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How To Fix a WordPress Site Stuck in Maintenance Mode

This quick guide walks you through fixing a WordPress site that’s stuck in maintenance mode. This problem shows up as both the front-end and admin area of your site displaying nothing but “Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance. Check back in a minute.”

A WordPress site can get stuck in maintenance mode like this when a WordPress update process—usually a plugin update—fails midstream. It’s pretty alarming: you can’t see the front end of your site, and you can’t access the admin area either. So what do you do?

Fortunately, disabling maintenance mode in WordPress is pretty simple if you know what to do. Here’s a video guide:

And here’s a text walkthrough to removing maintenance mode from a WordPress site:

How to Stop Your WordPress Site From Being “Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance”

  1. Get access to the file system on your server. My preferred method of this is (S)FTP, but you can also potentially use cPanel or SSH.
  2. Find, in the root of your WordPress install, the .maintenance file.
  3. Delete the .maintenance file that you found.
  4. Reload the browser and you should see you site as normal
  5. (Optional) It can, rarely, be the case that something went wrong when you got stuck in maintenance mode. If it is, you either need to manually fix the problem (with a plugin or theme) of else restore a backup from before the problem happened.

One good thing to note: by default, WordPress stores the time a site went into maintenance mode in the .maintenance file, and will stop paying attention to it after ten minutes. That means that if everything is behaving you’ll only have the error message “Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance. Check back in a minute.” showing for ten minutes if this does happen to you via an unexpected server hiccup when running an update.

How to Prevent Your WordPress Site From Getting Stuck in Maintenance Mode in the First Place

Update your plugins one-by-one.

Okay, it’s good to know you can FTP in and fix the problem, or wait ten minutes for it to resolve by itself. But this is still a pretty scary problem, and could be really bad on a high-traffic site. How do you prevent a WordPress site from getting stuck in maintenance mode in the first place?

The simple answer is: Update your plugins one-by-one. I’ve only ever seen this problem when I go through the “Installed Plugins” page and try to update them all at once. The multiple concurrent Ajax processes this triggers cause some sort of problem at the server level, and that’s the source of the maintenance mode error.

So simply wait for one plugin update to go from the yellow “Updating…” dialogue to the green “Completed!” dialogue before moving onto updating your next plugin, and you should almost never run into maintenance mode problems with WordPress.

update plugins wordpress stuck in maintenance mode

Hopefully you now know everything you need to remove a WordPress site from maintenance mode, and to stop your sites from getting stuck this way in the first place. Thanks for reading!

Yay! 🎉 You made it to the end of the article!
David Hayes

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January 8, 2019 2:56 pm

Thank you for helping me when my update got stuck!!:) However that problem caused another problem. Ever since the plugin update incident I cannot see the status/progress of the update when I update plugin from the update page. When I go to the plugin page and hit update I can see when it is finished ok. Are you familiar with this problem?

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