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The question in this post is related to White screen of death on post save only, but it is a different question. Actually it's two questions on the same issue.

Background: Three of us were working on an emergency site rebuild/switch to WordPress over the weekend. Two people were on content, I was on setup. I started a child theme, based on Twenty Sixteen. When I was deleting the unneeded themes that installed by default, I accidentally deleted Twenty Sixteen (the parent theme) instead of Twenty Fifteen. I immediately re-installed Twenty Sixteen but it seems that subsequent problems may be been related to this error on my part.

The Symptoms: We saw a gradual degradation of the dashboard. First we started getting the white screen of death on adding or updating a post. The posts were being added and updated, but we had to go back to the list to see it. This degraded to other functions until finally, two of use could not log in.

The Fix: the problem was solved when both Twenty Sixteen and the child theme were replaced with Twenty Seventeen. Then Twenty Sixteen and the child theme were added back in and Twenty Seventeen and the child were deleted.

The Question(s): where in the code or database did the error occur? Why would a theme error cause a problem with the dashboard?

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9 times out of 10, a white screen on a WordPress based site is a PHP error that is not displaying. You can refer to this Q&A if you want to turn them on.

PHP errors can be caused by anything from missing files in the WP core (very rare), in themes, child themes, or plugins or just plain PHP errors in the code.

Deleting a parent theme, when the child is active, can also be a cause, since the child might be referring to its files and won't find them.

I suggest you always keep PHP errors on, while developing or debugging issues like that, it will make your job a million times easier, since it will literally tell you what is wrong and where.

DB errors can also occur, however they are relative rare with WordPress, compared to PHP errors incidence. If there is a problem with your WP site not connecting to the DB, WP will let you know.

Finally, always check your server error_log to make sure you don't overlook errors that might be trickier to show on pages.

  • This one was weird in the sense that I turned set WP_DEBUG to true, but no PHP error displayed. By that time, I had replaced the parent theme. The white screen of death was there, but no PHP error. I wondered if browser cache might not have been part of the probem. – Nora McDougall-Collins Feb 28 '17 at 17:52
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    WP_DEBUG true doesn't always produce a physical log nor displays the PHP errors. So if the other php error settings weren't in place, you might have missed it. Your server logs though will show them. – The J Feb 28 '17 at 17:54
  • Don't forget to comment further or tick the answer as correct (if it helped solving your problems or doubts). – The J Mar 20 '17 at 4:18

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