In WordPress, maintenance mode is activated whenever an update is applied. If visitors try to access a site during maintenance, a popup will usually appear saying that you are currently working on it. Updating a site is normal for just about any site, but issues arise when the site gets stuck in maintenance mode even after the update is complete.
Whenever a site is updated, a file called .maintenance is created in WordPress’s root folder to put the site into maintenance mode and enable the aforementioned popup messages. When the update is complete, WordPress deletes the .maintenance file and the site should run as normal.
But sometimes the site gets stuck in maintenance mode, an aggravating situation for many WordPress users. This issue has a number of different causes and solutions, but can also be avoided entirely. We’ve compiled all of this information in the article below.
What to do when WordPress is stuck in maintenance mode
If your website is stuck in maintenance mode, there are few different methods you can try to get your site running back to normal. The basic error can be fixed by manually deleting the .maintenance file from the root folder. Assuming an update goes well, the .maintenance file should be deleted automatically, but the file might still be there if something went wrong. WordPress can also get stuck in maintenance mode even if you can’t find the .maintenance file. Here are solutions for both situations.
If the .maintenance files are located in the root folder
You can manually remove the .maintenance file to get your site out of maintenance mode by using an FTP client app like FileZilla.
- Download an FTP client app or use the file manager that your hosting provider gave you.
- Connect to the FTP server and go to the WordPress root folder (usually under the name public_html – if you see the wp_admin folder, you’ve arrived at the root folder
- Look for the .maintenance file, then delete it using the FTP app
- Clear the browser's cache and reboot your site
You can also use the hosting site’s own file manager.
- Access the host’s control panel
- Click on the file manager option
- Locate the .maintenance file, then delete it
Another option is to use an SSH connection to release your site from maintenance mode.
- Set up an SSH connection
- Navigate to the WordPress root folder
- Delete the .maintenance file by typing in “rm .maintenance”
- The site should then be unlocked
If the theme or plugin didn’t update correctly
Sometimes the theme or plugin that you use may cause WordPress to get stuck in maintenance mode during an update. You can see if this is the issue by renaming your themes and plugins’ folders.
- Connect to your FTP server and locate the root folder
- Go to the wp-content folder and find the plugins sub-folder
- Rename the folder to “plugins-old”
- Refresh the website to see if it solved the issue, if not repeat the same steps for the themes sub-folder
For faulty plugins or themes
Now that you know that it’s either a plugin or theme problem, you can apply a similar solution. First connect to the FTP server and revert the changes you made by renaming each sub-folder back to “plugins” and “themes.” Navigate to the WordPress admin page, find Appearance, then choose Plugins or Themes depending on the issue at hand.
Activate each plugin one at a time and refresh the page to locate the issue. Once you’ve found which plugin is causing the site to be stuck in maintenance mode, then delete it. You can reinstall it later to see if the problem is fixed.
First, deactivate your current theme and use another one. Your site may look like an unmitigated disaster, but it shows that the site is working. Try reactivating your original theme or reinstall its latest version.
If this fails, you can try contacting the developer of the plugin or theme about the issue. Keep in mind that plugins are regularly updated, so look out for this detail when downloading them.
Preventing a site from getting stuck in maintenance mode
Although getting a site out of maintenance mode is a relatively simple process, it can take some time. You might not want your site to be unavailable for such a prolonged period.
However, there are several precautions you can take, and applying these methods will drastically reduce the chance of getting stuck on maintenance mode.
Make sure your plugins and themes are compatible
If your plugins and themes are incompatible with the WordPress version you are using, it will cause the site to get stuck on maintenance mode whenever an update is applied.
Check the compatibility of each plugin you use, and regularly check the requirements for each theme and plugin that you plan on using in the future.
Don’t update multiple plugins at once
Updating multiple plugins at the same time can cause confusion when a site gets stuck in maintenance mode, as it becomes much more difficult to locate which plugin is causing the error.
Just to be careful, you should try updating each plugin individually and testing your site after each update to make sure that the plugin is compatible.
By following these solutions and precautionary steps, you can avoid all the frustration that comes from losing access to your site from getting stuck on maintenance mode.
Consider working with an unlimited WordPress maintenance and support team
If you don't want to play Russian Roulette with your WordPress website every time you want to run a bulk update, then it may be worth hiring an unlimited WordPress team. Many of these top providers provide a fixed monthly plan to maintain your WordPress blog and website.
This can be a great economical option when you have multiple websites, or a lot of plugins that require updating. In addition, to general maintenance, you can get additional value out of an Unlimited WordPress team by delegating other common tasks to them. This saves loads of time in development hours. It also enables you to focus on other important aspects of managing your site that only you can do.