Having your site stuck in Maintenance Mode can be alarming. You can’t see the website, you can’t login to see what’s wrong and the site seems to have simply disappeared.
First things first: Don’t panic. Your site is still there. To make it visible again all we have to do is manually tell WordPress that it isn’t in Maintenance Mode anymore and, voila, it’ll pop right back again.
Why is it Stuck?
When you update themes, plugins, and even WordPress itself, your site is put into Maintenance Mode to stop it from being seen and used while it’s potentially in a vulnerable or non-working state.
Once the updates are complete, WordPress should automatically come out of Maintenance Mode and, if all went well, the site won’t have been down for much more than 30 seconds.
But every now and then things don’t go to plan and for no apparent reason, your site gets stuck. No one can see anything other than a message apologising that the site is down for maintenance and will be back soon – but soon never comes.
More alarmingly still, you can’t login to the admin area either, so your site is down and you’re locked out, unable to do anything to fix it.
Fear not, you haven’t lost your website and it’s not difficult to get everything back to normal.
What To Do – Quick Version
If you have some experience with the Web and technical stuff then let’s not beat around the bush, this is what you need to do:
- FTP into the site
- Go to the Root directory
- Find the file called “.maintenance”
- Delete it
Now your website should reload. If it doesn’t, scroll down to “Aaaaaaaargh! Aaaaaah! Nooooo! Aaarrrh”, below.
What To Do – Longer Version
The Quick Version is for people who are happy using FTP. If you aren’t one of those people then read on – this might feel a little daunting but it really isn’t too difficult. You just need to be patient, read the instructions carefully, and be willing to step outside your comfort zone.
What Are We Going to Do?
To fix this problem, we need to get under the bonnet (hood, if you’re so inclined) of WordPress and find the file which is erroneously telling WordPress it’s still in Maintenance Mode and delete it.
And to do that, we need a tool called FTP.
Getting in With FTP
FTP, File Transfer Protocol, lets us see all the files that make up your website without loading the website itself.
You can think of it as a Windows File Explorer or the Finder tool on Apple Macs, but instead of looking for files on your computer, it lets you log into your website and access the files on the server instead.
To use FTP, you’ll need to do the following:
- Download and install an FTP program to run on your computer. We recommend FileZilla.
- Get your FTP account details from your web host. We can’t tell you exactly how to do this as it depends on your hosting company, but if you have Control Panel access then you can often set up an FTP user name and password yourself, otherwise you’ll need to ask your host to do it for you.
- Open FileZilla and login to FTP.
It will ask for account details, what you’ll usually need is:Your Host: something like “ftp.yourdomain.com”Your user name
Login Type: Usually selecting “Normal” is fine, but your host might tell you to use something else.
Finally, click ‘Connect’ to login using FTP.
You should now be logged in and in the “root” directory of your site. If you can see the following directories, you’re in the right place:
If you can’t see those folders, either look through the folders you can see to see if they’re contained within, or ask your host.
Warning! Here be Dragons…
A Word of Warning: Be careful. Deleting, renaming or making any unexpected moves while logged into FTP can seriously damage your website. Double-check all your actions. If you can take a backup of your site, you should.
We are here to do one thing, and one thing only.
– Find the file called “.maintenance”.
– Click on it once to highlight it.
– Press “Delete” on your keyboard.
When it asks if you really want to delete it, say Yes, you really want to delete it, thank you very much for asking.
– Log out of FTP (just close FileZilla).
– Check to see if your website now works.
Aargh. It Still Doesn’t Work!
99% of the time deleting the .maintenance file is all you need to do to get your site back. But if you’re the 1% who’s website is as dead as a parrot, you may now be saying “Arrrgh! Aaaah! Nooo! Aaaarh!” – or words to that effect.
What Could the Matter Be?
If your website breaks immediately after installing or updating a plugin or theme, then it’s likely that it was that update or install that did it.
What you need to do now is tell WordPress not to load that plugin or theme which you suspect of breaking your site, and for that, you’ll need to use FTP again.
If you Suspect a Plugin
- Login to FTP, go to the Root directory and then to the WP-Content folder.
- Rename the Plugin folder to “old-Plugin”
- See if the site now works
If you Suspect a Theme
This could be trickier. WordPress needs a working theme to function.
- Go into the WP-Content folder and find the Themes folder inside.
- Open it – you should see at least one Theme folder there (the one you use). If you also see one of the default themes, you’re in luck.
ONLY if you see a default theme (such as 2017, 2020 etc) – rename your live theme to something else (for example, if it’s Divi, rename it to “old-Divi”)
If you DON’T have a default theme to fall back on, you will need to install one via FTP by downloading it from WordPress.com before doing the step above
- See if the site works
If neither of the above kicks your site back to life then rename the folders back to their original names – unfortunately, you’re going to need help beyond the scope of this article (see below for options).
If Your Site is Back – But It’s Weird
Because you’ve now renamed some files that WordPress is looking for, it won’t be able to load your default theme or the plugin you renamed.
If you renamed your Plugins folder you now need to go through the process of finding out which one broke your site. The only way to do this is to manually reactivate each plugin, one-by-one, in turn, and seeing if your site still works:
- Create a new folder called Plugins
- Copy one plugin from “old-Plugins” to “Plugins”
- Does the site work?
- If yes, repeat the above
At some point in this process, you’re site will stop working and you will have found the culprit. Copy over all the other plugins except the guilty one and your site should more or less back to normal. You will need to raise a ticket with the plugin’s author or install an older version to get you up and running.
If It Was a Theme
If the site is up and running on a WordPress default theme, your website probably looks awful now!
You will need to reinstall your theme (e.g. Divi) from an earlier version. You should be able to get hold of older versions from the publisher, and while you’re there, raise a ticket so they know about the problem.
If you’ve tried to fix the problem or you’re just not confident enough to dig around with WordPress’s guts, you can hire one of our Gurus to fix it for you. Just fill in the form and we’ll get straight back to you.
Brilliant! How Much?
If you’re an existing Gurus / Pensar customer – £19.95 + VAT
If you’re not an existing client – £34.95 + VAT.
In both cases, no fix no fee.