Briefly available for scheduled maintenance message - with fiery background.

Quick Fix: Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance.

Ever tried updating some WordPress plugins and had the screen freeze? Did you refresh madly only to end up with this message?

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

Well don’t panic. The fix is easy and I’ll walk you through it.

First things first…

Why does this error happen?

When you go to update a plugin, WordPress puts itself in a temporary maintenance mode state. When you see the “Briefly unavailable…” message, that’s a WordPress-generated notification that alerts any visitors about what’s happening with your site.

Let’s say you’re updating your plugins and someone happens to visit your site during the process. They’d see that notification message, say “okay” to themselves, and hopefully refresh the page in a minute.

This message is normal behavior.

What’s not normal is when your server has a slow response time or for some reason the update script is interrupted (or times out). In that case, the friendly notification morphs into a moment of dread and panic.

How to fix it.

When this happens, WordPress generates a .maintenance file in the root directory of the installation. With normal behavior, the update script completes and WordPress auto-removes the .maintenance file. In the case of an interruption of some sort, this file doesn’t get deleted and the message won’t go away.

The answer? Delete it manually.

Here are the steps:

  • Log into your web server via FTP or your web host’s control panel.*
  • Locate the root of your WordPress install (this is where you’ll find folders for wp-content, wp-admin, and wp-includes)
  • Look for a file called .maintenance
  • Delete it
  • Refresh your WordPress site and sigh a giant sigh of relief that everything’s normal again.

* If you don’t have this information for some reason, take a moment to slap yourself, then run around in a state of mild hysteria until you can reach someone who can give you this information. And then slap yourself again if you ever consider editing your WordPress site without this information in hand.

Update: If you don’t see a .maintenance file, make sure it’s not hidden. Here’s how to show hidden files on MacOS. Here’s how to show hidden files on Windows.

Is there still not a .maintenance file there? Try this out . (thanks lifanovsky for that tip!)

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A staging site is an exact duplicate of your live site – it’s a place where you can install new plugins or try out different configurations without the danger of tanking your live site. Once you’ve made any changes you want to your staging site (and are sure everything is working), you can “push” it to your live site.

If you’re not using a staging site, I strongly recommend using one so that you can avoid problems like the one I talked about in this post.

A quality web host typically has site staging available. My favorites are WP Engine and Flywheel. If you’d like to see things in action, here’s a tutorial on how to use Flywheel staging sites and another one on how to work with WP Engine legacy staging.

If your web host doesn’t offer staging or you prefer to develop locally, I really dig Local WP. And bonus — It’s free.

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