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500 Internal Server Error

TL;DR;

A 500 Internal Server Error is a HTTP response status form the server, reporting a general error whose cause is not entirely clear. The server may be busy, it may be going through a PHP timeout, deploying an anti-flooding measure, or they may be an error in the .htaccess file or a conflict between the installed modules. The first measure in case of this error is to contact the provider where your website is being hosted. 

What is a 500 Internal Server Error and what may cause it?

A 500 Internal Server Error is the HTTP response status code which shows that the request from the user is not being processed due to an internal error of some sort. The 500 Internal Server Error is a very general error, so the exact cause of the malfunction is not always very clear. It may be that:

  • the server is busy - if there is a sudden spike in requests from it, its’ resources may not be enough to handle requests. This can also be the case if there is a Ddos attack. It can also be caused by a malfunctioning disk

  • the page sending the 500 Error message might be set up to access external resources which are not immediately available, therefore experiencing a timeout

  • in some cases, rewrites in the .htaccess file may not be working correctly

  • most websites use a shared server, with limited resources. If a website is getting an increased number of requests in a short time, the server might deploy an anti-flooding measure, to manage what it may regard as suspicious activity

  • the 500 Internal Server Error is not uncommon in the case of websites using modules that are in conflict with each-other. This is often reported in Wordpress, when installing a plugin can sometimes “break” the website

What can you do about the 500 Internal Server Error?

Depending on what is causing the problem, there are different solutions to it. On the web users’ side, there is not much that can be done, except for refreshing the page to see if the error persists. On the side of the web owner, it is recommended to wait 1-2 minutes and refresh the page. Many times, the error will disappear very quickly. 

On the other hand, you should try to fix this as soon as possible in order to keep your visitors happy. Since it is most likely a problem with the server that is causing the error, you should contact your hosting provider. Advanced users may also want to check the .htaccess file. 

For Wordpress users (and not only for them), if the problem appears right after installing a new theme or plugin, try disabling it and refresh the page. To be on the safe side, you can also disable all of your plugins (or temporarily rename your “plugins” folder in the file system - e.g. “plugins2”). If the error disappears, it means that the error is caused by a plugin. Try enabling them again, one by one, until the site breaks again. This way you will identify the plugin responsible for the error.