All you need to know about the 500 error (causes + how to spot it + solutions)

You are just starting your day, you go to your ecommerce website, and you realize the screen is all white and doesn’t load.

You start shivering and are petrified, obviously, because if your website isn’t working, there’s no way you can make any sales.

And the problem is that you have no idea how to solve it.

Has that ever happened to you?

Of course, it has – this is such a common error that it even has its own name.

It’s the dreaded ‘500 error’.

Not to fear – today, we’re going to explain everything you need to know about it so that next time (it will happen again), you’ll be able to solve it as quickly as possible.

👉 What is a 500 error and how does it affects your ecommerce?

First of all, let’s start with the definition:

A 500 error is an internal server error, which means that there was an error when trying to execute the received application (so the website can’t be shown), but it doesn’t specify the reason.

Not knowing the exact reason means that the problem isn’t on your computer or with the Internet connection, but with the server your online shop is hosted on.

A 500 error causes two major problems for your business:

  1. Sales are reduced: since your website is unavailable for customers who won’t be able to buy until the situation is resolved.
  2. It affects your positioning: Google may penalize you if these errors are frequent since it prefers quick and reliable websites.

That’s why you need to fix it as soon as possible. But, if you don’t know the cause, how are you going to solve it? (Don’t panic – we’ll explain possible solutions later, so keep reading).

Now, let’s focus on how to spot a 500 error.

The first sign of an existing internal server error is seeing a blank white screen when you try to go to a webpage. You might also see a message indicating the error.

Surely, you’ve seen this before.

Not even a giant like Google can avoid server problems every now and then. If they can’t show you the results page, they show you the following screen:

error 500 google

Google error 500

If it’s the YouTube server that isn’t working, this little monkey will tell you that they are under maintenance or just swamped:

error 500 youtube

Error 500 YouTube

This is the message that you’ll see if you try to access an Apache website when there’s an internal server error:

error 500 apache

Apache 500 Error

The 500 error is so common that not even the most common websites can get rid of it. And, once again, it doesn’t depend on:

  • Operating System
  • Internet connection
  • Your computer

It’s just “something” that happens with the server of the website you’re trying to visit.

What changes is how the message is shown, which depends on each website’s hosting. The most common ways of referring to the 500 error are:

  • 500 Internal Server Error
  • HTTP 500 – Internal Server Error
  • Temporary Error (500)
  • Internal Server Error
  • HTTP 500 Internal Error
  • 500 Error
  • HTTP Error 500
  • That’s an error

So:

If you run into this error as a user, you can’t do anything but wait for it to be solved since it doesn’t depend on your browser or your connection.

It’s important to distinguish between this error and the 404 error page:

  • The 404 error: It indicates that the website you’re trying to access is not available (for whatever reason) or doesn’t exist anymore.
  • The 500 error: It means the server the website is hosted on is having some type of problem

They are two different error that requires different solutions.

Once you have that clear, we can see what to do if there’s a 500 error in your ecommerce.

👉 Solutions if your ecommerce shows a 500 error

If you have good hosting that provides technical support, use it. It’s better to let the professionals handle technical issues.

If you don’t have tech support, you should think about changing hosts to one that can help you solve these issues.

Meanwhile, we’ll do what we can to help you.

Of course, before you do anything else and no matter which ecommerce platform you’re using, backup everything before you check or modify anything.

Let’s see some solutions.

✅  1. The most common causes of the 500 error in WordPress

The first thing to do is to find out where the 500 error is; it’s all about research and trial and error until you find the exact cause.

In order to ease the task, here you have the most common reasons why this error is produced in WordPress:

A. Plugins conflict

Plugins are WordPress’ strength, but they can also become its worst nightmare since it’s relatively common to find incompatibilities between plugins that can cause a 500 error.

If the error arises after installing a new plugin, it’s easy: uninstall it.

If you don’t know which one is causing the error, you need to deactivate them all and reactivate them one by one, checking whether they provoke the error.

B. Error with a Theme

If plugins have been ruled out, you may have a problem with your WordPress Theme.

To check it, activate another theme and check whether the error 500 disappears and your website loads properly.

If the error is still there, keep reading because the cause is different.

C. Damaged .htaccess file

This file is automatically updated when you install plugins or WordPress updates. If it’s damaged, it’ll cause a 500 error and your website won’t be shown in the meantime.

In order to fix it, you need to replace the current .htaccess file with a new clean one.

  • Go to the File Manager in your cPanel or your FTP account.
  • Look for the .htaccess file.
  • Change the name of the file with the “rename” option to, for example, .htaccessprevious.
  • Check if the 500 error has been solved (if not, this is not the cause – leave the file as it was).
  • Create a new .htaccess file in Settings > Permanent Links > Save.

It’s a very simple process that solves the 500 error most of the time.

Important note: Despite being relatively easy, if you aren’t comfortable with the technical aspects, it’s always advisable to ask a professional to do this.

D. PHP memory limit on the server

Another common cause behind 500 errors in WordPress is that the server doesn’t have enough memory to execute the PHP your website is programmed with.

This should be confirmed (and solved) by your hosting provider and will depend on what you have contracted.

It’s true that you can modify the memory manually in your cPanel, but if your host doesn’t let you increase it, your site won’t work and the 500 error will persist.

✅  2. The most common causes of the 500 error in PrestaShop

You’ll see that many of the reasons causing the 500 error in PrestaShop are the same as those we saw in WordPress – the difference is how we solve them.

In PrestaShop, you can find the cause of the 500 error by activating the FTP errors report from the FrontOffice or BackOffice.

In order to do that, follow these steps:

  • Go to config/defines.inc.php.
  • Find this line “(‘_PS_MODE_DEV_’, false);”
  • Change it to “(‘_PS_MODE_DEV_’, true);”.

Once you have the error report activated, you’ll be able to quickly find the origin of the 500 error.

A. Problems with permissions

Your folder permissions can generate conflicts on your platform and prevent the website from loading properly.

A common issue is having folders set to the 777 permission. Solving this problem is easy: change it to 775.

B. Timeout

The time to load a script (simple programming codes that build a page) is determined by each server.

PrestaShop establishes a 30-second limit for most scripts, such as:

  • Regenerating thumbnail view
  • Backups
  • CSV import

The 500 error may occur because there isn’t enough time for it to load, so the solution is to increase that time limit.

To do so, you need to talk to your hosting provider and ask them to increase the timeout limit.

C. Htaccess file configuration error

On this platform, the .htaccess file is also one of the most common issues. Just a simple error with one character can completely destroy the file.

To solve it, back up the page and then try deactivating friendly URLs and regenerating the .htaccess file from the BackOffice.

D. PHP problems

These are usually caused when the PHP version isn’t compatible with the PrestaShop version your ecommerce shop is using.

This is a more technical aspect because you need to find a PHP version that is compatible and change it from the cPanel under MultiPHP Manager or PHP Selector.

👉 Are you still afraid of 500 errors?

As you’ve seen, this is a very common and easy-to-solve error. You just need to keep calm and know how and where to find the cause.

Today, we’ve explained the most common ones, but let us give you one last tip:

Find a good hosting provider that can solve these incidents as fast as possible.

This way, you’ll be able to focus on what you are best at: getting clients and making sales. ;)