Understanding the HTTP 500 Server Error
I'm sure it's happened to you: you have tried to access a particular web page, only to discover that you are greeted with a "500 internal server error" message. That's quite bad, but things can get much worse if you see this error appearing when you try to access your own website. So, what are the main causes of this error, and what can you do to prevent them from happening?

Let's start by stating the obvious: the "500 internal server error" message is a... server error message, what else? There is something bad with the website server, and the server is unable to provide more details about its particular problem. The same error is sometimes shown as "the website cannot display this page".
Often times, a 500 error is a server-related software problem. However, it could be a problem on the visitor's end as well. The first thing to do is to reload the page. If there's something wrong with your browser, chances are this simple step will fix it. Alternatively, the server problem may have been fixed a few seconds ago, and by reloading the page, you may be able to see its fully functional version.

If this doesn't work, it's time to clear the browser cache. Maybe the cached version of the page you're trying to see had some problems, and by deleting it, you will force the browser to reload the new, corrected version of the page.

If this doesn't work either, you should delete the browser cookies. There is no need to delete all the cookies, because some of them may be useful, storing website login data, for example. You will only need to delete the cookies that are associated with the website that doesn't load properly.

If all fails and you need to access that website badly, it's always a good idea to contact the webmasters. Some of them will have their email addresses listed on the site, but since the server is down, you won't have access to them. Still, you should be able to message them using their social media accounts - Twitter, for example. Often times, the webmasters will be aware of the problem, but even if they know about it, your message will surely prompt them to fix the server problems faster.

Of course, if you aren't in a hurry, you can simply wait and come back a few days later, to see if the server is back online.

But what should you do if you are at the other end of the problem? What if YOUR server is throwing out those nasty 500 errors?

The most frequent cause is an incorrect file permission setting. Most files and folders on your server should have a 0755 permission, which means that users can read, write and execute, while groups have similar privileges, but cannot write.

Sometimes the problem is caused by a PHP timeout error. If you are a programmer, you should improve the error handling parts of your scripts. The alternative is to set different server timeout values.

Of course, the error causes will be different, depending on the type of content management system that you are using. If your site is built using WordPress, for example, you should check its support center and forum to learn more about 500 server errors that are specific to your CMS.

If your site is hosted on a shared account, your hosting provider may be able to offer some solutions as well. Actually, often times the problem may be your provider's server, so be sure to contact them!

"500 internal server error" messages can be scary, but they can be fixed. I'm not a Microsoft fan, but I'll have to admit that their Internet Information Services server is able to provide much more detailed error information, which can be used to fix the problems much faster.
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