fix the error but helps pinpoint where the issue might be originating from, providing clues on what to tackle first.

If debugging points towards a plugin or theme issue, I then proceed to deactivate all plugins. Since accessing the WordPress admin area is often not possible when a critical error occurs, I use an FTP client to rename the plugins folder. This deactivates all plugins instantly. If the site works after this step, it’s clear that one of the plugins is the culprit. I then reactivate them one by one to identify the problematic plugin.

Changing the theme to a default WordPress theme is my next step if deactivating plugins doesn’t solve the issue. Sometimes a theme can cause conflicts after updates or if it’s not maintained well. By switching to a default theme through FTP, I can determine if the theme is at fault.

Increasing the PHP memory limit is another troubleshooting step I often take. Many times, a critical error is simply a result of the website requiring more memory than is currently allocated. I increase the memory limit by editing the wp-config.php file, adding the line define('WP_MEMORY_LIMIT', '256M');. This can alleviate issues, especially on resource-heavy sites.

Lastly, I check for any recent changes or updates. If I recall making any modifications or updates right before the error started appearing, I’ll try to roll those back. This includes deactivating new plugins, reverting theme customizations, or even restoring a backup if necessary.

Throughout this process, I keep a close eye on any changes in the site’s behavior after each step. It’s crucial not to rush and methodically test after each action to pinpoint the issue accurately.

Ensuring Website Security to Prevent Critical Errors

Ensuring your website’s security is crucial in preventing critical errors that can hamper its functionality. I’ve learned through experience that a secure website is less prone to encountering unexpected errors, and here’s how you can achieve this.

First off, keeping all website components updated is non-negotiable. This includes your CMS, like WordPress, all plugins, and themes. Outdated components are vulnerabilities hackers can exploit, leading to critical errors. Regular updates patch security flaws and ensure your site runs smoothly.

Moreover, implementing strong access controls plays a pivotal role. I recommend using strong, unique passwords for all accounts and changing them periodically. Employing two-factor authentication (2FA) adds an extra layer of security, significantly reducing the risk of unauthorized access.

Another critical measure is regularly backing up your website. In the unfortunate event of a critical error, having a recent backup can be the difference between a quick recovery and losing valuable data. Ensure your backup strategy includes daily, automatic backups stored off-site.

Additionally, monitoring your website for unusual activity is essential. Using security plugins or services that scan for malware, unauthorized logins, and other suspicious activities can alert you early on, allowing you to take prompt action before any issues escalate.

Lastly, using a Web Application Firewall (WAF) can shield your site from common threats, blocking hacking attempts and mitigating DDoS attacks. This proactive security measure filters out malicious traffic before it reaches your site, keeping your online presence secure and operational.

By implementing these security practices, I’ve noticed a substantial decrease in critical errors on my website. It’s a continuous effort, but well worth it to ensure your site remains secure and runs without a hitch.


Facing a critical error on your website can be daunting but remember it’s not the end of the world. I’ve walked you through several troubleshooting steps like enabling debugging in WordPress, deactivating plugins, and increasing the PHP memory limit. But let’s not forget the backbone of our efforts: maintaining robust website security. By updating components, enforcing strong access controls, backing up regularly, monitoring for unusual activities, and using a Web Application Firewall, you’re not just fixing errors—you’re preventing them. Stick to these practices and you’ll not only resolve critical errors more efficiently but also fortify your website against future threats. Let’s keep our websites secure and operational one step at a time.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *