How to Fix “Briefly Unavailable for Scheduled Maintenance” in WordPress

If you aren’t familiar with it, encountering the “Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance. Check back in a minute” error could cause your heart rate to spike. 

This message is used every time a WordPress site is running updates, and it’s only intended to be displayed temporarily. Unfortunately, sometimes things go wrong during an update, leaving a site stuck in maintenance mode. Luckily, there’s an easy fix to get your site back up and running.

In this article, we’ll talk about what WordPress maintenance mode is and how it works. We’ll also explain why sites can get stuck in maintenance mode. Then, we’ll show you how to fix this issue and prevent it from happening again in the future. 

What is WordPress maintenance mode?

WordPress maintenance mode is not exactly an error. Any time you update WordPress core, your plugins, or your themes, there’s momentary downtime on your site while the updates take place.

Maintenance mode is only intended to be in effect while your site is being updated. Normally this just takes a few seconds. 

While the updates are taking place, your site will display a message that reads: “Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance. Check back in a minute.” This informs anyone who tries to access your site that it’s temporarily unavailable, but will be back very shortly.

What causes WordPress to get stuck in maintenance mode?

Whenever you carry out updates on your site, WordPress will automatically activate maintenance mode at the start of the process and then deactivate it when it’s ready. It does this by adding a .maintenance file to your site’s root directory, and then removing it after the updates have been completed.

Getting stuck in maintenance mode means that the .maintenance file was not removed after the update. When this happens, the message “Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance. Check back in a minute” will remain. As a result, visitors won’t be able to view or access your content until you’ve resolved the issue.

error message stating, "Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance. Check back in a minute."

Here are a few things that can cause your site to get stuck in maintenance mode:

  • The browser was closed in the middle of an update, interrupting the process.
  • The update failed to complete due to a server interruption or delay.
  • You tried to update multiple plugins at the same time, which may have caused conflicts or server timeouts. 
  • Bad coding in a new file or update may be preventing WordPress from removing the .maintenance file. 

Once an update begins, anything that interferes with its completion could prevent your site from exiting maintenance mode on its own. When this happens, you’ll have to remove your site from this mode manually.

How to fix the “briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance” issue in WordPress

Getting your site out of maintenance mode is fairly easy. All you need to do is find the .maintenance file and delete it from your site’s directory. 

To do this, you’ll need to access your site’s files via a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) client like FileZilla. If you’re using an FTP client for the first time, you’ll need to enter your credentials (including your username and server address) to connect to your site. You can find this information in your hosting account. 

Alternatively, you can use the cPanel or file manager in your hosting account to access your site’s back end. If you’re using the file manager, you may be able to search for the .maintenance file. Simply type in “maintenance” and it should show up. If not, you’ll need to navigate to the public folder and locate the file.

finding the .maintenance file in cpanel

Likewise, if you’re using FileZilla, you’ll need to open the public folder and look for your .maintenance file.

finding the .maintenance file with Filezilla

Once you’ve located the file, you can right-click on it and delete it.

deleting the .maintenance file

Now, the “Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance” message should be gone. If you’re unable to locate or delete this file manually, you may want to restore a backup of your website from before the issue occurred. If you use Jetpack Backup, the plugin enables you to easily restore an older version of your site.

Now you can reattempt your updates more carefully, and hopefully your site will complete them without a hitch. Next, we’ll look at some tips you can use to reduce the chances of getting stuck in maintenance mode in the future. 

How to avoid the maintenance mode error in the future

Now that you know how to fix the maintenance mode error in WordPress, it’s time to look at some good habits you can adopt to prevent it from happening again. Remember that when your site gets stuck in maintenance mode, your visitors are unable to reach you and view your content. 

Avoiding the problem altogether reduces the possibility of extended downtime for your site. Let’s look at some effective precautions. 

1. Be patient with updates

While it’s tempting to update all of your plugins at once, this increases the chance of a conflict or delay in communication with the server, which could interrupt the process. If this occurs, updates may not complete properly, and WordPress will fail to remove the .maintenance file from your site’s directory.

Therefore, we recommend that you update one plugin at a time. You’ll also want to wait for each update to complete before starting the next one. 

Additionally, you’ll want to make sure that all updates have finished before exiting your site. If you close the tab while an update is still in progress, it may halt it before it finishes, leaving your site stuck in maintenance mode.

2. Check for compatibility

When adding new themes or plugins to your WordPress website, it’s always a good idea to check for compatibility. Some tools may not have been updated in a while, so they might not be compatible with newer versions of WordPress.

You can find this information on the plugin’s page in WordPress. For instance, these are the details for Jetpack:

Jetpack listing in the WordPress plugin repository

If you’re running a version of WordPress outside of this range, it could result in unexpected behavior from the plugin. This includes failed updates and conflicts with other plugins. 

To check what version of WordPress you’re currently running, navigate to your dashboard and click on Updates:

checking the current WordPress version in the dashboard

To be extra safe, you can use a staging site to test new plugins and updates before they go live. This way, you can catch any issues before your live site goes into maintenance mode.

3. Consider changing your web host

If your updates frequently time out or you regularly encounter other server-related problems, you may want to consider changing or upgrading your hosting service. If you’re on a basic plan with limited resources, your provider may no longer be able to meet your site’s demands.

A poor hosting service may cause updates to take longer than necessary. It can also increase the chance of timeouts, which can interrupt or corrupt an update.

Therefore, you might want to switch to a more advanced hosting solution. This is not only important for handling large volumes of traffic, but it can also provide a stable connection while you make updates and other changes. 

How to change the WordPress maintenance mode template

While you never want your website to get stuck in maintenance mode, there may be times when you want to display the “Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance” message for a longer period. For instance, you might decide to revamp your website or make some significant changes to its design. 

If that’s the case, consider customizing the maintenance mode screen to make it more visually appealing. For instance, change the default message to something more fun and interesting. You could also add a contact form so that visitors can still reach out to you while you’re carrying out site maintenance.

The easiest way to customize your maintenance mode page is to use a plugin. Rather than coding a page from scratch, you can use a page-building tool like SeedProd.

Once you’ve downloaded and activated SeedProd on your site, click on the Create Your First Page button to get started.

getting started with SeedProd

On the Pages screen, you’ll see an option to set up a maintenance mode page. Go ahead and click on it.

selecting a maintenance mode template

Next, you’ll see a selection of templates for your maintenance mode page.

selecting a template for maintenance mode

Once you’ve chosen a template, you can start customizing it to your liking. All you have to do is select an element, like an image or text box, and use the settings on the left-hand side to make changes to it.

editing the maintenance page with the editor

For instance, you can change the text and images to make your maintenance mode page more entertaining and informative. You could even add links to redirect visitors to your social media pages. Remember to save your changes when you’re ready. 

How to turn on maintenance mode

Once you’ve created your custom maintenance mode page, you can go ahead and activate it. To do this, go back to the SeedProd page in your WordPress dashboard, and set Maintenance Mode to Active.

activating maintenance mode

Your new maintenance mode page will appear in place of the default “Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance” message. You can visit your site to see how it looks. If you’ve added links to your page, you might want to test them to make sure they work.

Once you’ve finished making updates to your site, you can return to SeedProd in your WordPress dashboard and set the switch for maintenance mode to Inactive. Visitors will now be able to access your content again. 

You might also consider customizing other common error pages, like the 404 page.

It’s important to note that SeedProd creates a PHP file to put your site into maintenance mode, rather than creating the .maintenance file in the root directory. As a result, if your site gets stuck in maintenance mode, you’ll need to deactivate the plugin to resolve the issue.

If you can’t access your dashboard, you’ll need to connect to your site via an FTP client to disable the plugin. Once you’re inside the root directory, go to wp-content plugins, and locate the folder for SeedProd. It’s called coming-soon.

removing the coming-soon template via FTP

Then, rename the folder to something else (e.g., coming-soon_disable). This will automatically disable the plugin, and you should be able to access your site.

Everyone likes an easy fix

Having your site unavailable for any period of time can be detrimental to your goals. Luckily, if your site gets stuck in maintenance mode, there’s a quick way to get it up and running again. All you have to do is locate the .maintenance file in your website’s root directory and delete it, or restore a backup of your WordPress site.

To avoid this problem in the future, you’ll want to make sure that you carry out plugin updates one at a time. You may need to upgrade to a more powerful hosting solution, as slow servers can cause update interruptions and timeouts.

Additionally, consider customizing your maintenance mode page. You can replace the default “Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance” message with an interesting graphic, and include contact information so that users can still reach out to you while you’re working on your site. 

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Simon Keating profile
Simon Keating

Simon has worked in marketing and product development for over 10 years, previously at HubSpot, Workday, and now Automattic (Jetpack). He has a varied education, with a degree in chemical engineering and a masters in computer science to his name. His passion is helping people and their businesses grow.

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