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What is WordPress maintenance mode? Instructions & Explanation

Websites need to be revised over time to remain technically up to date. So that visitors do not see an error message during this time, there is the WordPress maintenance mode. We explain what WordPress maintenance mode is and how to activate it.

If you want to make changes to your WordPress website without your visitors seeing an unfinished website, the WordPress maintenance mode will help you. Normally, you can make changes to your site without putting it into maintenance mode, such as while updating plugins.

However, if you make major changes, it makes sense to work on your website undisturbed for a longer period of time. Exactly for this case there is the WordPress maintenance mode. You work live on your website without taking it offline.

As soon as you activate maintenance mode, a temporary information page will appear on your homepage. This informs your visitors that you are currently working on the website. By specifying a rough time span, visitors also know when they will reach your website again.

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How do I enable WordPress maintenance mode?

There are two different ways to enable maintenance mode: using a plugin or manually through code. Decide on one of the variants depending on your level of knowledge and effort.

1. Install WordPress maintenance mode via plugin

Find and install the Maintenance plugin from the Plugins tab in your WordPress dashboard. Via “Plugins”, “Settings” and “Maintenance” you get to the settings of the plugin.

Here you have the opportunity to write an individual text to inform your visitors about the current status of your website. You can also select an individual background image, for example.

In the last step you have the option to activate the maintenance mode. To do this, change the status to “On” and you’ve already switched on maintenance mode.

2. Activate WordPress maintenance mode without plugin

If you don’t want to install a plugin, for example because your changes are done quickly, there is also the option of using PHP code.

To manually switch to WordPress maintenance mode, you need to create the “.maintenance” file in the root directory. Then add this PHP code to this file:

<?php $upgrading = time(); ?>

It is important that you immediately remember to delete the file after making your changes.

What should be considered when using WordPress maintenance mode?

The WordPress maintenance mode is used to ensure that visitors do not see your actual website. However, your website must also comply with the legal requirements during this time. This means, for example, that you still have to display a full legal notice.

💡 Tip

The imprint contains, among other things, your address or e-mail address. Give your visitors a way to contact you, even while you have maintenance mode enabled. This way you will continue to receive questions and suggestions.

What problems can arise when using WordPress maintenance mode?

When maintenance mode is activated, the temporary “.maintenance” file is automatically created (or you create it yourself, as described above). This file is normally deleted after maintenance mode has ended. If the editing process was accidentally closed, the plugin takes longer than normal and the update is aborted, this can result in the file not being deleted.

To turn off maintenance mode manually, you must be able to access your site via FTP (File Transfer Protocol). FTP enables data to be exchanged between different computers, for example from your own computer to the storage space in your web hosting package.

Access the web server using an FTP program. In the next step, change to the root directory of the WordPress installation and delete the “.maintenance” file.

Conclusion: The WordPress maintenance mode makes sense

The WordPress maintenance mode makes sense for website operators because they can work on the website undisturbed. But it is also helpful for visitors, since they do not see an error message or an unfinished website. You will find all the information on one page and you will know when the website will be available again.

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This article is part of our content hub for web hosting, cloud services and domains and is sponsored by IONOS.

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