How to Set WordPress to Maintenance Mode?


Sometimes, you need to take your wordpress site down in order to make some changes to it, whether that’s redesigning the theme, rewriting the homepage, a complete revamp of the entire site or something smaller and less dramatic. When you do that, your website is going to be a broken mess for your users while you work on it, unless you activate WordPress Maintenance Mode. This allows you to display a user friendly and attractive notice to site visitors instead of just showing them a broken wordpress under construction site while you fix things.

It used to be that you would need to find and install a wordpress maintenance mode plugin in order to unpublish wordpress site temporarily, but now you can put wordpress in maintenance mode using tools provided with WordPress core 3.0. Read on for a guide on how to put wordpress in maintenance mode and how to unpublish wordpress site temporarily. We’ll talk you through the process in order to simplify your experience as far as possible, saving you time, energy, and stress in the process.

What is WordPress Maintenance Mode?

WordPress Maintenance Mode is an additional feature that is built into WordPress core and has been available since version 3.0. This extra feature means that whenever you’re making changes and updates to your WordPress site, whether that’s updating a plugin, updating your core WordPress install, or updating your theme, a message reading “Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance. Check back in a minute” is displayed automatically to visitors to your site.

While things are updating and installing, some of the WordPress back end processes are paused for a little while. WordPress then makes a temporary maintenance file with the above alert, and then automatically removes it again once the updates have finished. This also ensures that WordPress maintenance doesn’t affect your SEO rankings when your site is down.

Essentially, when in maintenance mode, WordPress sends google a 503 HTTP status code header. This informs Google that wordpress is under construction, and avoids the risk of Google checking your site and finding nothing of value, pushing you down the search rankings. That’s an important part of keeping your SEO as high as possible, and ensures that any extended periods of maintenance don’t harm the visibility of your site in any longer term way.

When and Why to use WordPress maintenance mode

 If you’re just making small changes to your WordPress website, such as publishing new content and updating some of your plugins or themes, then you can usually do that without needing to put your site into wordpress maintenance mode. Sometimes, though, you need to do a bit more work on your wordpress site, and that can leave your site looking broken. If you’re setting up a new theme or configuring a major new plugin, then you may find that your site looks completely broken while you do this.

If your website often receives a lot of traffic, then you’re going to want to make sure that you don’t leave your website looking broken, as this creates a poor user experience and can negatively impact their impressions of you. Maintenance mode is a great way to avoid this problem by setting up a page that informs visitors to your wordpress site that your site is temporarily under construction.

If you want to use more advanced plugins instead of the default WordPress maintenance mode included with WordPress core, then some of these can be used to provide more complex maintenance mode wordpress pages with a little more information. Some wordpress maintenance mode plugins allow you to offer alternative links to visit, or give more explanation of the nature of the maintenance, or even give a projected timeframe for when you expect your wordpress site to be up and running again.

How to put your WordPress site in maintenance mode

Putting your WordPress site in maintenance mode used to be a difficult process requiring you to find and install a maintenance mode wordpress plugin in order to create a maintenance page for your site. Now, however, it is a much more straightforward process that does not require any effort on your part at all.

As long as your WordPress core is running at version 3.0 or later, maintenance mode is an automatic function included as standard in WordPress core. All you need to do in order to put your WordPress site in maintenance mode is to start on an update or edit to your site that breaks the user experience, and WordPress will automatically create a maintenance mode page for the duration of your maintenance period, and then restore your site to full functionality once you’ve finished editing your site and approved all changes.

Alternatively, if you want a more advanced WordPress maintenance mode page than the default, you can use a wordpress maintenance mode plugin in order to allow more control over the appearance of your maintenance mode wordpress page. There are many different maintenance mode plugins for wordpress available, both free and premium, and several of these offer great functionality.

One of the most popular maintenance mode plugins is WP Maintenance Mode, a free and easy to use option that offers some handy functionality. The options available from WP Maintenance Mode include the ability to customize the text, colors and background of your maintenance page, and excluding certain URLs of your wordpress site from maintenance mode, leaving them up and running even while you’re editing the site.

Another great option is SeedProd’s Coming Soon Page & Maintenance Mode plugin, which is a constantly updated and advanced wordpress maintenance mode plugin that is available in both free and paid versions. This is a flexible and easy to use plugin that works with any WordPress theme, making it a great choice for most users.

Is your WordPress site stuck in maintenance mode?

Once you’ve put your wordpress site into maintenance mode in order to update your site, you may find that it gets stuck in maintenance mode and you can’t get it back up into regular functionality. Obviously that’s a major problem, as it leaves you unable to do anything with your site and visitors will only be able to access the maintenance-mode wordpress page. Dealing with this problem is an important priority, as it’ll allow you to get your site back up and running.

If you’ve found your wordpress stuck in maintenance mode, you’re going to need to work out what caused it to be stuck in wordpress maintenance mode in order to fix the problem. In most cases, this happens because of a conflict in the update process, in which the maintenance file generated by wordpress thinks that there are unfinished maintenance operations and therefore stays up instead of automatically removing itself when you’ve finished.

Conflicts like this are often caused when the user manually clicks “update now” on several different plugins in rapid succession. This speed often confuses WordPress, particularly if there’s a bit of a delay in your internet connection, and leads it to try to update everything at the same time, causing conflicts.

To avoid this problem, when updating multiple plugins, just click on the “Update Available” filter and select “Update” from the drop down bulk action menu. Then you can click “Apply”, and WordPress will fire off the updates in the correct order in its own time, reducing the risk of creating problematic conflicts.

You should also update your plugins on a regular basis; don’t try to update all of them at once every few months, but update each one individually as patches are released for them. This has the added bonus of making it far easier to detect problems when updates in plugins cause issues with your site, allowing you to easily roll back single updates and keeping everything functioning perfectly without needing to hunt through dozens of plugins to work out which one caused the problems.

How to get out of WordPress Maintenance Mode

If your WordPress site is stuck in maintenance mode, it is surprisingly easy to get out of maintenance mode and get your site up and running again as long as you know how the process works. What you’re aiming to do here is to access and delete the maintenance file that was automatically created by WordPress in order to allow access to your main wordpress site again.

First, you’re going to need to log in to your wordpress site via FTP. Once you’ve done that, navigate to the root folder of your WordPress site. This is the folder that usually contains your wp-config.php file. Once you’ve found this folder, there should be a file named “.maintenance” somewhere in the folder. Simply select this file and delete it.

Once you’ve deleted the “.maintenance” file from your root folder, you should clear the cache of your WordPress site in order to flush out all traces of the maintenance mode. After that, you can just refresh your wordpress site in your chosen internet browser, and everything should be up and running again, with the maintenance mode page no longer getting in the way of accessing your site.


WordPress maintenance mode is an important part of keeping your wordpress site looking good and smart even when you’re in the middle of updating your site, allowing you to offer a great user experience and a professional looking front end to your site even when it is down and not running properly. It’s an easy to use option, and thanks to the automatic maintenance mode function of WordPress core 3.0 and later versions, it’s one that requires no additional plugins or expertise in order to use whatsoever.

Our guide above is a great starting point, but if you want to dive into the full potential of wordpress maintenance mode plugins, there are many other options available that can allow you to customize and control your wordpress maintenance page to a specific level. If you want a more advanced wordpress maintenance mode page then you might need a premium plugin, but for most users, either a free plugin or the default maintenance mode page supplied with WordPress core should be enough.