December 03, 2021
 How to put your WordPress website into maintenance mode

So you’ve finally stopped putting off updating your WordPress site, but you’re worried about the site not working during the updates. Enter WordPress maintenance mode. This mode lets visitors know the site is temporarily down for maintenance but will be back soon.

In this post, you’ll learn:

  • What maintenance mode is.
  • Why and when to use maintenance mode.
  • How to put your WordPress site in maintenance mode.

What Does Maintenance Mode Mean in WordPress?

Maintenance mode temporarily disables the public-facing portion of your website, so you can perform updates and other maintenance. Instead of your typical site, visitors will see a message letting them know the site is down for maintenance.

Why is WordPress Maintenance Mode Necessary?

Maintenance mode helps site administrators ensure smooth WordPress updates. Reasons to use maintenance mode include:

  • Making major design or content changes.
  • Preventing lost orders or data.
  • Fixing major bugs or security issues.

Making Major Design or Content Changes

Updating a website is a lot like organizing your kitchen or completing a DIY craft project. You’re probably going to make a huge mess before things start coming together. Maintenance mode allows you to make changes without visitors seeing the chaos of the process.

Preventing Lost Orders or Data

Depending on what types of updates your site needs, you risk losing vital information during the update process. Imagine if a customer started an order or a prospect began filling out a lead form right before you started making changes. Maintenance mode locks visitors out from completing forms or transactions to prevent any data loss while you are performing WordPress maintenance tasks.

Fixing Major Bugs or Security Issues

Suppose you’re trying to fix a major bug or recover from a security breach. Maintenance mode allows you to troubleshoot the issue without worrying about customers or hackers trying to use your site.

How to Put WordPress into Maintenance Mode

Putting your site into maintenance mode using the default WordPress maintenance mode requires no action on your part. When you run a plugin or core system update, WordPress activates and deactivates maintenance mode as a part of the process.

How Long Does Maintenance Mode Last?

The default maintenance mode for WordPress only lasts as long as the update takes to execute.

WordPress system update

In this screengrab of a system update, the entire process took less than one minute. If you want maintenance mode active for longer to make other changes, keep reading to learn how to use a maintenance mode plugin.

How to Extend Maintenance-Mode in WordPress

If you want to put your WordPress site in maintenance mode for an extended period, a plugin works best. Plugins are simple to use and give you more control over the maintenance mode experience.

WordPress Maintenance Mode Plugins include:

How to Put WordPress into Maintenance Mode with a Plugin

If you want to put your WordPress site into maintenance mode for an extended time, a plugin is the best way to do it. But first you need to install and activate the right plugin.

Follow these steps to activate maintenance mode with a plugin:

1. Download, Install, and Activate Your Plugin. Use the list above as a starting point. Many plugins offer free and paid versions.

2. Configure Your Maintenance Plugin. Most plugins allow you to customize your maintenance mode message. Be sure to check the setting and build out your “down for maintenance” page according to your plugin’s instructions.

3. Turn on Maintenance Mode. Load your website on a different device or in a private browser window to ensure the maintenance mode works.

4. Complete Your Maintenance

5. Turn Off Maintenance Mode

How Do I Get My WordPress Site Out of Maintenance Mode?

Sometimes WordPress gets stuck in maintenance mode. If you completed a system update but still see the maintenance mode message, log in to your web host via FTP or file manager and find the root WordPress folder. Delete the file called .maintenance to force the site out of maintenance mode.

Caching also causes sites to stay in maintenance mode. Try clearing your cache using your caching plugin. Many managed WordPress hosting accounts will include an option to clear your cache as well.

How to Avoid WordPress Maintenance Mode Errors

Updates create enough stress without having to worry about maintenance mode errors. You can’t always prevent glitches, but you can decrease the chances of a maintenance mode issue.

Ways to avoid maintenance mode issues include:

  • Not Attempting Several Updates at the Same Time. If you try to update too many items at once, you’re more likely to run into a problem. If one plugin update fails, it can cause a cascading effect. Make updates in small batches to ensure the best chances for success and decrease the likelihood of an error.
  • Using a Compatible and Well-Rated Plugin. Make sure the maintenance mode plugin you select is compatible with your version of WordPress. You can also check the plugin’s ratings to choose the best quality solution.
  • Clearing Your Cache. After you’ve finished any updates and turned off maintenance mode, clear your cache. Caching could cause issues with your maintenance mode or keep visitors from seeing the site updates you completed.

Make Maintenance Easier With Nexcess

SiteKeep by Nexcess makes WordPress maintenance easy. Every plan includes automatic updates for your WordPress system files and plugins.

Our system even runs a visual comparison to identify any front-end issues caused by a plugin update. Hosting plans also include backup services, so you can always restore your site from a backup if your updates run awry.

Check out our fully managed WordPress hosting plans to get started today.

Lindsey Miller
Lindsey Miller

Lindsey Miller is a WordPress and WooCommerce expert and Chief Executive Officer of Content Journey, a content marketing agency that focuses on increasing organic website traffic for their clients through SEO and blogging. She knows WordPress inside and out and has been working with WordPress since 2010 when she started her first WordPress blog. Since then she has attended WordCamps all over the world and had the honor of speaking at many WordCamps and other WordPress events such as WooSesh and WordFest. Lindsey has a bachelor's degree in history and a master's degree in human relations, clinical mental health from the University of Oklahoma.

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