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The message 500 Internal Server Error is a popular HTTP status code that is sent by a server in response to a client’s request. If your web browser shows you a webpage containing this error, it means that the server powering the website you are visiting has experienced an unexpected error and cannot deliver the requested content.

The 500 Internal Server Error is a very general error message that does not point to one specific root cause. Instead, it is used as a catch-all error response whenever a more appropriate HTTP status code is not available.

If a server encounters a problem while processing the client’s request, it may return the generic 500 Internal Server Error message.
If a server encounters a problem while processing the client’s request, it may return the generic 500 Internal Server Error message.

Different websites are powered by different webservers and as such, each server application may present and word the 500 error a bit differently. Below, you will see some of the more popular representations:

  • 500 Internal Server Error
  • Internal Server Error
  • HTTP 500 Internal Error
  • 500 Error
  • HTTP Error 500
  • HTTP 500 - Internal Server Error
  • Temporary Error (500)
  • 500. That’s an error.

It should be noted that while the error description may vary, the 500 HTTP status code will always remain the same as long as it is shown on the page. Here at AwardSpace, our free website hosting plan, premium shared hosting packages, and semi-dedicated servers all use the Apache webserver application to power your website. As such, should you experience error 500, you will see the text Internal Server Error in your web browser as was shown in the screenshot earlier in this article. Our Virtual Private Server hosting also comes with Apache preinstalled, however, if you decide to purchase a VPS instance you will be able to install a different web server application if you want.

We should also note that an Internal Server Error needn’t necessarily take down your whole website. Often times, the front-end of your website may experience the 500 error while the back-end may remain accessible. Another possibility is that a specific action or a sequence of events may trigger the error.

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To learn what causes the 500 Internal Server Error or how to fix the problem, continue reading or jump to the section that interests you:

What Causes the 500 Internal Server Error?

As we have noted earlier in the article, the 500 Internal Server Error is a server-side error message. In other words, the error is almost never caused by the client that is connecting to the server. As such, the 500 error would likely persist even if you try visiting the website on a different device equipped with a different web browser and even a different operating system.

Switching to a different device will not fix a 500 Internal Server Error since this problem is most often caused by the server itself.
Switching to a different device will not fix a 500 Internal Server Error since this problem is most often caused by the server itself.

The error itself can be generated by many different issues ranging from incorrect file permissions, faulty .htaccess configurations, scripts that are not correctly programmed, faulty plugins and themes, and others. We will explore the more popular causes of HTTP error 500 below.

Permissions

Having incorrect file and directory permissions is one of the more common problems that can lead to an internal server error. When the incorrect permission is set, the website might not be able to retrieve or execute all necessary files which, in turn, can cause unexpected website behavior.

PHP Memory Limit

Error 500 is likely to occur if the website you are visiting is hosted on a low-memory hosting solution such as a shared hosting account. If the account runs out of memory for whatever reason, the hosted sites there may start showing strange errors, including the 500 Internal Server Error.

PHP Timeout

Every website has a finite amount of system resources available to it. These resources must never be exceeded, otherwise, all processes on the hosting account may experience a catastrophic failure. To guard against this possibility, PHP has a timeout function that limits the amount of time a PHP script can run. Once the time limit is reached, the script process is killed, freeing up system resources in the process.

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However, this premature killing of the PHP script can have negative side effects on your site visitors like a 500 error. The good news here is that the error is generally triggered only when the visitor tries to perform a certain action or follow a specific set of steps that would necessitate the execution of the problematic PHP script. As long as the script is not triggered, the rest of the website should function as normal.

Bad Htaccess

Another very common issue that results in an Internal Server Error is a poorly created .htaccess file. The .htaccess file is used to give instructions to the server, so an error can occur even if only one character is misspelled or missing.

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How Can I Fix the 500 Internal Server Error?

If you are just browsing the web and stumble upon a site that returns a 500 error page, there isn’t much you can do on your end to fix the issue as internal server errors are usually triggered by a problem with the server itself. That said, you can still try some basic troubleshooting steps. They do not have a high probability of fixing the issue, but they are quick and easy to try:

  1. If you have another device at your disposal, try opening the problematic webpage there and check if you still see the 500 Internal Server Error. And if you have an alternative way of accessing the Internet, such as a phone’s cellular connection, you should try using it for the test instead of your regular Wi-Fi connection.
  2. If you do not have access to a secondary device, you can try using a web proxy service. A web proxy allows you to visit a website using a remote computer in another location. If you do not have a favorite web proxy service, you can try using ProxySite as it is free and easy to use. Make sure that you do not disclose any sensitive information while using the proxy website as the proxy provider will have access to everything that you type.
  3. If you would rather not use a proxy service, then you can clear your browser cache and cookies and try loading the problematic page one more time. Most web browsers would allow you to clear your cache and cookies using the keyboard shortcut Control (Command for Mac users) + Shift + Delete. Alternatively, you will find the option to clear your browsing data in the Advanced/Developer/Privacy section in your browser settings.
Most web browsers will take you straight to the option to delete cache and cookies if you use the Control+Shift+Delete keyboard combination.
Most web browsers will take you straight to the option to delete cache and cookies if you use the Control+Shift+Delete keyboard combination.

If the above steps do not resolve the issue, you should consider contacting the website owner on social media and making them aware of the error that you are experiencing.

But what about if your own website is suffering from a 500 Internal Server Error? In that case, you need to perform a whole different set of troubleshooting steps that are much more involved. As we noted earlier, there are many different reasons why your website might be showing error 500. Below, we will provide solutions to some of the more common problems that can cause an internal server error.

Permissions

One of the most common reasons why your website might show error 500 is when you have accidentally set incorrect permissions for the files and directories needed to carry out a certain task. Fortunately, this issue can easily be fixed using our File Manager or an FTP client.