Here’s a quick way to fix one of the most common errors when updating WordPress — plus reassurance that it’s not your fault.
Let’s say you follow my advice to update to the latest version of WordPress.
You log into your WordPress dashboard and click “Please update now” in the little message at the top of your screen. Then, on the next screen, since you’re all backed up (you are, aren’t you?), you click “update automatically.”
And then the unthinkable happens: Your website disappears.
All you see is a white screen, blank except for this bland, non-reassuring message:
At this point you might follow the instructions and wait a minute, but probably not. A more likely scenario is that, in an adrenaline surge of anxiety, you hit the refresh button on your browser, even though you’re worried about messing up an upgrade in progress. You might even refresh a couple of times in a row. And at some point you get this even more frightening message in the middle of your still-ominously-blank screen:
And what’s worse, there is no “OK” button to click, nor is there a “cancel” button, nor is there a Panic Button.
So, naturally, you panic.
You try to load your website — any page on your website. And you get nowhere. Then you try to reload the login page, and your anxiety levels ramp up to DefCon 1 Red Alert Battle Stations when you realize that you can’t even login to the back end of your site.
At least that’s what happened to me the first time I saw this message after a “routine” WordPress update.
How to fix the “Scheduled Maintenance” error
First of all, it’s not your fault. You didn’t break anything. It’s a weird little WordPress glitch that happens to me about one in every eight upgrades (and I do quite a bit of upgrading for my various sites plus my Peace of Mind Program clients).
Second of all, there is a way you can fix it. Yourself.
You’ll need to access your website files via FTP. If you are not familiar with this process, I’ve written a brief guide to what website owners need to know about FTP. You can also log into your web hosting account and look in their help section for instructions on using FTP.
When you login to the FTP server for your website, you’ll be looking at a list of files. Look for a file named .maintenance, a file that was created today. Whether your files are sorted alphabetically or by creation date, it should appear near the top. You may have to change your FTP client’s preferences so that you can see files whose names begin with a dot (period).
Here’s an old screenshot showing that files beginning with a dot are placed first in alphabetical order, so you won’t find .maintenance under “m”.
Found that file? Good. Now delete it.
Yep, just delete it.
Now go back to your web browser and try your site URL.
Don’t reload the page with the error message, the one that has a URL that ends with something like this:
You’ll just get that ominous “are you sure you want to do this?” error message again.
Instead, just reload the front page of your site.
If your site reappears, you are good! You have solved the problem! Go ahead and login to your dashboard and breathe a sigh of relief.
And that’s how to fix the “scheduled maintenance” error that sometimes happens when upgrading WordPress. If you get a different error message, or a totally blank screen with no error message at all, this fix will most likely not work. But those situations are much more rare.
Great blog post! Funny, informative, AND I got to feel smug because I learned to do FTP a couple of weeks ago. Although I must admit my heart stopped for a moment when you showed the “Are you sure you want to do this?” screen. Just exactly what sadomasochistic programmer came up with that one?
Wendy Cholbi says
Thanks Julia! Always happy to spread a little smugness around…!