WordPress Recovery Mode: Functions, Filters, and Settings

If you’re a seasoned WordPress user, you’ve probably come across some errors here and there.  Any number of things, including a critical error in WordPress, technical challenges, and the feared white screen of death, can put a damper on your day and force your site down, leaving your curious visitors in the dark. Not only does this waste your guests’ time but it may discourage them from returning. But don’t worry because WordPress recovery mode is here to save you as a quick and painless method to address those issues. Continue reading as we’ve prepared everything you need to know about it.

Everything you need to know about WordPress recovery mode

Before version 5.2 was released, the WordPress white screen of death frequently appeared. However, since WordPress introduced recovery mode in May 2019, users have been notified through error messages if something goes wrong with their site. When WordPress encounters an issue, it notifies the administrator by email with a login link and specifics about the situation.

A blonde woman using WordPress on a laptop
WordPress recovery mode makes it simple for users to quickly get their websites up and running.

But what triggers these notifications? Our expert team here at WP Full Care advises that this usually happens because of faulty coding or a botched plugin upgrade. There could also be a clash between plugins, an issue with the theme, or some custom code you’ve included. WordPress performs a good job of detecting problems and alerting you to them, regardless of their origin.

However, it’s up to you to find out what is the reason behind this problem and fix it. WordPress will only generate a notification email and send it to the site admin. Then, WordPress will disable the broken code so you can access your dashboard and fix it. Do keep in mind that the recovery mode won’t automatically repair your site. It simply means that you’ll be able to access your website but you’ll have to work on quickly resolving the issue. After all, you don’t want your visitors to be greeted with an error message for too long.

How to access WordPress recovery mode?

There are three ways to access your website’s recovery mode:

  1. WordPress will send you an email with a link you can use to access this mode.
  2. If you don’t have access to your administrator email, you can add a line of PHP code to your wp-config.php file over FTP.
  3. Manually create a new recovery mode URL.

Accessing WordPress recovery mode via link

First thing first, you need to make sure your administrator email address is correct. Otherwise, you won’t receive recovery emails from WordPress. Keep in mind that this is something you need to do in advance. Meaning, if the issue would occur and your email was incorrect, it would prevent you from accessing your wp-admin dashboard and thus fix your website issue.

Simply log into your WordPress dashboard and head to Settings to double-check. Go ahead and select “General” now. Check for WordPress’s administrative email address. If your email address is correct, you will be able to receive recovery emails in the event of an issue. This is as important a security measurement as storing your backup offsite.

Person sitting on a couch and typing on a laptop that's on their knees
Make sure you verify your administrator email address in WordPress as it could save you a lot of trouble in the future.

In case WordPress detects an issue on your site, it will send you an email to the address you provide. You can access the recovery login screen by clicking the link in the email. After logging in, you’ll be able to see the specifics of your mistake and fix the issue.

Manually edit your wp-config.php file

WordPress’s recovery mode is helpful, but what if you need to update the admin email but can’t get to it? It’s possible that you won’t be able to alter your site’s email address via the admin panel at all. In that case, you’ll need to find a different way to activate recovery mode. In order to modify the wp-config.php, you’ll need an FTP client like FileZilla which we’re going to use for this article. You’ll also need to define an email address and basically let WordPress know where to send notifications.

To begin, launch FileZilla and connect to your server. Most WordPress hosting providers will supply or help you create SFTP credentials. Select Site Manager once you have all the information you need to make the connection. Click an existing site from the drop-down menu or click the “new site” button to add a new one. Select SFTP and then provide the hostname and port number. Then, from the drop-down option labeled “Logon Type” select “Normal.” After entering your username and password, click the “Connect” button.

Find the wp-config file by going to the root folder, which is the /public-html/ folder. The wp-config.php file can be seen or edited by selecting it and clicking the corresponding button. The next step is to incorporate this line of code into the document. Don’t forget to replace you@yoursite.com with your actual email address.

01 | define(‘RECOVERY MODE EMAIL’, ‘you@yoursite.com’);

The last step is to save your changes. By inserting the code, you can instruct WordPress to send the recovery email to the address you use to administer the site. Remember that if the system has already sent you an email that day, you won’t get another one for another 24 hours. However, there’s a solution for that case, too.

Manually add recovery URL

It is possible to bypass WordPress’s 24-hour wait for the recovery email by using a different method – manually generating a recovery link that will allow you to re-enter recovery mode on your website.

Navigate to your site’s home page on your web browser. Put the following after the URL:

/wp-login.php?action=entered recovery mode

Laptop with a php page opened on it
In case you can’t access the WordPress recovery mode through your email, there are alternative methods you can try.

Do keep in mind that, if you want to hide your wp-admin login URL behind a plugin or some other means, you’ll need to modify the link below. Put the URL suffix you want to use for logging in instead of /custom-login/.

/custom-login/?action=entered recovery mode

When you manually generate the recovery URL, you might not see those helpful errors. In that situation, you need to do your troubleshooting hat and go to work.

Wrapping up

WordPress’s recovery mode is a useful tool for investigating and fixing issues with your website. Plugins, theme conflicts, and mistakes in custom code are the most common causes of problems. However, there may be instances where further investigation is necessary. That why we advise contacting WordPress experts who’ll always be at your disposal and ensure that your website is quickly back online in case any issues occur.

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