As the Question title suggests, I want to setup a custom 500 error. In fact, I want to use a .php file for the error, and ideally send a 503 response (SE Reasons).

The problem is that the only way I know to generate a 500 response is via .htaccess, and it shows the server's built-in/default 500 error page. (I am assuming this, since the error occurs in .htaccess; it isn't processed and can't show the custom one.)

So my questions are: 1) Is it actually possible to generate a custom 500 page that will show up for users? 2) How can I test the response/error using non-.htaccess methods?

Yes, I have searched here on Server Fault. Yes, I tried to Google it as well. No, I haven't found anything on how to do a simple test. (Every time I found something causing a 500 response, it seemed to require me loading up lord-knows-what systems.)

Any help would be appreciated.

1 Answer 1


Within your virtual host conf (or httpd.conf/apache2.conf) you can use the ErrorDocument directive, as follows:

ErrorDocument 500 /errordocs/500error.php

It's inadvisable to do too much in your 500 error page, as you could hit the same error condition that caused the 500 response in the first place!

  • Thanks for the response Steve. I admit - I've been thinking much the same about problems repeating, such as if PHP goes down, then using PHP in the error file is a liability. So your suggestion would work fine for static - with little/no risk. The reason for wanting to use PHP in the error doc is to send a different response - a 503 is much more preferable than a 500 as far as Google goes.
    – Clueless
    Mar 16, 2011 at 12:15
  • Further - does anyone have any ideas on how to "test" the 500 error? I've looked around the Net, and not seen a single method for "testing" such an error. :(
    – Clueless
    Mar 16, 2011 at 12:16
  • 1
    @Clueless if PHP blows up to the point where it can't handle running a simple "custom error page" script you have bigger problems than your error page -- That Should Never Happen kind of problems. :-)
    – voretaq7
    Mar 16, 2011 at 15:40
  • 1
    @Steve Mayne True, but there's no good reason I can think of for your 500 error page to read from a database (and if there's a good reason I didn't think of you can certainly check for that kind of failure and degrade gracefully -- you can also do so in your original script, obviating the need for the error page in the first place ;)
    – voretaq7
    Mar 16, 2011 at 17:02
  • 1
    Update : Okay - the host has the server set so the CHMod of 666 results in an Error - and I've managed to test the 500 response. Indeed - my little php 500 Error page works fine (now giving a 503 response instead). Still leaves the issue of generally testing such a response - really am surprised no simple method exists (Will re-attempt the various Error setting computations, and see if I can get it to flag that way now I know it works).
    – Clueless
    Mar 19, 2011 at 19:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.