Troubleshooting WordPress Plugin and Theme Issues in 4 Easy Steps

If you ever have a problem with a particular WordPress theme or plugin, follow the steps below:

a) Before activating any new theme or unfamiliar plugin, you MUST backup your database using WP DB manager, BackWPUp or your favorite backup plugin! There are certain plugins (I cannot remember their names) that are known to play havoc with blog databases, going so far as to wiping out certain tables completely! Keeping the backups would save your bacon. ;)

b) Deactivate ALL plugins (except Akismet, LOL, or else the spammers would inundate your blog with spam comments and trackbacks in no time; besides it does not really cause any untoward issues, not at least in my experience, except that of marking legit comments as "spam"! :P)

c) Switch your blog to the Twenty Ten (for WordPress 3.0-) or the Default (for pre-3.0 blogs) theme.

d) Activate the plugins one by one to help you diagnose the problem effectively. After activating each plugin, check if the recently activated plugin is causing the given problem. If so, you have gotten the culprit! :D


What if all else fails? Well, there is one more thing you can do. turn on WordPress debug mode! This is recommended strictly for advanced users only! :D

Open wp-config.php file using PSPAD

Locate the following line in that file:

define(‘WP_DEBUG’, false);

Replace "false" by "true", so that the line should now read:

define(‘WP_DEBUG’, true);

Save and upload the file back to your server. As soon as you refresh your blog, you would start seeing lots of error messages all over your admin dashboard. :D You should also notice the same error messages on the public view of your blog (meaning that all those visiting your blog at that time would also notice those errors and run away in panic :P ). :D

Quickly copy all the error messages in a text file and save it on your Desktop.

Then go back to the wp-config.php file and locate the following line therein:

define(‘WP_DEBUG’, true);

Now change "true" to "false", so that it should now read:

define(‘WP_DEBUG’, false);

Save and upload the file back to your server. The error messages should vanish now!

Your job is not over though. ;) You must copy each error message in your clipboard and either try to decipher the meaning behind that error message yourself OR search for that error message using Google™. If the error is common you should see a lot of people complaining about the same thing on WordPress support forums. Chances are that you would find your solution there as well! Rinse and repeat this formula with each error message until your initial problem gets fully resolved! :D

Don’t also forget to check the error logs of your server. Sometimes the problem might not be necessarily WordPress’s; it could be a server-related problem too!

Good luck with WordPress! :P


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  4. Linda

    This is a good tip for troubleshooting wordpres plugin. Is there any way I can downgraded my wordpress installation? I don’t have database backup. I think I won’t be able do downgraded without database backup. But your suggestion will be appreciated.

    1. Arindam


      Hire me ;) (kidding)

      Backup ur existing installation, including database, then delete it all except wp-config.php. Then upload the contents of the older wordpress files via FTP. Run the installer as usual to make sure everything is okay. I hope that helps :)

      Note that if u r going to downgrade from 3.0 to 2.9, the ride is not usually smooth, coz 3.0 introduced a whole new set of database tables not present in the previous versions :)

  5. Linda

    Thank you Arimdam for your explanation. I will try once following your step. Hope I can do it successfully :-)

  6. Sarah

    Thanks for the tips Arin, but I ran into trouble with the last WordPress Update 3.03. Images, headers, you name it. It almost broke my theme. In future, I am going to wait before I upgrade to any more updates, even though they scare you with the “security updates” thing.
    What WP is doing, is releasing these updates without thoroughly testing theme and its a game of chance whether it will give you grief. Best to wait until your theme developer has spoke first, to see if they have any changes to make before you update WordPress. Just an email into them is all it takes. This is a good tip to keep in mind, instead of trying to fix it for a few weeks, and lose income. Be prepared first, I say. Thanks for your help as always. Your blog has helped me understand alot. Also another tip, don’t fall for getting the next best plugin (esp. free ones) they are not worth the anguish. I stripped mine all out and running just basic, necessary, functional ones.


    1. Arindam

      Well I upgraded three of my blogs to 3.0.3 and have not run into any issues yet. I DID take a backup as usual. Mind you, I would not have ever bothered to upgrade if not for the security patches, and I overwrote ONLY the files that were updated (u get the list from wordpress codex).

      What I mean is that if 3.0.1 were a fully stable version like 2.9 I would not have bothered to upgrade.

      Like you say, if it ain’t broke, why fix it ;)

      I do hope you get your problem fixed, else u r looking forward to a re-install of wp ;)

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