WordPress Stuck in Maintenance Mode


Has your WordPress site ever gotten stuck in maintenance mode? Many people seem to run into this problem. They update a WordPress theme or plugin or maybe even WordPress itself, and in the middle of the update, something goes wrong, and their site gets stuck in maintenance mode with nothing appearing but the message, “Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance. Check back in a minute.”

Not only are visitors locked out, but even the Admin is locked out of the backend.

If this happens to you, try one of the following solutions.

1. The solution that seems to work for most is to delete a file called “.maintenance” from the root of your site. This is a temporary file that gets created in the update process, and more than likely, this is your culprit. (Notice the *dot* at the beginning of the file name.)

Again, this file rests on your server in your main WordPress install section. You CANNOT access it through the Admin area of your site. You will need to access the server through your webhost’s system (like Cpanel) or via FTP.

If you do not have access to files on your server, then contact your host and let them know the problem (and the solution, of course).

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2. Although removing the .maintenance file seems to work for most, it doesn’t work for all. If it doesn’t work for you, then try the following:

a Delete the .maintenance file as outlined in option #1 above.

b Delete the plugin or theme that you were attempting to update.

c. If your site does is not back at this point, then in your wp-content folder, you will find a folder called “upgrade.” Delete the files or folders you find there.

* Remember to clear the cache in your browser (or use a different browser) to make sure that you aren’t getting an old version of your site.

Once you have your site back, you may want to run your updates again to make sure they’ve taken.

Related: You may want to check out a WordPress maintenance plugin recently featured here on WPMU.

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Comments (4)

  1. This is one of the poorliest thought-out “features” in WordPress. The .maintenance file, if it exists, is executed as PHP in every page load. It requires weak security on the root of your webspace, and then enables anything that has the ability to write to the filesystem (such as the upload vulnerability in 3.2 and prior) to be misappropriated to write executable code to a non-traditionally executable file within your site. Sigh. You may as well be posting your FTP passwords on your homepage.

    That said, you can avoid the .maintenance issue by inserting the following PHP code within PHP tags in the .maintenance file, then removing read+write access (allow execute only) from your web-user account:
    $upgrading = 0;

    Finally, the “Ultimate Maintenance Mode” plugin does *not* address the .maintenance issue. In fact, the current build of WP does not enable any plugins, filters or hooks for addressing this issue, as the file is checked and then executed before ‘init’.

  2. I’ve actually had this happen before and was panicked all was corrupted or lost. A quick Google search later… removed the file and worked perfectly.

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