WordPress Error Establishing a Database Connection: Solution and Prevention

Final: wordpress error establishing a database connection

Have you ever found yourself staring at a blank screen, wondering why your WordPress website suddenly went offline?

The “error establishing a database connection” error is not exclusive to inexperienced users. Even seasoned WordPress veterans encounter it at some point. It can be the result of incorrect database credentials, corrupted WordPress core files, Hosting issues and more.

But with some guidance and patience, you can resolve this error and get your website back online in no time.

Tip
Tip: Consider using an optimized WordPress hosting plan to reduce the likelihood of encountering the “WordPress Error Establishing a Database Connection.”

Key Highlights

  • Take control of the situation by learning how to identify the cause of the error using simple methods such as checking your website, wp-config.php file, database, and server
  • Follow our step-by-step guide to fix the error and get your website back up and running—we’ll show you all the different solutions to try
  • Keep your website safe and secure by implementing preventative measures such as updating WordPress, plugins, and themes, choosing a reliable hosting provider, and using a caching plugin
  • Stay on top of things by regularly monitoring your website and creating backups—this way, you can quickly recover from any issues that may arise and avoid data loss

What Is ‘Error Establishing a Database Connection’?

WordPress users encounter this issue when their website is unable to communicate with the database server. Essentially, it means that the website cannot fetch the necessary information from the database to display the requested page.

Here’s how it works:

WordPress uses a database to store all its content, including posts, pages, comments, and other essential information.

The database management system used by WordPress is MySQL, which is responsible for organizing and managing all the data in a structured way. When a user visits your website, WordPress retrieves the required data from the database to create the page they’re trying to access.

This error occurs when the connection between your WordPress site and the MySQL database is interrupted or fails for some reason. As a result, instead of displaying the desired content, the user is greeted with a blank page.

The Culprits Behind WordPress Error Establishing a Database Connection

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Several factors can lead to the “error establishing a database connection” error.

  1. Incorrect Database Credentials

This is a classic case of mistaken identity. Your WordPress site needs the correct database name, username, password, and host to connect to the MySQL database. If there’s a mismatch, the connection will fail, resulting in the error message.

  1. Corrupted WordPress Core Files

Sometimes, WordPress files become corrupted due to failed updates, hacking attempts, or issues with plugins and themes.

  1. Issues with the Database Server

Shared hosting environments are a common choice for many website owners, particularly those just starting or operating on a limited budget.

When using shared hosting, your website shares resources such as CPU, memory, and storage with others on the same server. So, if your web host is experiencing downtime or server issues due to server maintenance, high traffic volumes, or server configuration issues, this could cause your error message.

  1. Overloaded or Unresponsive Database

In some cases, your website may experience a surge in traffic, putting excessive strain on the database and causing it to become unresponsive.

  1. Corrupted Database

Databases become corrupted over time. This is caused by failed plugin or theme installation or database server crashes. The corruption affects specific tables or the entire database, making it impossible for WordPress to connect.

  1. Incorrect WordPress Configuration

Here are some common WordPress configuration issues that cause this error:

  • wp-config.php file errors
  • Incorrect table prefix
  • Incompatible PHP version
  • Incorrect URL settings
  1. Plugin or Theme Issues

Plugins and themes are integral components of a WordPress website. They enhance its functionality and appearance.

However, a plugin or theme might not be compatible with your current WordPress version or other installed plugins. This incompatibility leads to issues with the database connection or other site functions.

  1. Hosting Issues

WordPress hosting plays a crucial role in the performance and stability of your WordPress website, but various hosting issues usually lead to the ‘error establishing a database connection.’

Here are some common hosting problems that cause this error:

  • Server downtime
  • Limited server resources
  • Server misconfigurations

Decoding the Mystery: How to Identify the Cause of the Error

Sometimes, you can be unsure where to start. But we are going to show you a systematic approach you can use to identify the root cause. Here’s how to identify the cause of the error:

  1. Check the Website

The first step in diagnosing the “error establishing a database connection” is to check whether your website is loading. If your website is not loading, this may indicate that the issue is related to the database connection.

Check for these symptoms:

  • Check for error messages - The most apparent symptom of the “error establishing a database connection” is the error message itself. This message will appear on your website’s front end, the WordPress admin dashboard, or both. The error message varies slightly depending on your hosting environment or server configuration, but it typically includes the words “error establishing a database connection” or a similar phrase.
  • Partial website loading - In some cases, your website will partially load, displaying some content but not all. This is another symptom of the error. It indicates that the database connection is unstable or intermittently failing.
  • Slow-loading pages or timeouts - If your website takes an unusually long time to load or experiences frequent timeouts, it could be a sign of an issue with the database connection.
  • Frequent disconnects or “white screen of death”
  1. Check the wp-config.php File

WordPress uses the wp-config.php file to connect to your database and retrieve the information needed to display your website. The info contained in this file should match that on your server. This information must be the same to establish a successful database connection.

Here is an image of the credentials inside wp-config.php that should match those on your WordPress hosting servers.

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How to access wp-config.php

To access the wp-config.php file, you’ll need to use an FTP client (like FileZilla) or your hosting provider’s file manager. Once connected, navigate to the public_html folder to see the wp-config.php file.

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Accessing wp-config.php file through the cPanel

  1. Check the Database

The third way to check the cause of the error is to verify if your database is running properly. If the issue is related to the database server, you may need to check if your database server is up and running. Perform the following steps:

  • Test the database connection with a PHP script

Create a simple PHP script that will attempt to connect to your WordPress database. This will help you determine whether the problem lies within your WordPress installation or the database server.

Create a new file called db-test.php in the root directory of your WordPress installation (the same directory as your wp-config.php file). Open the file and paste the following code:

<?php
// Include the wp-config.php file to access the database credentials
require_once('wp-config.php');

// Attempt to establish a database connection
$connection = mysqli_connect(DB_HOST, DB_USER, DB_PASSWORD, DB_NAME);

// Check the connection and output the result
if ($connection) {
   echo "Successfully connected to the database.";
   mysqli_close($connection);
} else {
   echo "Error: Unable to connect to the database.";
}
?>

Save the file and then navigate to http://yourdomain.com/db-test.php in your web browser (replace “yourdomain.com” with your actual domain name).

If the script successfully connects to the database, you’ll see the message “Successfully connected to the database.” If not, you’ll see “Error: Unable to connect to the database.”

  • Check the database server status

Some hosting providers offer server status indicators that show whether the database server is running, experiencing issues, or down for maintenance.

Login to your hosting control panel and locate the database management section. Look for information about the status of your database server.

  • Review server logs

Check your server logs for any error messages or issues related to the database server. These logs provide valuable information on server-side problems or resource limitations that may be causing the “error establishing a database connection” error.

To download the log files, you can access server logs through your hosting control panel or an FTP client.

  • Contact your hosting provider

If you’re still unsure about the status of your database server, reach out to your hosting provider’s support team. They will provide information about the database server’s status, help identify any issues, or suggest optimizations to improve your website’s performance.

  1. Check the Server

If there is downtime or limited server resources, you will get the ‘error establishing a database connection’ error. To check if the server is the problem, evaluate its health and performance.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Log in to your hosting control panel - The interface varies depending on your hosting provider, but most offer similar tools for server health monitoring.
  • Locate the server status section - Look for a section or a tool within the control panel that provides information about the server’s health status. This section may be labeled “Server Status,” “System Health,” “Resource Usage,” or something similar.
  • Review server resource usage - Check for indicators showing high resource usage, such as CPU, RAM, disk space, or bandwidth.
  • Check server uptime - Review the server uptime statistics provided by your hosting provider. Frequent server downtime or instability may be causing the database connection error. If you notice a pattern of server downtime, consider contacting your hosting provider for assistance or switching to a more reliable hosting provider.
  1. Disable Plugins and Themes

Faulty and corrupted plugins and themes may usually cause the ‘error establishing a database connection.’ Now, you probably have tens of themes and plugins. How do you know which one is causing the problem?

To determine the one causing the problem, you need to check them separately, starting with themes and then the plugins.

Go to the WordPress Dashboard. Then navigate to Appearance> Themes.

Final: wordpress error establishing a database connection

Change the theme. Then reload your website. If this doesn’t solve the error, look at the plugins to see if they are the problem.

First, disable all the plugins. Here’s how to disable the plugins:

  1. Access your website’s files: Log in to your hosting control panel or use an FTP client like FileZilla to access your website’s files.
  2. Navigate to the plugins directory: Locate the wp-content folder in your WordPress installation directory (usually public_html). Inside the wp-content folder, you’ll find the plugins folder.
  3. Rename the plugins folder: Temporarily rename the plugins folder to something like plugins_old. This will deactivate all your plugins at once.
  4. Check your website: Reload your website and see if the “error establishing a database connection” issue persists. If the error is resolved, it indicates that a plugin was causing the problem.

How to identify the problematic plugin?

Use the process of elimination. Using your FTP client or control panel file manager, move all the plugins in the “plugins” folder to a new folder called “plugins_old.”

Then, move the plugins one by one from the “plugins_old” folder to the “plugins” folder. This will reactivate the plugin.

After reactivating each plugin, check your website for the error. When the error reappears, you’ve found the problematic plugin.

Remove or delete the problematic WordPress plugin or try to fix it.

A DIY Guide to Fixing the “Error Establishing a Database Connection” in WordPress

Now that you’ve identified the source of the error, it’s time to fix it. And if you discovered that the issue was due to corrupt plugins or themes, you may have already fixed it.

Here are more methods on how to fix the error:

  1. Check the wp-config.php File

Recall our earlier statement: “The information in the wp-config.php file should match that on your web hosting server. Note that this information must be the same on both sides to establish a successful database connection.”

If the information in the wp-config.php file doesn’t match that on your web hosting server, here’s how to fix it.

Access your website’s files. Log in to your hosting control panel or use an FTP client like FileZilla to access your website’s files. Locate the wp-config.php file in your WordPress installation directory.

Open the wp-config.php file in a text editor, either through your control panel’s file manager or by downloading it using an FTP client.

Final: wordpress error establishing a database connection

Next, review the database connection settings. Look for the following lines of code, which contain your database connection settings:

define('DB_NAME', 'your_database_name');
define('DB_USER', 'your_database_user');
define('DB_PASSWORD', 'your_database_password');
define('DB_HOST', 'your_database_host');

Next, go to your WordPress hosting account dashboard. Go to the Database section, then MySQL databases, to see your provider’s database name, database user, database password, and database host.

Final: wordpress error establishing a database connection

Database management page:

Final: wordpress error establishing a database connection

If the values for ‘your_database_name’, ‘your_database_user’, ‘your_database_password’, and ‘your_database_host’ in your wp-config.php file don’t match this information provided by your hosting provider, edit the wp-config.php file to match the correct values.

Contact your hosting provider’s support team for assistance if you’re unsure about the correct values.

  1. Repair the Database

So, you established the database is the problem using the PHP script. You can attempt to repair the corrupted database.

You might also get this error message when the problem stems from the database: “One or more database tables are unavailable. The database may need to be repaired.”

Follow these steps to repair the database:

Enable the database repair feature - Access your website’s files, the wp-config.php file. Open the file in a text editor, and add the following line of code just above the line that says, “That’s all, stop editing! Happy publishing.”:

define('WP_ALLOW_REPAIR', true);

Save the changes and upload the updated wp-config.php file back to your server.

Next, run the database repair script. Open your web browser and visit the following URL—replace ”yourwebsite.com” with your actual website domain:

http://yourwebsite.com/wp-admin/maint/repair.php

You should now see the WordPress database repair page with two options: “Repair Database” and “Repair and Optimize Database.” You can choose either option, but “Repair and Optimize Database” is recommended for a thorough fix.

Final: wordpress error establishing a database connection

Perform the repair: Click on your preferred option to start the repair process. WordPress will now attempt to repair your database and provide feedback. Once the repair is complete, you will see a confirmation message.

Tip
Expert Tip: For security reasons, disable the database repair feature after using it. Access the wp-config.php file again, and remove the line you added earlier: (define(‘WP_ALLOW_REPAIR’, true);

Save the changes and upload the updated wp-config.php file back to your server.

Now visit your website to see if the “error establishing a database connection” issue has been resolved. If the error persists, continue troubleshooting with other methods.

  1. Increase Memory Limit

Sometimes, this error issue in WordPress is caused by insufficient memory allocated to PHP. Increasing the PHP memory limit can resolve this problem.

Here’s how to do it:

Log in to your hosting control panel or use FileZilla to access your website’s files.

Then go to the wp-config.php file and open it in a text editor.

To increase the memory limit, add the following line of code just above the line that says, “That’s all, stop editing! Happy publishing.”:

define('WP_MEMORY_LIMIT', '256M');

This code increases the PHP memory limit to 256 MB, meaning WordPress can use up to 256 megabytes of memory.

Save your changes and upload the updated file back to your server using the control panel’s file manager or an FTP client.

Visit your website and see if the “error establishing a database connection” issue has been resolved.

Note
NOTE: Increasing the memory limit may not always be possible, depending on your hosting provider’s policies and server configurations.
  1. Reinstall WordPress

If you are still here, all the other methods probably have not worked.

Now, if the issue persists, reinstalling WordPress could be the solution. Reinstalling WordPress ensures that you have a fresh and up-to-date installation with no corrupted files.

Tip
Expert Tip: Always create a backup of your website’s files and database before attempting a reinstallation. This ensures that you can quickly restore your website if anything goes wrong.

To reinstall WordPress without losing your content, follow these steps:

  1. Backup your website - Use a backup plugin like UpdraftPlus or create a manual backup through your hosting control panel to ensure you have a copy of your website’s files and database.
  2. Download the latest version of WordPress – Visit the official WordPress website (https://wordpress.org/) and download the latest version.
  3. Unzip the WordPress package.
  4. Delete old WordPress files - Access your website’s files and navigate to your WordPress installation directory (public_html). Delete all the WordPress files and folders EXCEPT for the wp-content folder and the wp-config.php file. These two items contain your website’s content, themes, plugins, and configuration settings.
  5. Upload new WordPress files - Using your hosting control panel’s file manager or an FTP client, upload the new WordPress files from the extracted folder on your computer to your website’s directory, avoiding the wp-content folder and the wp-config.php file.
  6. Run the WordPress upgrade script - Visit your website and log in to the WordPress admin dashboard. You may be prompted to run a database upgrade. If so, follow the instructions to complete the process.
  7. Check your website - Now, visit your website to see if the error has been resolved.

Don’t Fall Into These Traps: Common Mistakes That Can Worsen the Error

Avoid these pitfalls that can worsen the error problem or cause additional issues. Here are some common mistakes to watch out for:

  1. Forgetting to create backups

ALWAYS create a backup of your website’s files and database before making any significant changes—whether you’re a PRO or a starter. This allows you to quickly restore your website if something goes wrong during troubleshooting.

  1. Corrupting the database

DO NOT attempt to modify the database tables manually unless you have a solid understanding of SQL and database structures.

Instead, try repairing the database using WordPress’s built-in repair tool or contact your hosting provider for assistance.

  1. Overloading your server with excessive resources

While increasing the PHP memory limit can resolve some issues, allocating too much memory will cause problems with your hosting account. Always monitor your website’s performance and resource usage to maintain a balanced environment.

  1. Rushing through troubleshooting steps

Take your time to understand each troubleshooting step and follow instructions carefully.

Skipping steps or rushing through the process can result in further complications and make it more challenging for you to resolve the error.

  1. Editing core WordPress files

Avoid editing core WordPress files like wp-config.php, .htaccess, or any other essential files without proper guidance or understanding. Incorrectly modifying these files will lead to additional errors or even make your website inaccessible.

  1. Ignoring plugin and theme compatibility

When troubleshooting, ensure that you check for plugin and theme compatibility. Using outdated or incompatible plugins and themes will cause conflicts and errors.

Breaking the Cycle: Proven Ways to Prevent the Error in WordPress

Final: wordpress error establishing a database connection

When this common yet frustrating error causes downtime on your website, it will negatively impact user experience, search engine rankings, and online reputation. This can have a direct impact on your business’s bottom line. So, why not avoid and prevent the problem before it occurs?

Here are ways to prevent this WordPress error from happening again:

  1. Keep WordPress, Plugins, and Themes Updated

Regularly updating your WordPress core, plugins, and themes ensures compatibility, stability, and security. Outdated software causes conflicts, resulting in errors. Stay on top of updates to minimize the risk of this issue.

See this summary table of how to ensure your website remains updated:

SoftwareHow to Update
WordPress core
  • Log in to your WordPress admin dashboard
  • If a new WordPress version is available, you’ll see a notification at the top of the dashboard.
  • Click the “Please update now”  link in the notification.
  • On the next page, click the “Update Now” button to start the update process. WordPress will automatically download and install the latest version.
Plugins
  • In your WordPress admin dashboard, navigate to the “Plugins” > “Installed Plugins” menu.
  • If any plugins have updates available, you’ll see a notification under the plugin name.
  • You can either click the “Update now” link below each plugin that requires an update or select all plugins with available updates by checking the box next to each one, choosing “Update” from the “Bulk Actions” dropdown, and clicking “Apply.”
Themes
  • In your WordPress admin dashboard, go to the “Appearance” > “Themes” menu.
  • If any themes have updates available, you’ll see a notification on the theme thumbnail.
  • Click the theme thumbnail and the “Update now” button on the next screen to start the update process.

Expert Tips: To make the updating process easier and more efficient, consider the following:

  • Enable automatic updates - WordPress can automatically update minor core releases and translation files. You can also enable automatic updates for plugins and themes by adding specific code snippets to the wp-config.php file or using a plugin like Easy Updates Manager.
  • Use a staging environment - Before updating your live website, test the updates in a staging environment to ensure they won’t cause any issues or conflicts. In this environment, you can address any potential problems before they affect your live site.
  • Regularly check for updates - Make a habit of regularly logging in to your WordPress admin dashboard to check for updates. This ensures that you’re always running the latest, most secure versions of your software.
  • Subscribe to update notifications - Many plugin and theme developers provide newsletters or blogs to announce updates and new features. Subscribe to these sources to stay informed about the latest releases and any potential issues.
  1. Regularly Backup Your Website

Regular backups safeguard your website against data loss, hacks, or other unforeseen issues. When you have backups, you can quickly restore your site to a working state if something goes wrong.

Here’s how to create and manage backups:

  • Choose a backup solution - Use WordPress plugins like UpdraftPlus, BackupBuddy, and Duplicator or use your hosting provider’s backup tools or manually create backups via cPanel or FTP.
  • Determine backup frequency - You may need daily, weekly, or monthly backups depending on your website’s size and complexity.
  • Store backups off-site - Store them in an off-site location like Google Drive, Dropbox, or Amazon S3.
  • Test your backups - Periodically test your backups to ensure they work correctly. Create a test environment or a staging site.
  • Automate backups
  1. Choose a Reliable Hosting Provider

Research and compare hosting providers. Look for reputable hosting providers specializing in WordPress hosting with excellent customer reviews and robust features.

Compare their plans, prices, and performance metrics to find the best fit for your website. Look for providers that:

  • Use solid-state drives (SSDs)
  • Offer server-side caching
  • Have data centers close to your target audience.
  • Have a responsive, knowledgeable, and helpful customer support
  • Offer built-in security features, such as malware scanning, automatic updates, and secure sockets layer (SSL) certificates.
Tip
Expert Tip: Consider using managed WordPress hosting. Managed WordPress hosting providers, like WP Engine, Kinsta, or SiteGround, offer additional features and optimizations specifically for WordPress websites.
  1. Use a Caching Plugin

A caching plugin stores static versions of your web pages, so they can be served to visitors more quickly without generating them dynamically for each request.

This significantly improves your website’s performance by reducing the load on your server and database.

Several highly-rated caching plugins are available for WordPress, such as WP Rocket, W3 Total Cache, and WP Super Cache. Compare their features, ease of use, and compatibility with your website to find the best option.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this comprehensive guide has shed light on WordPress error establishing a database connection. By understanding its causes, you can effectively identify, troubleshoot, and prevent this error from plaguing your website in the future.

As you take the necessary steps to safeguard your website against this error, don’t forget that choosing the right tools and services is crucial for maintaining a stable and secure online presence.

For helpful advice on selecting the best website builders and web hosting providers, check out HostAdvice, where you can find expert reviews and comparisons to make an informed decision.

Next Steps: What Now?

Further Reading – Useful Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes WordPress Error Establishing A Database Connection?

This error in WordPress occurs when your website is unable to connect to the database. This is usually caused by incorrect database credentials, a corrupted database, issues with the server, hosting problems, or conflicts with plugins and themes.

Will fixing the "error establishing a database connection" cause data loss?

No, fixing the error typically doesn’t cause data loss. Most solutions involve repairing or adjusting configurations without affecting your website’s content. However, it’s always a good practice to create regular backups to safeguard your data in case of unforeseen issues.

How do I fix the database error in WordPress localhost?

To fix the database error in WordPress localhost, follow these steps:

  1. Ensure your database server (e.g., MySQL or MariaDB) is running.
  2. Check your wp-config.php file to confirm that the database credentials (database name, username, password, and host) are correct.
  3. If the error persists, try repairing your database using a database management tool like phpMyAdmin or the built-in WordPress repair tool by adding define(‘WP_ALLOW_REPAIR’, true); to your wp-config.php file.
How do I fix error establishing a database connection in cPanel?
  1. Log in to your cPanel account.
  2. Navigate to the “Databases” section and click “MySQL Databases.”
  3. Verify that the database associated with your WordPress site exists and note the database name, username, and host.
  4. Check the “Privileges” assigned to the user associated with the database, and ensure the user has all the necessary permissions.
  5. Access the “File Manager” in cPanel, locate the wp-config.php file in your WordPress installation, and confirm that the database credentials (database name, username, password, and host) match the ones you noted earlier.

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