The Theme is Missing the Style.css Stylesheet: Fix this WordPress Error

The theme is the most important element in any WordPress website. It’s what makes the site noticed by visitors and the more your theme is optimized and organized, the better search engines will understand your content, and visitors will understand your posts better.

But when WordPress users, and especially, newbies want to install their new themes, they found that everything is missing and they get errors like:

“The theme is missing the style.css Stylesheet, theme install failed”

Indeed, it’s not a wrong error and the theme that you’ve just uploaded has a problem with that exact file that manages the full designs and the look of your blog. Now, follow the next steps to find and fix the issue.

1. You’ve uploaded multilevel theme folders

This is what causes the majority of the theme install problems.  It’s the case when you’ve downloaded your theme from big sellers, such as ThemeForest, and you forgot that the file that you have uploaded, includes the documentation, PSD, and other files that you don’t need.

These files should not be uploaded to your server, they are just sent to help you and show you the steps to install the theme, and so on.

So, you need to find the exact theme file and upload it only. The following screenshot is an example of the Sahifa WordPress theme from the ThemeForest marketplace. It comes with helpful documentation and other files, but, you only need the zip format file.

The Theme is Missing the Style.css Stylesheet

If you upload all the above files, WordPress will never see that you have a theme. What WordPress will see are PSD and documentation files and another zip file.

You need to know that WordPress installs your theme if it includes the CSS file that says, “this is a theme file”. So, logically, every theme should include that file and looks like the next example.

CSS file theme

As you can see, every theme should have the CSS file, but also, other files, such as the “functions.php” and so on. It only depends on the theme layout and features, but some files are required to work properly.

For now, you need to browse the theme folder that you’ve received and search for the file that contains the “style.css file, and that’s what you need to upload. Make sure that you upload a folder that contains files and not any sub-folders, even if it’s with the same name.

So, if you upload a folder called ”Genesis”, for example, and inside it, there is a sub-folder that contains the theme files, then, you will get the same error, simply because your theme includes a sub-folder. So, you should upload a folder with files only, exactly as the above theme files.

2. You’ve uploaded a plugin and not a theme

This is a rare case where people forget to rename correctly their local files and make confusion about names. So, they name a plugin as a theme and think they have a theme folder when it’s a plugin in reality. When you upload that folder, you will get that famous error saying that the stylesheet file is missing from your theme, and that’s normal.

As I said WordPress recognizes the theme from that file, and will never notice that it’s a plugin file. The same thing applies when you upload a theme to a “plugins directory”, it’s just the inverse. So, make sure that you have a theme, and not a plugin file before uploading it to your blog.

3. Upload the theme via FTP

When you feel that you can upload your theme using the dashboard and you get errors again, then use your cPanel file manager, it’s fast and easy to use. If you need more tutorials, you can read how to install a WordPress theme step by step.

If you only want to upload the theme manually via FTP, then, you have to use the Filezilla client software. It’s open-source software, and you can use it easily.

4. Scan your theme files

This is the last step to do when you can’t find a solution, and the same error appears every time you upload the file. If you’ve used a theme from unknown sources, then, they can modify its structure, or simply, the theme itself can be infected by malware.

So, read this post that will show you how to scan WordPress themes or plugins for malware. That will protect your site from installing infected themes in your directory. That’s why WordPress shows you that message, simply because the theme files are not correct.

I hope this helped, please add your comment below if you have the same problem, or if you’ve solved it using a different method, add it there.

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About Fathi Arfaoui

Fathi Arfaoui is a Physicist, Blogger and the founder of He shares Business, WordPress and Blogging tips to build a better blog and succeed online.

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