Knowledge to Power Your Website

How to Fix the Error Establishing a Database Connection in WordPress

How to Fix the Error Establishing a Database Connection in WordPress thumbnail

Few things are as frustrating as finding that your website is down — particularly if you rely on it for business. The Error Establishing a Database Connection message represents a serious issue and prevents all access to your site, so fixing it is a top priority. However, if you’re not familiar with how WordPress works, it can be a confusing problem.

Don’t fret. Although this error is serious, it’s also highly fixable. With a few troubleshooting steps, you can have your site back online in no time. Here’s what we’ll cover:

Let’s get started!

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Understanding the Error Establishing a Database Connection in WordPress

Before we dig too much into this particular error message, let’s have a brief lesson on how WordPress sites work. Nearly all website information — including post data, plugin settings, login credentials, and more — is stored and organized in a MySQL database.

When a visitor comes to your site, WordPress uses PHP to query the database and pull the correct information, which is then displayed as the complete page.

If, for whatever reason, WordPress can’t access your site’s database or it isn’t working properly, the result is an Error Establishing a Database Connection message.

The Error Establishing a Database Connection message on a WordPress site.

This error prevents the entire page from loading. In fact, you won’t even be able to access the WordPress dashboard (your site’s back end).

If your site uses caching, visitors may still see stored copies of your pages. Therefore, if you catch the error early and resolve the problem before your site’s cache refreshes, you can avoid too many interruptions to your site and business.

Fortunately, as WordPress errors go, a database connection error is usually pretty simple to resolve. The most common cause, by far, is just a mismatch of login credentials for the database.

Common Causes of the Error Establishing a Database Connection

There are four typical causes of the database connection error:

  • Incorrect database login credentials. Possibly the most common cause of the Error Establishing a Database Connection is simply that WordPress has incorrect login credentials for your database. This could be either the database name, username, or password. Remember, these login details are different from the ones you use to access your site.
  • Database corruption. A WordPress MySQL database contains a lot of information. If any part is deleted or corrupted, the result can be the error in question. Corruption can result from manually tinkering with the database, but it can also just happen as a consequence of normal use. Although MySQL is quite robust, nothing is perfect, and errors do occur.
  • WordPress core file corruption. Similarly, corruption can occur in the core WordPress files that make up your site. Even though these files are outside the database, they may sometimes result in the same error.
  • Problems with the web server or hosting provider. If problems arise with your host or server (if you’re self-hosting) and WordPress can’t reach it to query the database, it will throw this error. These problems can include outages, data loss, and hardware failures.

As we said, incorrect credentials are the most common cause of the error, but any of these could be the culprit. For that reason, fixing the error can involve some troubleshooting.

How to Fix the Error Establishing a Database Connection in WordPress (In 4 Steps)

Although this is a serious error, it’s fortunately fairly easy to resolve. Below, you’ll find step-by-step instructions for troubleshooting and fixing the problem. Note that you should try each step in order, only moving to the next if one doesn’t work.

Step 1: Check Your WordPress Database Credentials

Since this is the most likely cause of the error, it should also be the first step in your troubleshooting. The first thing you’ll need to do is locate the credentials WordPress is currently using to access your database.

This information is stored in your site’s wp-config.php file. You can use a Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) client to access it.

Alternatively, if your site is hosted with DreamHost, you can access the file system from the DreamHost Control Panel. To do so, sign in to your control panel and navigate to Domains > Websites. Hover the mouse over the domain you’d like to fix, then click ‘manage’ to see the folder icon. Then click on the file folder symbol next to the site that’s experiencing the error.

Inside the file browser, select the folder named after your website, then open wp-config.php. Here, look for three pieces of information — the database name, username, and password. They should be near the top of the file.

The database login credentials in the wp-config.php file.

With this information in hand, head to your DreamHost Panel and navigate to More > MySQL Databases. Look for the hostname that corresponds to your website’s name. It will be formatted as mysql.yoursitename.com, with “yoursitename” being the name of your website.

If the hostname isn’t on this page, skip down to Step 2 and come back here when you’re done adding it.

In the section called Database(s) on this server, make sure the database name matches the one you pulled from wp-config.php earlier. If it does, this isn’t the problem, and you can move on to the next step.

If it doesn’t match, go back to wp-config.php and update it with the correct database name.

Next, you can find the usernames that have access to each database beside their names on the MySQL Databases page.

The usernames that have access to the database listed in the DreamHost Control Panel.

To view the password, click on the username. On the page that opens, scroll down to the Current Password field and click on Show.

The password options for a database user in the DreamHost Control Panel.

If the username or password doesn’t match your wp-config.php file, update it with the correct details. Alternatively, if the username matches but the password doesn’t, you could update the database password on the User Details screen.

Step 2: Check Your Database Host Information

If you’ve checked the database login credentials and fixed any errors, but you’re still getting the Error Establishing a Database Connection message, the next thing you should check is your database host information.

The hostname for your database can be found in wp-config.php, right alongside the database name and login credentials.

The MySQL database hostname in the wp-config.php file.

Note this information, then head back to your DreamHost Panel and navigate to More > MySQL Databases. This time, you’re looking to make sure the hostname in your wp-config.php file is listed on this page. If it’s not, you’ll need to add it.

To add a hostname, simply click on the Add New Hostname button. On the next page, enter the hostname you want to use and select the correct website domain from the dropdown.

When you’re finished, click on Create this MySQL hostname now! Note that it can take a few hours for this new hostname to propagate through the DNS, so feel free to take a break here. When some time has passed, come back and check if your site is working. If you’re still getting the database error message, proceed to the next step.

Step 3: Repair Your WordPress Database

If you’re still receiving the error message, you can try repairing the database to fix possible corruption. We recommend using the built-in WordPress database repair tool for this.

To access it, open up your wp-config.php file and add the following code at the end:

define('WP_ALLOW_REPAIR', true);

Next, open a new browser tab and navigate to https://yoursitename.com/wp-admin/maint/repair.php, replacing “yoursitename” with your website’s actual domain. This will bring up the database repair tool.

The WordPress database repair tool.

Click on Repair Database and let it do its thing. You can choose Repair and Optimize Database if you like, but it takes considerably longer. Either way, when the tool is finished, load your website again and check for the error. If it’s gone, then you’ll know a corrupted database was the cause.

However, if you’re still seeing the error message, head to the next step. Before you do, make sure to head back into wp-config.php and delete the code you added to turn on the tool. If you leave it there, someone with ill intentions could gain access to your site easily.

Step 4: Check if Your Database Server Is Down

If all the above steps have failed, one final possibility is that your database server has gone down. At this point, it’s a good idea to verify with your hosting provider that everything is working correctly.

There are a number of reasons why your database host or server might be experiencing issues:

  • Too many simultaneous connections to the database. Some providers have limits on how many connections a server can have at one time.
  • Problems with another site on your shared hosting server. If you’re on a shared hosting plan, you’re splitting resources with other sites. If one of them has problems, it can spill over to your site. This is one of the reasons dedicated or managed WordPress hosting plans can be beneficial.
  • Hardware troubles. Hardware eventually fails, and it’s possible that the server your database is stored on has done just that. Ideally, your host will have redundancies in place so that if one server goes down, there’s another copy of your data available, but this isn’t always the case — especially if you’re hosting your own database on a home or office server.

Your best bet here is to reach out to your web host and inquire about outages or other known issues. If there are none, you can report your problem and ask the support staff to look into it for you.

At DreamHost, you can always find your support options by clicking on the Support button in the top right corner of your control panel:

Support options in the DreamHost Control Panel.

DreamHost offers 24/7 support, so you can get help any time you need it.

Additional Tips and Solutions That Have Worked for Other Users

If you’ve tried all of the above tips and you’re still having trouble with the Error Establishing a Database Connection, there are a couple of other options that have worked for some users. You can try these either before or after going through the troubleshooting steps above:

  • Update your WordPress site URL. If you’ve recently moved your WordPress installation for any reason (such as moving to a new domain name or migrating to HTTPS), you may need to update your site URL in the database. You can find full instructions for doing so in our knowledge base.
  • Reboot your web server. This one might seem a little basic, but sometimes the simplest solutions are the most effective. If you host your database on your own server, try turning it off and back on. Computers are complex, and a simple reboot can fix all manner of odd problems you may be experiencing.
  • Ask for help. If you’re not comfortable doing your own troubleshooting, or you’ve tried everything and still can’t get rid of the Error Establishing a Database Connection message, there’s no shame in reaching out for help. You can get in touch with DreamHost support 24/7 by clicking the Support button in your DreamHost panel. You can also try searching on help forums such as Stack Exchange or Quora. Your question may have already been answered on one of these sites. If not, you can always ask.

At this point, you’ve hopefully resolved the issue and gotten your site back up and running.

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Further Reading

Want to learn more about fixing common WordPress errors? We’ve got you covered!

Ready to Fix a Database Connection Issue?

If you’ve gone to check on your website and found yourself greeted by the Error Establishing a Database Connection message, you’re not alone. It’s a common error with relatively simple fixes, so getting your site up and running again shouldn’t be too difficult.

You should follow these steps to troubleshoot a database connection error:

  1. Check your WordPress database credentials.
  2. Check your database host information.
  3. Repair your WordPress database.
  4. Check if your database server is down.

If you’d rather not have to deal with these types of problems in the future, consider upgrading to DreamPress, our managed WordPress hosting service. Then you can leave the troubleshooting to us!

Megan Hendrickson

About the Author:

A long-time WordPress user, Megan has wielded a red pen (and keyboard) at DreamHost since 2017. Her passion: helping others turn great ideas into thriving websites. Her arsenal includes insightful guides, in-depth tutorials, and the occasional pun.