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How to Fix WordPress Plugin Conflicts

Updated on Nov 23, 2022

Conflicts are among the most common WordPress errors. You've probably run into a plugin conflict at some point. If plugins contain errors in their code, there may be a major plugin conflict, potentially leading to a WordPress white screen of death. This post will go over plugin conflicts and how to resolve them.

This post includes:

What are Plugin Conflicts, and Why Do They Happen?

Plugin conflicts occur when two or more WordPress plugins collide with each other. Plugin conflicts occur when two or more WordPress plugins collide with each other, as the name implies. Aside from that, a conflict could arise between one of your plugins and your theme, or even your WordPress version.

Typically, the more complex or significant the conflicting parties, the greater the implications for your website. If one of your main plugins or primary themes becomes involved in a major conflict, the result will almost certainly be visual or functional chaos.

Why do Plugin or Theme Conflicts Happen

A conflict occurs when both parties attempt to execute code that either restricts or directly contradicts each other.

Although each plugin and theme is responsible for its own distinct responsibilities, this could occur for a variety of reasons:

  • A resource conflict could arise between two major plugins because of their extreme code complexities, like your eCommerce inventory and billing plugin!
  • One bad fish spoiled the whole pond, aka the poorly written code behind one plugin might have restricted others, bringing everything down.
  • After updating a plugin, the latest version could turn out to be incompatible with your theme.
  • A batch auto-update might've started a functionality war between two (or more) plugins where both tried to execute conflicting commands affecting the same working part of your live website.

In short, a conflict can occur for a variety of reasons. It all comes down to the code behind each plugin or theme and the precautions taken by their developers to avoid potential conflicts.

What do Conflict Errors Look Like?

Because plugin conflicts can occur for a variety of reasons, the errors they cause can also take a variety of shapes and forms.

Conflicts are frequently the cause of everything, from making parts of a website look and act strange to displaying the dreaded white screen of death.

Although plugin conflicts are a common cause of errors on WordPress sites, identifying a conflict simply by looking at the error can be difficult.

Instead of focusing on the error itself, you should look at the level of access and control you have on your own website for troubleshooting purposes.

In other words, conflicts can have two major effects on your website. They are able to:

  • Cause errors on your live website but still leave you with access to your admin panel and website.
  • Cause the White Screen of Death (WSOD) where your site crashes and you get locked out of your admin panel.

Remember that both of these errors can be caused by other factors. A masterpiece of visual bugs, for example, could be the result of an outdated plugin or incompatible theme, or a WSOD could have occurred because your server reached its memory limit.

Nonetheless, whenever something breaks on your website and basic troubleshooting fails, you can almost always be certain that a conflict is to blame.

How to Fix Conflicts When you Have Access to Your Admin Panel

Whatever problems you're having with your website, if you still have access to your admin panel, hell is not about to break loose!

I'll show you how to identify conflicts, locate conflicting plugins (or themes), and resolve conflict errors all from your WordPress admin panel in the steps below. I'll go over each step in greater detail, but here's a quick rundown of what you need to do.

To fix plugin conflicts while you have access to your admin panel:

  • Clear your browser cache;
  • Make sure your plugins are updated;
  • Determine if it's truly a plugin conflict by ruling out a WordPress version or theme conflict (a staging site is recommended for this);
  • Track down the plugins causing the conflict with help from your browser console or manually deactivating & reactivating each plugin, one by one;
  • Replace one or both of the plugins, and then report the bug to the developers.

Clear Your Browser Cache

It's common for your browser's cache to hold on to older code and fail to reflect new code, especially after plugin updates. Clear your cache just to be sure that's not the case.

If you’re on Chrome, press ctrl+shift+del → Select cached images and files → Select Clear. On Safari, press option+command+ESelect Empty.

Make Sure Your Plugins are Updated

Log in to your admin area and check to ensure that all your plugins are updated to their latest versions.

Check for Plugin vs WordPress Version Conflicts

First, we'll check if your active plugins are compatible with your current version of WordPress. You can either do this:

With the help of a plugin like Better Plugin Compatibility Control which pinpoints compatibility issues, important pending updates, and more;

Manually by visiting the plugins section in your WordPress dashboard and checking each plugin's compatibility one by one;

Manually checking the compatibility for each plugin.

Deactivate the incompatible plugins, if any. Go back to your website and check if everything is back to normal. If yes, clearly a conflict between a plugin and your WordPress version was behind the issues on your website.

If the errors still persist, move on to the next step.  

Check for Plugin vs Theme Conflicts

Next, we'll see if everything is in order with your plugins and theme.

If you haven't already, create a staging area before proceeding. It's much easier than it sounds, and it allows you to make changes and test things out without affecting your live website.

To begin detecting a theme conflict, change the theme of your (preferably staging) site to a WordPress default.

Go to 'Appearances' and 'Themes' from your admin page. 'Activate' the popular TwentySeventeen theme once there. Now examine your website; if the issues vanish with the theme change, you've discovered yourself in the midst of a theme conflict. Change the theme of your live website to default for the time being.

To locate the conflicting plugin, return to staging, reactivate your previous theme, and deactivate your plugins one by one until the error is gone. If it does, you will also have isolated the guilty plugin.

You can now choose whether to keep the plugin or the theme. In either case, contact the developers to report the problem; they might just fix it!

If, on the other hand, the errors persist even after a theme change, your original theme is not to blame. Your website is most likely experiencing a plugin conflict. Reactivate your preferred theme and proceed to the next step.

Check for Plugin vs Plugin Conflicts

You want to look into your plugins now that you've ruled out potential theme and WordPress version conflicts. Begin by deactivating all plugins.

Navigate to the Plugins page. Check the empty box next to 'Plugins' to select all plugins. Select 'Deactivate' from the 'Bulk action' drop-down menu.

Return to your website and see if the problems have been resolved.

Suppose the error goes away after you deactivate all plugins, congratulations! You've just identified and isolated a plugin conflict. If not, it's safe to assume that none of your plugins are to blame. In this case, you should look for htaccess errors or get in touch with your hosting provider and in-house developers.

Note

You don't feel like you can turn to your hosting provider for help? It may be time to switch to a managed WordPress host.

Find the Guilty Plugins

Without doing any troubleshooting, your browser console can help you find the conflicting plugins. Go to the page where you're having problems and open your console (Right Click → Inspect → Go to the ‘Console’ tab) Don't get hung up on the red error messages; simply scan them and hover over the underlined file paths to see if any of your plugins are mentioned.

If your console isn't helpful, you'll have to identify the offending plugins manually. We will reactivate your plugins one by one to see if the problem reappears.

Instead of starting with a random plugin, either start by reactivating your key plugins first or the plugins that could be directly related to the issue. Reactivate one plugin at a time and keep checking your staging site.

When the issue reappears, you have found one of your guilty plugins.

To find the other, keep the first conflicting plugin activated and deactivate the previously reactivated plugins, again, one at a time. In this case, when the issue disappears with the deactivation of another plugin, said plugin is obviously the other conflicting plugin.

Replace and Report the Guilty Plugins

Once you've identified the culprits, you can deactivate both or just the less important ones. You could also look for alternative plugins or code snippets to replace either of the offending plugins.

Meanwhile, contact the developers of both plugins via email and support threads and share details of the conflict, as well as screenshots of the troubleshooting you just performed.

Most plugin and theme developers strive to make their code flawless, so they should be more than happy to resolve the issue or provide useful information.

How to Fix a Conflict That Causes Your Site to Crash

The infamous white screen of death, also known as a site crash, is every WordPress site owner's worst nightmare. Furthermore, site crashes usually result in the loss of access to the admin panel, which can be quite frightening!

Even if this sounds intimidating, the good news is that there are several ways to access your website and admin panel, even if they are unavailable!

I'll show you one such method in the following steps: the Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) method, which even the most inexperienced users can use to easily access our websites and resolve the conflict! I'll go over each step in greater detail, but here's a quick rundown of what you need to do.

To fix plugin conflicts while you do not access to your admin panel (or see a white screen):

  • Install an (S)FTP program, like FileZilla;
  • Connect your website;
  • Access your files via SFTP to disable themes and plugins;
  • If you regain site access, log in to begin troubleshooting from the admin panel;
  • If your site is still down, contact your hosting provider;

Access Your Files to Disable Plugins and Themes

Once you've connected your website, you will see the Remote Site panel on the right-hand side. Here, navigate to the public_html folder. This lists your website's files and directories on the server you are connected to.

Look for wp-content under that. This is where you'll find both your plugins and themes.

To deactivate all of your plugins at once, simply rename the plugins folder to something like plugins-deactivated or plugins-renamed. Repeat with the themes folder.

Your website will be restored to its default theme and with no active plugins.

Clear your cache and re-visit your website. If a conflict was the cause of the site crash, your website and admin panel should be operational again.

When you regain access to your WordPress admin area, troubleshoot as if you've always had access by following the steps outlined in the previous section.

If, in spite of deactivating your plugins and themes, your site is still down, then something else is behind the site crash. Contact your hosting provider, as you might have saturated your server's memory limit.

How to Avoid Plugin Conflicts

Now that you know how to troubleshoot your way out of a plugin conflict, you should want to avoid it in the future!

Although, as I previously stated, it may be difficult to avoid conflicts entirely if you're working with a large number of plugins, there are basic preventive measures you can take to keep conflicts to a bare minimum.

To prevent WordPress plugin conflicts and the white screen of death:

  • Take regular backups of your website (or make sure your hosting provider does this.)
  • Never make changes to your live website. (Use a staging or local site instead.)
  • Keeps plugins updated and avoid outdated ones.
  • Avoid batch or auto-updates.
  • Limit the number of plugins you use to the number of plugins you truly need.

Establish a Healthy Backup Practice

Think of backups like failsafes against any kind of disaster on your live site. The moment you decide to get into the habit of creating regular backups of your website, you automatically give yourself a huge advantage over any potential conflict error.

As a backup solution, you can choose to:

  • Pick a reliable backup offering by your hosting provider.
  • Install a third party backup plugin.
  • Manually backup your files.

Needless to say, if you have a backup handy, you can easily restore it whenever anything does break on your website.

Never Make Changes to Your Live Website

It can be tempting to install or update plugins, themes, or your WordPress version directly on your live website, especially if nothing has gone wrong so far.

To truly avoid conflicts, consider creating a staging or local site, which is essentially a clone of your live production site, where you can safely make changes and test them before pushing them to your live site.

This is much easier than it sounds, and it should be enabled by your hosting provider, just like backups.

Stay Updated and Avoid the Outdated

While new updates may cause the occasional bug (which is why staging exists! ), running older versions of your plugins, theme, or even WordPress version is far worse!

Make sure everything is up to date, not only for the sake of your site's overall health, but also to avoid bugs and conflicts.

This also means that you should avoid using outdated plugins or plugins that haven't been updated in the last six months.

Avoid Running Batch and Auto-updates

Sure, automation has its appeal, and scheduling or selecting a batch of plugin updates to run concurrently can save you time, but it also has its drawbacks!

For starters, conflicts frequently occur after batch updates. Plus, if they do, you'll have to go through the time-consuming process of locating incompatible plugins.

To avoid conflicts, update each plugin separately and check for any signs of errors after each update. This way, you'll know right away which plugin, if any, is causing a conflict.

Less is More

Of course, one of the best ways to avoid plugin conflicts is to avoid plugins altogether. This may not be entirely possible, but you should only keep plugins that you absolutely require.

In most other cases, plugins can be replaced with code snippets, and it's best to work with a developer rather than rely on third-party plugins to get the job done.

Final Thoughts

To summarize, plugins can be lifesavers, but they come with their own baggage. I hope this article not only helped you successfully isolate and resolve a plugin conflict on your website, but also helped you better understand them.

Aside from that, as long as you continue to improve your troubleshooting skills and follow best practices, you should be one step closer to having an error-free website.

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