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

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

Is your website stuck in maintenance mode? During updates, WordPress displays a temporary notice on your site that reads: “Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance. Check back in a minute”. However, this message may sometimes remain visible after a few minutes, thus preventing visitors from accessing your site.

Thankfully, fixing this error doesn’t require technical expertise. The maintenance mode issue is one of the easiest WordPress problems to resolve — and prevent.

In this article, we’ll look at the main causes of the WordPress maintenance mode error. We’ll also show you a quick fix for this issue and share some tips to help you avoid the same problem in the future. Let’s get started!

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What the Maintenance Mode Error Is (And What Causes It)

When updating core software, themes, or plugins, WordPress puts your site in maintenance mode. It does this by creating a temporary .maintenance file in the root folder of your site.

Anyone who visits your site during the update process will see the following message:

The “Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance” message in WordPress

Typically this notice is only up for a few seconds. Once the updates are done, WordPress automatically deletes the .maintenance file, and the message disappears from your site.

However, an error may prevent your site from completing updates. When this happens, the maintenance notice stays up on your site, making it inaccessible.

There are several reasons your site might be stuck in maintenance mode:

  • You may have closed the browser window in the middle of an update.
  • You may have tried updating a lot of plugins at the same time.
  • The update script may have timed out due to a slow hosting server response or a low memory problem.

To resolve this issue, you may need to increase your site’s PHP memory limit. However, we’ll also be looking at two other simple fixes for this maintenance mode error.

How to Fix the “Briefly Unavailable For Scheduled Maintenance” Error in WordPress

Fortunately, there’s a very quick way to fix the WordPress maintenance error in WordPress. All you have to do is delete the .maintenance file from your site’s root directory.

First, you’ll need to connect to your site using a Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) client such as FileZilla. Alternatively, you can access your site by logging in to your web hosting account and using the file manager.

If you have a DreamHost account, you can navigate to WordPress > Managed WordPress in the sidebar, find your domain, and select Manage.

Accessing the file manager in your DreamHost account

On the next page, click on the Manage Files button in the Details section. In the file manager, open the folder with your domain name.

In your site’s root directory, open the public_html folder, locate the .maintenance file, and delete it.

Deleting the .maintenance file in your site’s directory


If you’re using an SFTP client and can’t see the file in the directory, it may be hidden. To find it, go to the menu and click on Server > Force showing hidden files.

Showing hidden files in FileZilla

Your site should now be out of maintenance mode. If you’re still getting the error message, you may need to update the wp-activate.php file.

To do this, go back to your site’s root directory and find the wp-activate.php file.

Editing the wp-activate.php file in your site’s directory

If you’re connected to your site via your hosting account, you may be able to open and edit the file within the file manager. Alternatively, you can download it to your computer.

Open the wp-activate.php file and locate the following line of code:

define ('WP_INSTALLING', true)

Next, change the value “true” to “false” so that the code looks like this:

define ('WP_INSTALLING', false)

Save your changes and close the file. If you’ve been using the file manager in your hosting account, you don’t need to do anything else. If you’ve edited the wp-activate.php file on your computer, you’ll need to upload it to your site’s root directory.

Once you’ve completed the above steps, return to your site and refresh it. You should now be out of maintenance mode.

How to Prevent the Maintenance Mode Error

When your site gets stuck in maintenance mode, people are unable to view your content. Thus, if you fail to notice the problem straightaway, you may lose potential conversions.

Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to prevent this error in the future:

    • You can update your plugins and themes one at a time. While updating plugins in bulk saves you a bit of time, it can lead to conflicts and errors during the process.
    • You can upgrade your hosting plan. It’s a good idea to choose a managed WordPress hosting plan for enhanced site performance and fewer technical issues.
    • You can check the compatibility of your themes and plugins with your current version of WordPress. For this, you may want to set up a staging site so you can test new themes and plugins on an offline platform before making your changes live.

Moreover, you may want to avoid closing your browser until all updates are complete.

Updating plugins in WordPress

If you exit the browser before then, WordPress won’t be able to update and remove the .maintenance file. You’ll know that updates are ready once you see the “All updates have been completed” status, as shown in the screenshot above.

We also recommend that you check your site when running updates. This way, if the maintenance error does crop up again, you’ll be able to spot it and get it fixed immediately.

How to Customize the Maintenance Mode Notice

You can also avoid the default WordPress maintenance notice by using a plugin. This will enable you to manually put your site in maintenance mode before running any updates. You’ll also be able to customize the message.

One popular tool you can use is the SeedProd plugin. After installing and activating the plugin, navigate to SeedProd > Pages in your admin dashboard. Then click on Set up a Maintenance Mode Page.

Creating a maintenance mode page using the SeedProd plugin

Next, you can choose a template and customize it to your liking. Note that some templates and features are only available in the premium version of the plugin.

Selecting a template for the maintenance mode page in SeedProd

Every time you need to run updates, you can head to SeedProd > Pages and simply activate your maintenance mode page. This will replace the default WordPress maintenance message.

Another option you may want to consider is the Maintenance plugin. Install and activate the plugin, then click on Maintenance in your dashboard and edit the text you want to be displayed on your maintenance page.

Customizing your maintenance mode notice using the Maintenance plugin

You can also choose a premium pre-built theme. The plugin also lets you select pages and posts that you want to exclude from maintenance mode. Once you’re done, click on the blue Save Changes button.

Similarly, the WP Maintenance Mode plugin lets you create your own maintenance page. After activating the plugin, navigate to Settings in your dashboard and select WP Maintenance Mode.

To customize the content of your page, click on the Design tab.

Editing your maintenance mode text in the WP Maintenance Mode plugin

When you’re done, click on Save settings at the bottom of the page. To activate maintenance mode, go to the General tab and select the Activated option.

Activating the maintenance page using the WP Maintenance Mode plugin

You can also use these maintenance mode plugins for other purposes. For example, you can activate them while making some major changes to your content or working on a particular page or section on your website.

WordPress Error Resources

Now that you know how to tackle the “Briefly Unavailable for Scheduled Maintenance” message, you can learn how to solve and prevent other issues on your site. We’ve put together several tutorials to help you troubleshoot the most common WordPress errors:

Are you looking for more information about running a WordPress site? Check out our WordPress Tutorials, a collection of guides designed to help you navigate the WordPress dashboard like an expert.

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Fix the Briefly Unavailable For Scheduled Maintenance Error

WordPress puts up a notice on your site during updates to let visitors know it’s currently under maintenance. This message is only visible for a few seconds, but an error during the updating process may result in your site getting stuck in WordPress maintenance mode.

To fix the maintenance mode error, you simply need to delete the .maintenance file in your site’s root directory. You can also prevent this problem from cropping up again by running updates one at a time, ensuring that your plugins are compatible with the latest WordPress version, or upgrading to a better hosting plan.

Are you looking for an advanced hosting solution for your WordPress site? Our DreamPress plans offer high-performance WordPress hosting with 24/7 expert support. This means that we take care of all your technical issues, so you can focus on growing your business.

Photo of Angelica Trujillo Toro
About the Author:

Businesses, start your engines! Angelica Trujillo Toro is passionate about helping online businesses launch and grow smoothly. Constantly on the lookout for website tips and tricks, she joined the DreamHost team in 2019 and is a driving force behind our international marketing efforts.