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

Updated on Nov 17, 2022

Every WordPress user who has kept up with regular updates has most likely seen the message "Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance; please return in a minute" at least once. When you update plugins, themes, or the WordPress core to the latest version, your site enters maintenance mode. You have not been hacked if you see the message "Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance check back in a minute". But first, let's dig a little deeper into what this message actually means.

This post includes:

What Happens During WordPress Maintenance Mode?

During maintenance mode, WordPress downloads, extracts, and installs any necessary update files to your server. There are basically two types of maintenance modes:

  • The first one, as described above, is done automatically by WordPress when themes, plugins, or the WordPress core need to be updated.
  • The second type of WordPress maintenance mode occurs when you want to manually update your own WordPress site and don’t want your site visitors to be bothered by the updates. This can be done by installing a WordPress maintenance mode plugin.

In the latter case of WordPress maintenance mode, where you manually force it, you can also use a code snippet (rather than plugins) to force it: You must specifically add the following code to your functions.php file:

// Activate WordPress Maintenance Mode
function wp_maintenance_mode(){
if(!current_user_can('edit_themes') || !is_user_logged_in()){
wp_die('<h1 style="color:red">Website under Maintenance</h1><br />We are performing scheduled maintenance.We will be back on-line shortly!');
}
}
add_action('get_header', 'wp_maintenance_mode');

However, keep in mind that the error message "briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance, please check back in a minute" usually occurs during the previous situation of WordPress maintenance mode: when WordPress is automatically updating without your intervention. Here's what happens when WordPress updates itself: During the maintenance process, a new file called .maintenance is created in the root directory. This means that the page is not technically an error, but rather a notification of what is currently happening with your WordPress website.

Assuming the update went smoothly, the script will finish, and WordPress will automatically remove the .maintenance file, removing the message and restoring access to your regularly scheduled live site. The issues arise when the "briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance, please check back in a minute" message remains visible even after the update is ostensibly completed. Let's look at what might have gone wrong while you were in WordPress maintenance mode and how to fix it.

Persistent Messaging After a Completed Update

The “briefly unavailable for a scheduled maintenance check back in a minute” message occurs most often when the WordPress core is being updated. It can also be caused by:

A server’s slow response time;

The interruption (or timeout) of an update script or a low memory issue.

This message may also appear if the maintenance file believes there are some updates that need to be completed. This frequently occurs when users quickly click "update now" on plugins. "WordPress by default staggers updates in order," Brian Jackson explains, "but if there is even a moment of a delay in the connection, this could result in a sudden conflict, triggering the stuck maintenance mode." The issue in the scenario described above is that the .maintenance file was not erased, which is why the message appears even after maintenance mode is technically completed and over.

Another possible explanation for the "briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance, please return in a minute" error message? It's possible that you're using a WordPress maintenance mode plugin. If it's running, this error message will persist even if you've fixed all other possible errors.

How to Get Out of WordPress Maintenance Mode

The best and simplest way to exit maintenance mode in WordPress is to delete the .maintenance file. You'll have to manually remove it from the installation's root directory, so don't try unless you're familiar with the process and have a backup plan in place in case you make a mistake. There are two methods for getting to the root directory.

Via File Transfer Protocol (FTP)

To connect to the root directory via FTP, you'll need to use a software program such as FileZilla.

Via cPanel File Manager

To access the root directory via cPanel, navigate to File Manager. After gaining access, navigate to the site's root and/or the public HTML folder and look for the wp-config.php file. Find and remove the .maintenance file. After deleting the file, you can refresh your website and exit WordPress maintenance mode. If you can't find a maintenance file, look in the root directory for a file called wp-activate.php. Once there, locate the WP_INSTALLING parameter and change it from true to false (it should look like this: define(«WP_INSTALLING», false);). Save the file and restart your browser to see your changes.

Taking Maintenance Mode Into Your Own Hands With Plugins

While we're on the subject of WordPress maintenance mode, it might be useful to go over the various plugins available for enabling maintenance mode on WordPress.

1. ManageWP

Connecting your websites to ManageWP will provide you with access to an easy-to-implement maintenance wall for your website. It is as simple as clicking a button to enter maintenance mode. You also have two templates available: Website Under Maintenance and Coming Soon, so your visitors will get the right message regardless of why you need to go into maintenance mode.

2. Maintenance

Offering both a premium and free version, Maintenance (super creative name, right?) is one of the best-selling WordPress maintenance mode plugins available. Some of their top features included with the free plugin are:

  • The ability to create your own maintenance mode design (with a full-screen background if you choose)
  • Ability to switch the http 503 code on and off with ease
  • Excluding pages from maintenance mode
  • Logins for validated users

The premium version also includes countdown timers and opt-in forms (common in similar coming-soon page plugins), social media links, and more background content options. The premium plugin can currently be purchased for a one-time fee of $59 (usually $49/year).

3. WP Maintenance Mode

WP Maintenance Mode offers just one plugin option, and it’s completely free (no premium version available). Some of the most interesting aspects of this feature-rich plugin include the following:

  • An easy-to-use customizer for changing text, colors, and backgrounds.
  • Mobile responsive design and other SEO options.
  • Email opt-in forms that can export to .csv.
  • Excluding certain URLs from maintenance mode.
  • WordPress Multisite support.

4. Coming Soon & Maintenance Mode

Whether using the paid or free version, many refer to the Coming Soon, and Maintenance Mode plugin (now under the SeedProd umbrella) is known as the #1 maintenance mode plugin currently on the market. The most useful aspect of this plugin is that it’s a 2-in-1, allowing you to create either a coming soon or maintenance mode page without having to install additional plugins (which could potentially slow down your website). The Coming Soon & Maintenance Mode plugin is easily customizable in terms of structure and design and works well with any WordPress theme. This plugin, like the previously mentioned WP Maintenance Mode plugin, can be used on WordPress Multisite. Though the free version provides extensive functionality, the premium version includes a few extra bells and whistles, such as:

  • Shortcode support.
  • Secret links for clients to view unfinished/unpublished WordPress websites.
  • Opt-in forms and a referral system.
  • Google Analytics.

The premium version of this plugin starts at $29 for a personal license for an annual plan.

Getting Out of WordPress Maintenance Mode: What’s Next?

A few final thoughts on getting out of WordPress maintenance mode:

Check if your updates have been applied correctly. Re-apply them to make sure and refresh your website to ensure that the maintenance mode error message is no longer there.

Use a staging site to try out any updates you want to make instead of trying them out directly on your WordPress website, just to avoid problems such as those listed here. Staging sites is a feature offered by your web host, so make sure to find one that offers to stage if avoiding mistakes because of life changes is important to you!

Keep your blog secure by working with a tool like BlogVault

Wrapping Up

There's no need to panic the next time your website displays the message "Briefly unavailable for a scheduled maintenance check back in a minute." If the message does not disappear after the updates are completed, you have the tools to troubleshoot it. If problems persist, simply remove the .maintenance file and troubleshoot with the wp-activate.php file.

If you don't want to accidentally break your website's backend with any of these fixes, we'll help you get out of WordPress maintenance mode! Do you want to provide feedback or join the conversation?

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