Troubleshooting using the Health Check

The support team utilizes the Health Check plugin to help with troubleshooting common problems with websites, and to provide debug information to help with identifying problems with site setups.

This is an introduction to the various elements of the pluginPlugin A plugin is a piece of software containing a group of functions that can be added to a WordPress website. They can extend functionality or add new features to your WordPress websites. WordPress plugins are written in the PHP programming language and integrate seamlessly with WordPress. These can be free in the WordPress.org Plugin Directory https://wordpress.org/plugins/ or can be cost-based plugin from a third-party, and how to utilize the various features it provides.

When active, the Health Check plugin can be found in your admin menu, under the Dashboard menu

Health check Health check

The first tab you are presented with will run a suite of checks against your site to ensure various software versions are up to date, and required features are available.

The checks that are performed at the time of writing are:

  • PHPPHP PHP (recursive acronym for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor) is a widely-used open source general-purpose scripting language that is especially suited for web development and can be embedded into HTML. http://php.net/manual/en/intro-whatis.php. Version: Check if your site uses the minimum required PHP version, and also recommends a newer version if if it older than the recommended version.
  • MySQLMySQL MySQL is a relational database management system. A database is a structured collection of data where content, configuration and other options are stored. https://www.mysql.com/. Server version: Checks that the database service your site uses is on the minimum required version (supports both MySQL and MariaDB, these are the two database engines we officially support).
  • JSONJSON JSON, or JavaScript Object Notation, is a minimal, readable format for structuring data. It is used primarily to transmit data between a server and web application, as an alternative to XML. Extension: Many features in WordPress, as well as plugins and themes, rely on data in a format known as JSON, this check makes sure this is enabled for your site.
  • MySQL utf8mb4 support: Since WordPress 4.2, we now support utf8mb4 as the database character set, this allows for various advanced letters to be utilized on your site, such as Han character sets.
  • Communication with WordPress.orgWordPress.org The community site where WordPress code is created and shared by the users. This is where you can download the source code for WordPress core, plugins and themes as well as the central location for community conversations and organization. https://wordpress.org/: This makes sure you can fetch plugin, theme and WordPress coreCore Core is the set of software required to run WordPress. The Core Development Team builds WordPress. updates from the WordPress.org network.
  • HTTPSHTTPS HTTPS is an acronym for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure. HTTPS is the secure version of HTTP, the protocol over which data is sent between your browser and the website that you are connected to. The 'S' at the end of HTTPS stands for 'Secure'. It means all communications between your browser and the website are encrypted. This is especially helpful for protecting sensitive data like banking information. Status: Checks if you are visiting your site using a secure connection.
  • Secure communication: Checks if your website is able to communicate with external services using secure connections (SSLSSL Secure Socket Layer - Encryption from the server to the browser and back. Prevents prying eyes from seeing what you are sending between your browser and the server.), many services require secure communications to work and this may affect various plugins.
  • Scheduled events: Checks if WP Cron is running like it should, if it fails, things such as scheduled posts and automated updates won’t work.
  • Background updates: A suite of tests to check if anything is preventing WordPress from automatically applying minor updates (security/bugfix updates).
  • Loopback request: Checks if anything is preventing loopbacks from being triggered. A loopback is used to start WP Cron, as mentioned earlier, and is also used to verify files after making updates and can affect many different parts of your site. If a request were to fail, you will be presented with a method to test if it’s caused by one or more of your plugins.

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Debug information Debug information

The debug information tab provides information that may be crucial to replicating issues, or identifying causes for problems with a site.

This page also provides the user with a field for easily copying this information over into a support topic on the WordPress.org support forums (or to their plugin or theme providers support form if they wish). This section can be accessed by clicking the Show copy and paste field button at the top of the page.

The information in the copy and paste field has been filtered, and some data from the debug tab is unavailable as it is deemed private, such as database information, this means you can safely copy the whole field and it will be formatted and should be safe to put on a public forum.

Alert: Note that the information provided on the debug page can be added to by plugins or themes using the debug_information filterFilter Filters are one of the two types of Hooks https://codex.wordpress.org/Plugin_API/Hooks. They provide a way for functions to modify data of other functions. They are the counterpart to Actions. Unlike Actions, filters are meant to work in an isolated manner, and should never have side effects such as affecting global variables and output..

If you are using the plugin in a language that has been translated, you may also find that you are presented with two buttons, one will provide the copy and paste information in your own language, the other will provide it in English, this is to make it easier to provide the information depending on what support site you are using (for example, one of our support forums in your own language).

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Troubleshooting Troubleshooting

When utilizing the troubleshooting mode, your currently logged in user is given a stripped down version of WordPress, where all plugins are disabled and one of the default themes is activated.

It is important to note that this is only the case for your user, it does not affect any other site visitors, or users of your site, for them the theme will be the same, and all plugins will still be running as before.

This mode is essential when trying to identify the cause of an issue, as in most cases, any issue you have will be introduced by your theme or one of your plugins (or maybe even multiple plugins interacting poorly with each other).

When in troubleshooting mode you are able to verify if a problem still exists in a basic WordPress setup, thus helping us identify and fixing a bug others may be encountering, or finding out which plugin or your theme is causing the problems so that you can report this to the applicable authors.

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Troubleshooting with a specific plugin Troubleshooting with a specific plugin

If you wish to find out what is causing a conflict with another plugin (or to identify if it is experiencing issues on its own), the normal plugins page will let you quickly jump into troubleshooting mode by clicking the Troubleshoot link under the plugin you wish to test.

This will enable troubleshooting mode, with only that plugin active by default, and let you test further from there.

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Once in troubleshooting mode, a new item is added to your admin bar, and a dashboard widget is shown, which gives you an overview of which plugins are enabled or disabled, and allows you to toggle them on or off.
It also allows you to switch between a default theme, and your currently active theme (the one you were using on your site before enabling troubleshooting mode), and of course gives you a way to disable troubleshooting mode.

Troubleshooting Mode admin bar menu

The admin bar lets you switch plugins or themes while on the front end of your site, letting you quickly test user-facing issues on your site.

Troubleshooting Mode dashboard widget

The dashboard widget gives a good overview of what is going on while in the back-end of your site.

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PHP information PHP information

The PHP information tab is here for those extra hard issues, where normal information may not be enough and information about your sites more granular settings are required.

This tab is essentially just the output of the phpinfo() function, but adjusted to be displayed within your WordPress site instead of requiring you to write your own file to get the data.

When asked for additional information from this page, the simplest approach is to use your browsers search feature (ctrl+f or cmd+f) and typing or pasting the name of the field you are asked to find.

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