The WordPress admin dashboard is the control center for your WordPress website. Everything you do on-site runs through this. The admin dashboard can be used to access and make design changes, add plugins, enable extra features, create written content, add/remove users and assign roles and change functionality. 

With all of these options available, there are a few different elements of a WordPress site that can occasionally cause admin access issues, including to the all important admin dashboard. Being unable to access it can be a nerve-wracking experience, particularly if you’re new to WordPress and need to make quick updates to your site. 

There are several steps you can take before you may need to escalate the matter to WordPress support. What these steps are will depend on why you’re locked out of your admin dashboard. You can find out more in the blog below.  

Why are you locked out?

Some of the most common reasons for being locked out of the WordPress admin dashboard are simple to resolve. These issues could arise through human error or via a WordPress auto-update. These could include:

  • A lost password (and password recovery doesn’t work).
  • Too many login attempts. You’ve entered an incorrect password too many times and your security features have disabled further logins.
  • “Error establishing database connection”. WordPress uses a database server called MySQL. If you see this message across your dashboard pages, there may be an error with the database and its connection.
  • Lost administrator access. You may not be locked out of your admin dashboard, but you will still be unable to use functions that require administrator access.
  • The ‘White Screen of Death’. A blank screen. This is usually caused by something that affects the storage and memory of your site. For example, a plug-in may be causing the issue.
  • “This has been disabled”. This happens when you’re using the wrong admin address for your dashboard. Usually, you’ll have a custom login URL to help prevent fraud or hacks that you’ll need to use.
  • Numerical errors. Common examples include ‘404 not found’, ‘401 not authorized’, and ‘403 forbidden’. This is usually to do with permissions and access authorization. 

Keep up to date with your team to make sure everyone has the file permissions they need. There are plenty of ways to keep in touch, for example, by free web conferencing or email. 

How to solve the problem

Most WordPress admin dashboard problems have a simple solution. Take the time to work methodically through the problem to reach a positive outcome. 

1. Lost password

The easiest way of getting around this problem is to reset your password using your login email. All you need to do is click ‘reset password’. 

However, this may not work if the email does not arrive in your inbox or you don’t have access to your original login email anymore. If this happens, you need to head over to ‘phpMyAdmin’. To find this, go to your hosting platform and navigate to where the site manager is. 

After you’ve done this, click on the WordPress database you need to manage. Locate your ‘wp_users’ table and click on ‘browse’ until you find your admin username. Under this username, locate the ‘user_pass’ key. Set the format of ‘user_pass’ to ‘md5’ and ’type in your new password, remembering to save it. 

2. Too many login attempts

To gain access to your site after too many login attempts, you’ll need to disable your security plugins. To do this, go into your ‘File Transfer Protocol’ (FTP) server and locate your site files. Next, find your content folder and then the file containing your plugins. 

Your content folder is most likely called ‘wp-content’. To disable the plugin, you need to rename it. Save these changes and exit. You should now be able to get into your admin dashboard again. 

Don’t forget to enable the plugin again once you’ve logged in if you want to continue using it. Security plugins are useful for protecting your site from interference and to protect customer data

3. “Error establishing database connection”

These types of errors are typically caused by a server issue or incorrect site credentials. For WordPress to connect to your website’s database, it needs to know your database username, password, name and server. If you’ve recently updated any of these, WordPress may be trying to access the database with incorrect credentials. 

To fix this, use your FTP client to locate your configuration file. It should be labeled ‘wp-config.php’. You can edit this file by right-clicking on it. This will take you to MySQL settings, where you will need to update your information and save it. 

This should give you access to your dashboard again. If it fails to help, contact your host to see if the database is down. It might be that the error is on their end, in which case you’ll need to wait for it to be repaired.

4. Lost administrator access

To restore admin privileges, you’ll need to add a new user and assign administrator access. You’ll be using ‘phpMyAdmin’ again for this. Select your site’s name from the database and head to the ‘wp_users’ table and click ‘insert’. You’ll then be asked to fill out the following form:

  • ID: A unique number not already assigned to another site user. You can choose this.
  • user_login: Your new username.
  • user_pass: New user password. (remember to set the format for this to ‘md5’)
  • user_nickname: A shortened name for the system to assign to you.
  • user_email: Account email address.
  • user_url: Site URL.
  • user_registered: The current date.
  • user_status: Enter ‘0’.
  • display_name: Your chosen display name for this site.

Next, go to the ‘wp_usermeta’ table and press ‘insert’. You’ll be asked to complete the following:

  • unmeta_id: leave blank.
  • user_id: Your new user ID from the previous form.
  • meta_key: Enter “wp_capabilities”.
  • meta_value: Type “a:1:{s:13:”administrator”;b:1;}”.

Click ‘go’ and then fill in this form. 

  • unmeta_id: Leave blank.
  • user_id: Your new ID number from the previous form.
  • meta_key: Type “wp_user_level”.
  • meta_value: Set to “10”.

You should now be able to access the site as an administrator. 

5. Blank screen

Several things could be causing this issue, but plugins are often the culprit. For example, if you are trying to make changes to your hosted contact center site for your business, you may find plugins designed to make it easier for customers to contact you are badly coded.

The first thing you should try here is to disable your site’s plugins in order to find the culprit. To do this, go into your FTP and locate your plugin file. The guide to where to find this is outlined under ‘too many login attempts’.

Instead of renaming each plugin individually, rename the whole folder so WordPress can’t recognize the contents. You should then be able to log in to your account without a problem. 

Remember to re-enable all necessary plugins later. 

6. “This Has Been Disabled”

This error message usually arises due to WordPress security efforts. There are two ways you can go about fixing this issue. 

Firstly, try disabling your security plugin as outlined previously. This may prevent your security features from accidentally preventing your genuine login. 

Secondly, check your WordPress login URL. WordPress sometimes changes the generic login URL to a custom URL for each client to prevent fraud or hacking. Check you aren’t using the generic URL when a custom one has been generated for you. 

7. Numerical errors

How you resolve this will depend on which error message you are getting. Errors you might see (and how to fix them) include:

    • 404 not found. This means you may have accidentally made an error when changing your site address. To correct this, you’ll need to connect your WordPress account to a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) client and head to the ‘your themes’ folder. You’ll find a functions.php folder, in which you can edit the code as needed. 
    • 403 forbidden. This error arises due to an incorrect security configuration, either on your server or with the file permissions. To correct this, contact your site host to check whether you have the correct file permissions to access the site. You can also try disabling plugins to see whether the issue is caused by a security plugin error. 
  • 401 not authorized. As with many WordPress errors, this one can be solved by disabling the security plugin. If you have password protection on your WordPress files, this could also be causing the error. Try using your host server to remove this protection. 

Final thoughts

Make sure you regularly backup your WordPress data using the world’s most popular and highly rated WordPress plugin – UpdraftPlus.

If you can’t access your admin dashboard even after following these processes, contact your IT department or WordPress help for more information and support. 

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