White Screen of Death

I remember the first time I got a “White Screen of Death” distinctly. I was migrating my personal site over to Drupal from Wordpress. I don’t exactly remember where I went wrong, but all of a sudden I saw it. A wall of blinding white light void of meaning. Such sterile, hollow, emptiness.

I checked the source, hoping I would find some clue as to what was happening. All I saw was this: “<head></head><body></body>”. Useless.

I had vaguely remembered seeing something like this before when I did some basic PHP programming in a class, but this was different. I was dealing with 14.9 Megabytes of Drupal. I couldn’t just comment out chunks of code until the site started working again.

I had no reference points. I couldn’t do Google searches for “White screen of death” because I didn’t know that people called this a White Screen of Death. I couldn’t get into the admin screen to uninstall modules or otherwise troubleshoot the cause. I wasn’t about to start deleting chunks of a codebase I wasn’t familiar with. For the life of me, I couldn’t get Drupal to produce an error message. I did everything I could… I even contacted customer support with my webhost. After hours of frustration, I chose the only remaining option. I deleted my entire site and database, and did a fresh Drupal installation from scratch.

To the brand new Drupal Developer, the White Screen of Death is absolutely devastating. I don’t know how, but there has got to be a way to prevent it. But only if we are willing to reject the status quo.