Your WordPress site has vanished and in its place is an obscure message informing you “there has been a critical error on this website.” What’s going on? And more importantly, how do you get your website back online?

Below the error message, a link leads you to some information related to debugging WordPress. You’re not interested in debugging WordPress; you just want to get your website back online. What you need is WordPress recovery mode. This video explains what Recovery Mode is and shows you how to use it to get your website back online.

WordPress Recovery Mode critical error message.
When you see this message, your WordPress site is in Recovery Mode

Why Do WordPress Websites Break?

Any number of things can cause a WordPress website to fail. Usually, the problem is related to an incompatible plugin.

Fatal errors typically occur just after an update. Either you’ve updated or installed a plugin that’s incompatible with your site. Or you’ve updated WordPress only to discover that one of your existing plugins isn’t compatible with the latest version of WP.

What is WordPress Recovery Mode?

When an error prevents your website from loading properly, WordPress shifts into Recovery Mode. You can think of Recovery Mode as a special state that allows the site owner to access the WordPress Admin dashboard and disable the problem plugin. When you see the critical error message on your site, you’ll know your site is in Recovery Mode.

When a critical error is detected, WordPress sends an email to the site administrator. That message informs the administrator that there’s a problem with the website. The message also includes details about which plugin caused the error. Most importantly, the Recovery Mode email includes a recovery link that you can use to bypass the error message and log into your WordPress dashboard.

While the Recovery Mode error message may be annoying, the fix is usually straightforward, assuming you can access the website’s administrator email account.

I walk you through the website recovery process in the video tutorial above.

How Do I Recover My Site If I Don’t Have Access To The Admin Email Address?

WordPress added recovery Mode in version 5.2. Before the introduction of recovery mode, critical errors were much more anxiety-inducing.

In the bad old days, site owners would learn there was a problem when their website disappeared, only to be replaced by a blank white screen (also known as the White Screen of Death).

If you don’t have access to the administrator’s email account for some reason, you won’t be able to use Recovery Mode. But you will be able to restore your site manually, using the method from the old days. The White Screen of Death recovery method still works. Refer to this classic WordPress lesson on fixing your broken website. You’ll need either an FTP program or access to the site’s cPanel dashboard to get the job done.

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