The dreaded 500 internal server error. It always seems to come at the most inopportune time and you’re suddenly left scrambling to figure out how to get your WordPress site back online. Trust us, we’ve all been there. Other errors that behave similarly that you might have also seen include the frightening error establishing a database connection and the dreaded white screen of death. But from the moment your site goes down, you’re losing visitors and customers. Not to mention it simply looks bad for your brand.

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Today we’re going to dive into the 500 internal server error and walk you through some ways to get your site back online quickly. Read more below about what causes this error and what you can do to prevent it in the future.

500 Internal Server Error (Most Common Causes):

500 Internal server error in WordPress can be caused by many things. If you’re experiencing one, there’s a high chance one (or more) of the following elements is causing the issue:

Browser Cache.Incorrect database login credentials.Corrupted database.Corrupted files in your WordPress installation.Issues with your database server.Corrupted WordPress core files.Corrupted .htaccess file and PHP memory limit.Issues with third-party plugins and themes.PHP timing out or fatal PHP errors with third-party plugins.Wrong file and folder permissions.Exhausted PHP memory limit on your serverCorrupted or broken .htaccess file.Errors in CGI and Perl script.

Check Out Our Ultimate Guide to Fixing the 500 Internal Server Error

What is a 500 Internal Server Error?

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) defines the 500 Internal Server Error as:

The 500 (Internal Server Error) status code indicates that the server encountered an unexpected condition that prevented it from fulfilling the request.

When you visit a website your browser sends a request over to the server where the site is hosted. The server takes this request, processes it, and sends back the requested resources (PHP, HTML, CSS, etc.) along with an HTTP header. The HTTP also includes what they call an HTTP status code. A status code is a way to notify you about the status of the request. It could be a 200 status code which means “Everything is OK” or a 500 status code which means something has gone wrong.

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There are a lot of different types of 500 status error codes (500, 501, 502, 503, 504, etc.) and they all mean something different. In this case, a 500 internal server error indicates that the server encountered an unexpected condition that prevented it from fulfilling the request (RFC 7231, section 6.6.1).

500 internal server error in WordPress

500 Internal Server Error Variations

Due to the various web servers, operating systems, and browsers, a 500 internal server error can present itself in a number of different ways. But they are all communicating the same thing. Below are just a couple of the many different variations you might see on the web:

“500 Internal Server Error”“HTTP 500”“Internal Server Error”“HTTP 500 – Internal Server Error”“500 Error”“HTTP Error 500”“500 – Internal Server Error”“500 Internal Server Error. Sorry something went wrong.”“500. That’s an error. There was an error. Please try again later. That’s all we know.”“The website cannot display the page – HTTP 500.”“Is currently unable to handle this request. HTTP ERROR 500.”

You might also see this message accompanying it:

The server encountered an internal error or misconfiguration and was unable to complete your request. Please contact the server administrator, and inform them of the time the error occurred, and anything you might have done that may have caused the error. More information about this error may be available in the server error log.


Internal Server Error

Other times, you might simply see a blank white screen. When dealing with 500 internal server errors, this is actually quite common in browsers like Firefox and Safari.

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500 internal server error in Firefox

Bigger brands might even have their own custom 500 internal server error messages, such as this one from Airbnb.


Airbnb 500 internal server error

Here is another creative 500 server error example from the folks over at readme.

readme 500 internal server error

Even the mighty YouTube isn’t safe from 500 internal server errors.


500 internal server error on YouTube

If it’s an IIS 7.0 (Windows) or higher server, they have additional HTTP status codes to more closely indicate the cause of the 500 error:

500.0 – Module or ISAPI error occurred.500.11 – Application is shutting down on the web server.500.12 – Application is busy restarting on the web server.500.13 – Web server is too busy.500.15 – Direct requests for global.asax are not allowed.500.19 – Configuration data is invalid.500.21 – Module not recognized.500.22 – An ASP.NET httpModules configuration does not apply in Managed Pipeline mode.500.23 – An ASP.NET httpHandlers configuration does not apply in Managed Pipeline mode.500.24 – An ASP.NET impersonation configuration does not apply in Managed Pipeline mode.500.50 – A rewrite error occurred during RQ_BEGIN_REQUEST notification handling. A configuration or inbound rule execution error occurred.500.51 – A rewrite error occurred during GL_PRE_BEGIN_REQUEST notification handling. A global configuration or global rule execution error occurred.500.52 – A rewrite error occurred during RQ_SEND_RESPONSE notification handling. An outbound rule execution occurred.500.53 – A rewrite error occurred during RQ_RELEASE_REQUEST_STATE notification handling. An outbound rule execution error occurred. The rule is configured to be executed before the output user cache gets updated.500.100 – Internal ASP error.

500 Errors Impact on SEO

Unlike 503 errors, which are used for WordPress maintenance mode and tell Google to check back at a later time, a 500 error can have a negative impact on SEO if not fixed right away. If your site is only down for say 10 minutes and it’s being crawled consistently a lot of times the crawler will simply get the page delivered from cache. Or Google might not even have a chance to re-crawl it before it’s back up. In this scenario, you’re completely fine.

However, if the site is down for an extended period of time, say 6+ hours, then Google might see the 500 error as a site level issue that needs to be addressed. This could impact your rankings. If you’re worried about repeat 500 errors you should figure out why they are happening to begin with. Some of the solutions below can help.

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How to Fix the 500 Internal Server Error

Where should you start troubleshooting when you see a 500 internal server error on your WordPress site? Sometimes you might not even know where to begin. Typically 500 errors are on the server itself, but from our experience, these errors originate from two things, the first is user error (client-side issue), and the second is that there is a problem with the server. So we’ll dive into a little of both.

This is never not annoying

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