My WordPress Dashboard Is Broken

If you’ve noticed that you’re Admin Dashboard has started to behave oddly (menu items are non-responsive or greyed out, things keep moving about or not loading properly) then you may have a Plugin/Theme issue to resolve…

As per the standard troubleshooting tips and techniques the first thing you should do is

Deactivate your Plugins

Make a note somewhere of the Plugins you have active on your site and then click the checkbox to select them all. Then in the Bulk Action dropdown select Deactivate and Apply. Don’t worry, any settings you have in specific plugins won’t be lost, they’re stored in the database and will be recalled when you reactivate the plugin.

Next up, change your Theme back to the default WordPress Theme (currently TwentyFifteen) as this theme is developed by the people at WordPress and is known to be problem free.

Now, go back to your Dashboard’s home. Clear the cache in the Browser (different Browsers have different methods for achieving this so if you don’t already know how to do this google it and make a note of it as it will be a valuable skill for debugging issues you may have in WordPress over the years) and then reload the page.

Has The Problem Gone Away?

If it has then that’s great news! 😀 But now the troubleshooting fun begins…

Reactivate You Chosen Theme

Turn on the Theme that you really want to use (hopefully it’s a Child Theme!) and see if the problem returns. If it’s come back then you know that the Theme is the problem and you got a couple of choices:

  • Choose a different theme as this one is clearly broken
  • Seek some support from the Developer of the Theme

If the Theme is a commercially purchased one then you will need to go back to the Theme Developer’s website and seek help directly from them. Most responsible Theme Developers have support for their clients, especially the paying ones! The WordPress.org Forum can’t help you with a Commercially available Theme.

However if the Theme is freely available in the WordPress.org repository then the WordPress.org Forum and the Theme’s own Support Forum can definitely help you.

So, hopefully you’ve reactivated your Theme and the problem hasn’t reappeared. The next step is to start reactivating the Plugins one by one, checking to see if the newly reactivated Plugin is causing the problem.

If you find that a freshly reactivated Plugin is suddenly making the Dashboard misbehave then congratulations: you’ve troubleshot (if that’s a real word!?) your site. However, you’re now faced with having to think about how valuable this Plugin’s functionality is to you and your site.

Can I Live Without This Plugin?

If the Plugin is integral to your site then you may be facing a tough time. If you can get in contact with the Plugin’s Developer then great, hopefully they’re receptive to the idea of helping you to make things work again. However, if you’re not able and you’re not a Developer yourself who can dive into the code that’s causing the error then you may need to find an alternative Plugin that does the same thing as the problem Plugin.

This is obviously not the ideal solution but there are any number of reasons why Plugins cause errors and most of them are down to Developers not maintaining their code inline with the latest versions of WordPress. Some Plugins are abandoned completely but are still available for download and are widely used even though they are no longer actively maintained. Read my guide on Installing Plugins and what to look for to avoid problems further down the line.

Jack, I’ve Tried All Of This…

But the problem persists.

OK, don’t panic! The next step is a more drastic form of Deactivating your Plugins. You need to access the server that your site is on via it’s cPanel (or with an ftp application like FileZilla or Cyberduck). Using the file manager or ftp app navigate to the WordPress folder and go to the wp-content directory. In here, change the name of the plugins folder to something else (don’t worry, we’ll rename this back to plugins later).

Now head back to the Dashboard, clear your Browser cache as before and reload the page. Is the Dashboard behaving itself? If yes then the problem is a plugin for sure.

So, how do you find out which one is causing the problem? You can do a bit of google sleuthing:

  • check to see whether each plugin is compatible with your current version of WordPress.
  • check the plugins to see when they were last updated
  • visit the plugin’s Support Forums to see if others have had the same issue
  • visit the WordPress.org Support Forums for help

The good news is that if you’re having this issue then it’s unlikely that you’re the first one to suffer it (unless you are the first, in which case congratulations!) and so there’s likely to be either a solution or a thread of people working towards a solution.

Other Things To Check That Might Be Causing The Problem

Check your Dashboard in other Browsers. It’s a simple thing but as new versions of Browsers are released they come with bugs that affect all manner of things randomly. For example, this bug in Google Chrome has been discovered that messes up the WordPress Dashboard.

In total worst case scenario territory you may have to re-upload the Admin folder and overwrite a possibly corrupt file somewhere in there… This is pretty painless to achieve and so long as you avoid deleting or overwriting your wp-content folder you’ll be fine! Safety first though: BACK UP YOUR SITE!! Make a complete back up of your home directory on the server (that’ll back up all files, settings and content that you’ve uploaded and created) then make a back up of your database, it’s got all of the vital information for running your site and managing the content on it.

Once you have your backup saved and stored somewhere safe you can delete the wp-admin folder as you’ll be installing a new copy of it.

Download A Fresh Copy Of WordPress

Go to WordPress.org and download (and then extract) a fresh copy of WordPress.

Now, in your ftp app (FileZilla or Cyberduck) you need to connect to the server that hosts your site. Hopefully you’ve done this before and it may be saved as a site in the history of logins; if not, you need the hosting login details you would have received when you bought your hosting package.

Once you’re connected to the server, navigate to the WordPress installation folders; in FileZilla you have a Source and a Destination panel where you can navigate to the files you want to upload and the location on the server where you want to put them, in Cyberduck you can just navigate to the location on the server where you want to deposit the files or folders and with a two finger click you can select upload to open the dialogue box to find the new wp-admin folder.

Upload The New Version Of The Admin Folder

Begin uploading the fresh version of the Admin folder from your shiny new download of the WordPress software. You won’t encounter any problems with site configuration etc as those details are stored in the database and the database connection details are stored in the wp-config.php file which is outside the Admin folder.

Once the new version of the Admin folder has loaded, head back to your site’s Dashboard, clear the Browser cache as before, reload the page and see if the problem has gone away. With a bit of luck this brute force solution should do the trick assuming the problem was a corrupted file.

If All Else Fails…

Drop me a line and we can talk about hiring me to take a look. You can get me at sos@ikarra.com and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

Jack.

My WordPress Dashboard Is Broken