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How to Fix a WP Site that is Totally Screwed Up! – Part 2 – Identify where the Problem Lies

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Now, you have to begin this process of fixing a screwed up WordPress website by attempting to identify where the problem lies.

Places Problems Occur in WordPress

And in a WordPress website you have 4 places. You actually have a 5th place but the chances are you can’t get to the 5th place which is a problem with your server so we’re not going to address that issue.

If you’re in control of your own server that’s a whole other kettle of fish but most of us are not in control of our servers. So if there’s a server problem there’s no way we can fix it ourselves and chances are we can’t identify it either. But besides the server problem there are 4 problems that are inside of our control that we can do something about.

Is it a Browser Problem?

The first one is the browser problem and as strange as this may seem, I’m seeing that quite a bit lately in both Chrome and in Firefox in particular. Updates in the browser are preventing or causing Javascript failures one way or the other and because both WordPress and Thesis are so dependent upon Javascript and Ajax processing, Javascript failures inside the browser can lead to very unexpected results.

So the first question is, “Is it a browser problem?”, and you can determine whether or not it’s a browser problem simply by testing it in other browsers. If the same error shows up in Internet Explorer, Chrome and Firefox or the Mac equivalents of those, essentially If the same problem exists all the way across the board then you know it’s not a browser problem. But if it works just fine in one browser and not in another you don’t actually have to look any further, you have a problem inside your browser and not inside of your WordPress website.

Is it a Plugin Problem?

The second question is, “Is it a plugin problem?”. This is actually traditionally where we start. We start with the assumption that if something isn’t working correctly it’s because there is a plugin that is causing that problem. I think one of the reasons is that you know there is so much more opportunity for plugin conflict with plugins than there is anywhere else and you don’t necessarily know the quality of the plugin that you’re using when you’re use it.

If you bought plugins from places especially from the Get Rich Internet Marketing guru guys, those plugins are often horribly written and have all kinds of problems with them. It’s not as likely that you have a problem with the plugin on wordpress.org especially if it’s been recently updated but nevertheless, the chances are if you’ve got a problem it starts off as a plugin problem.

So let’s talk about the way you identify whether or not you have a problem with your plugin. I’m going to show you my checklist. In particular there’s going to be some database commands that we’re going to run as we get further into this process but if the problem is due to a plugin you can find that out simply by deactivating all plugins and if the problem goes away, then you know it’s a plugin problem.

Now, 95% of the time this is exactly what happens, right? You deactivate all your plugins, the problem goes away and if the problem goes away then the fix is simply to gradually add the plugins back in one at a time until the problem returns and you know the offending plugin.

Then once you’ve found the offending plugin, you update everything to make sure you’ve got the latest updated WordPress and the latest version of that plugin. Once you get everything updated then you reactivate that plugin and see if the problem persists. If the problem still persists after you have the latest version of that plugin then you’re going to want to find an alternate to that plugin.

So that’s how that problem gets solved and almost all troubleshooting problems in WordPress get solved in this step. You deactivate all your plugins, if the problem goes away you know it’s a plugin problem.

Is it a Caching Plugin Problem?

But there’s one other aspect to this and that is if the problem doesn’t go away you need to check and see if there are any caching plugins that add files and if there are, you need to delete those files.

Now in this situation that we are in, that’s one of the things that’s going on here. We were getting ready to look for where caching plugins had added files and this site did have WP Super Cache on it. It had WP Super Cache on it but in its process of troubleshooting what he had done is renamed wp-content, created a new wp-content without the plugins in it but had left the WP Super Cache files inside the root of wp-content which really need to be deleted.

So it could very well be that many of the problems that he was experiencing were coming from essentially broken WP Super Cache. So I was going to show you those files and delete and then delete them to see if we could get the site come back up. And if not, then what we would do is deactivate the other couple of plugins he has turned on. He had Akismet turned on and some WordPress firewall turned on.

The WordPress firewall sounds very suspicious to me, it’s likely to be something that stands between the regular log in and WordPress which could be a significant problem so we would deactivate that plugin as well.

He says that he’s used it successfully on many sites and that’s fine but it doesn’t mean that it’s not causing a problem here so we would definitely deactivate that plugin and we’ll essentially get to the place where we deactivated all plugins and then we would try to get the site back up again that way.

Is the Problem Related to the Theme?

Now, I suspect that because of the kinds of errors that he had, deactivating the plugin still wouldn’t have solved the problem at which point what we would have done is determine whether or not the problem is related to the theme. And you can tell tell whether or not the problem is theme related simply by switching to the default WordPress theme which in this case, is Twenty Twelve or Twenty Thirteen.

If you switch to that theme and the problem still exists then you know the problem is not related to your theme because the chances are, there isn’t a problem with Twenty Twelve or Twenty Thirteen. This means that the problem is unlikely to be theme related if it persists when you activate the theme.

Is the Problem due to WordPress?

What you’re left with is that the problem is due to WordPress. That is if all the plugins are turned off and the problem exists and you are using the default WordPress theme and the problem exists. At that point you probably have a corruption in your WordPress installation and that’s the point at which it gets to be pretty tricky and this is where I expect us to go.

On our problem WordPress site here, our first step is going to be deactivating the plugins and we’re going to do that next.

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