Stuck in maintenance mode

It happens to me, too!  Don’t fear Maintenance Mode Woes!

Maintenance Mode is a functionality built into the WordPress core feature to suspend access and various functions during updates and installations. When one presses update, some backend processes stop for a short period of time (usually seconds).  On the front end, there’s a default notice that the website is briefly unavailable due to scheduled maintenance.

Automatically, WordPress core generates a file called .maintenance to alert front end users and site other possible website admins that updates  are happening. Normally, once the update process is complete, that file is automatically deleted, and the site goes back to normal.

However, sometimes something goes slightly awry and it triggers WordPress to think that it is still needed or that the deletion process is interrupted.  The .maintenance file continues to run even after the update is completed, and  the message “Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance” continues to display.

It’s stuck!

Don’t panic.  It’s fixable… despite the frustration.

Sometimes this will clear on its own if you wait a couple minutes.  Wait 2-3 minutes, clear your browser cache and refresh/reload the page.  Sometimes clicking a back button will work, too – just click on Dashboard in an effort to reload that page.  If it still appears and your site front end is also in Maintenance Mode… proceed to the next step.


Fix via sFTP client such as Cyberduck or FileZilla

  1. Login and navigate to the root (the same place as the wp-config.php file)

If you cannot find the file, it may be hidden. Check option in the FTP client to enable viewing hidden files (this is different for each client; consult your specific FTP client help files for exact instructions)

  1. Locate the file and delete.
  2. Refresh the FTP client
  3. Clear your browser cache and test your site


Fix via File Manager

  1. Login to your host and go to File Manager.
  2. You must enable viewing invisible (system files) in your settings – files like .htaccess
  3. In the root directory of the site – the same place you see wp-config.php, you should see a file called .maintenance      
  4. DELETE that file
  5. Return to your WordPress dashboard
  6. Clear your browser cache and refresh.

Once you do one of the two above methods, your site should be back up and running.

Can this issue be prevented from recurring?

We see this happening with more frequency when sites are allowed to accrue a lot of updates.  If you manage your WordPress site, this is not a suggestion that you should rush to press update.  For those clients who take care of their own maintenance, we always suggest that you do your due diligence to:

  1. Research theme/plugin stability and reports of conflicts
  2. Examine the developer’s Changelog to understand what is included in the update and that helps evaluate criticality (a security patch has high priority)
  3. Prepare website backups – full site and preferably a database backup, too.