Maintenance Mode for WordPress, Everything You Need to Know

John Turner founder of SeedProd Posted by John Turner on January 28, 2016

Last updated on: August 30, 2019

What is Maintenance Mode?

Maintenance Mode is a term you use when you need to take your regular site offline to perform software of content updates. So for example, when WordPress needs to update itself, a plugin or a theme it has a built-in maintenance mode it uses to display a message to visitors that your site is down. Or say you have redesigned your site and you need a few hours to implement the new design. In this case you would use a maintenance mode plugin to put you site into maintenance mode so you can access the site to make your updates but your visitors would get a custom message about why it’s down and when it will be back up.

So essentially WordPress has two versions of a Maintenance Mode.

  1. WordPress Built-In – to do core, plugins and  themes updates. Note, when WordPress puts itself into Maintenance Mode to perform updates you can not access any part of the site. The front end or the admin back-end. WordPress returns a default message that says: “Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance. Check back in a minute.” This message can be customized.
  2. WordPress Maintenance Mode Plugin –  to perform updates to your site, but visitors see a custom message.

When should I a Maintenance Mode Plugin?

You should use this type of plugin when you need to perform updates to your site and you don’t want your visitors to see the site in an incomplete or transitional state. These plugins should return something called a http 503 status which tell Google and other search engines that the site is down for maintenance and to come back later for indexing. You should not keep your web site  in Maintenance Mode for an extended period of time or it could hurt your SEO. Here’s more from Google on how to handle it which most plugins take care of the details as explained in the article.

One thing you should never to is use a maintenance plugin when your site is Under Construction or Coming Soon. This will prevent Google From indexing your site.  Here’s more on the difference between those modes.

What Plugin Should I Use?

There are many free WordPress plugins that let you put your website into maintenance mode and display a custom message to your visitors. We recommend our free plugin called. Coming Soon and Maintenance Mode by SeedProd. This plugin lets you put you site in Coming Soon or Maintenance Mode and handles all the details of returning the correct http status code to Google so you preserve your SEO. If you want to collect emails or have a more customized maintenance page then Check out the Pro Version of the plugin.

How to Customize the built-in WordPress Maintenance Mode Message

To customize the built-in message which by default says:

"Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance. Check back in a minute."

You just need to ftp into your WordPress site and upload a file called maintenance.php to your wp-content folder. Then whenever WordPress is updating users will see your custom message.

How to take a Site out of Maintenance Mode

So this seems like a no brainer right. Either WordPress completes its’ updates and it takes itself out of maintenance or you disable the plugin. Well things do go wrong and it’s possible for WordPress to get stuck in this mode.

How to take WordPress Out of Its’ built in Maintenance Mode

So if WordPress gets interrupted while performing a core, plugin or theme update it’s possible for WordPress to get stuck in Maintenance Mode and you’ll just see a message that says “Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance. Check back in a minute.” To manually take WordPress out of its’ built in Maintenance Mode you will need to ftp into your site and remove a hidden file called .maintenance This should then should return your site to the normal state.

How to take a WordPress Plugin out of Maintenance Mode

If you use a plugin for Maintenance Mode it’s possible for it to get stuck if you are using a caching plugin or your hosting has a caching layer. In this case you just need to clear the caching plugin’s cache or clear your host cache. Usually your host will have a button in the WordPress admin that says “Clear Cache” If you are unsure contact your host.

See this video on how to clear WP Super Cache’s cache:

Hopefully this info was useful and leave a comment if you have any questions.

John Turner founder of SeedProd

By John Turner

John is the founder of and a WordPress Developer with over 15 years of development experience.

Made with in Charleston, SC USA

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