How to Fix Your WordPress Blog When it Goes into Maintenance Mode

So you have a bunch of updates to do in your WordPress Blog Dashboard and you click and then… SUDDENLY you get the white screen with “Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance. Check back in minutes.” The first thing to do is not panic and then fix it. It’s easy to do and in the majority of cases you can do it yourself without having to contact anyone else.

Mac Computer showing WordPress in Maintenance Mode on a Desk

Why Does Your Site Display a Maintenance Mode Message

As you make behind the scenes changes with updates of plugins things can break, your site can go “wonky” and it may not appear as it should. In 99% of cases the maintenance screen disappears when the update has finished automatically¬†as long as you don’t move away from the update page in your WordPress dashboard.

maintenance mode screen WordPress default

However, occasionally something goes wrong and that Maintenance Mode Message remains as there is a problem behind the scenes.

The first thing you have to do is NOT PANIC. Although whilst this message is displayed you will have no traffic everyone that visits will get the message and know that it’s a temporary thing and will be able to check back.

The bots that crawl your site will also know. The way that message works is that although we see the message in our browser window the bots also see a HTTP status code that tells them that the site is Temporarily Unavailable and to return again soon.

This is a 503 HTTP Status Code. As you look into the more technical side of SEO these codes are important as it gives the bots that come from Search Engines more information about your site. 503 Status Codes are fine – you of course don’t want them to be there long as users can visit but can equally be sure that the bots aren’t going to be put off visiting your site again soon so you wont have any issues with crawl errors in your Search Console.

How to Fix the Maintenance Mode Message

It’s relatively easy to fix the Maintenance Mode Message as long as you have either

  • FTP access to your site’s server
  • cPanel access so you can see the files and folders on the server

If you don’t have these then it’s a call to your host and they will be able to fix the problem quickly.

If you do then you will need to follow the instructions for either below.

Getting out of WordPress Maintenance Mode with FTP access

  1. Login to your site via FTP
  2. Find the file .maintenance in your main folder (public.html or wordpress root folder)
  3. Delete the file

Fixing the Maintenance Mode Screen with cPanel Access

  1. Login to your site’s cPanel
  2. Find the section that contains File ManagercPanel to access the file for WordPress - fixing the maintenance screen problem
  3. Open this with your blog root folder
  4. Find .maintenancemaintenance file in cPanel file manager
  5. Delete

What to do Next

Once you have removed the .maintenance you will be able to access your WordPress dashboard again.

If the maintenance mode happened as you were trying to do multiple updates at once then carry out each update separately to avoid overloading the system.

If the maintenance mode happened when you made just 1 update then try the update again. If it happens again repeat the procedure above to remove maintenance mode and then wait. It is likely a conflict and something that the developers will have to fix.

You could notify them of the issue, search their forum, troubleshooting area or FAQ’s to find the answer to what is causing it and wait to try to update again in a few hours/days.

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The Blog Surgery

Cerys is the founder of Rainy Day Mum a top UK parenting blog. Prior to having children, she taught digital media and web development. Supporting other bloggers to develop, grow and expand their blogs through actionable tasks that aren't as terrifying as they seem to be!

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