An Automated WordPress Update Has Failed to Complete (Fix It)

An Automated WordPress Update Has Failed to Complete (Fix It)


Are you encountering the “an automated WordPress update has failed to complete” error on your website?

This is one of the most common errors anyone can encounter on a WordPress website. It’s also one of the most frustrating ones because it doesn’t tell you why the update failed or which plugin caused the failure.

You might think that initiating the updates again will solve the issue. But that won’t work.

To fix your site, you need to access a file on your site’s backend and delete it.

Why do WordPress auto updates fail?

When themes, plugins, or the site’s core are being updated, WordPress puts itself into maintenance mode.

When an update is running, you are likely to see the “Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance” message on your site’s home page.

As soon as the update is over, the message is removed, and your site is out of maintenance mode.

For the most part, updates run smoothly but sometimes you may encounter update failure.

An automated WordPress update has failed to complete

It’s difficult to pinpoint what exactly causes update failure, but it typically occurs due to the following reasons:

  • Incompatibility issues with WordPress core or with other plugins
  • Updating too many plugins at the same time caused the server to overload and timeout
  • The browser was accidentally closed when the updates were running

On occasions when updates are unsuccessful, you will encounter one of the two following scenarios:

  • Your site will be stuck in maintenance mode and you won’t be able to access the wp-admin page
  • Or you encounter the “an automated WordPress update has failed to complete” message on your wp-admin page urging you to try updating again

👉 In a previous article, we covered how to fix a site stuck in maintenance mode, so in this tutorial, we will show you how to deal with the second scenario.

How to remove the “an automated WordPress update has failed to complete” message

To remove the message from your WordPress site, you need to connect to your site’s server and delete a file named .maintenance.

There are two ways to access the maintenance file:

  1. You can use your host’s file manager tool. If your host offers cPanel, you can use the cPanel File Manager tool. Even if your host uses a different hosting dashboard, they still might offer some type of file manager.
  2. You can connect to your server using FTP, which all hosts will support. You’ll need an FTP client like FileZilla to connect – we have a whole guide on WordPress FTP if you’re not sure how to do it. If that sounds useful, keep reading because we dropped the link for it in the FTP section below.

We will first show you how to access via the hosting account cPanel and then how to use Filezilla to delete the .maintenance file.

But before proceeding, there are two essential steps you need to take.

First, clear your website cache and check if the update failed message still appears. If the error was a temporary one and WordPress has already taken care of it, then after cleaning the cache, the update failure message should disappear from the dashboard.

If you are still encountering the error, then take a backup of your website. In this tutorial, you will access the backend of your site which contains all your site’s files and folders. If you accidentally delete the wrong file, you can just restore your backup to get your site working again.

🎬 Now let’s get started.

Delete the .maintenance file via cPanel

To get started, follow these steps:

  1. Log into your hosting account.
  2. Open cPanel.
  3. Select the File Manager tool.
file manager in cpanel
File Manager in cPanel

Next, select the public_html folder and you should find the .maintenance file inside the folder. Right-click on the file and select Delete to remove the file.

This folder might have a slightly different name depending on your host. If you don’t see a folder named public_html, just explore and look for the folder that contains other folders like wp-admin and wp-content.

deleting maintenance file via file manager
Deleting maintenance file via File Manager

Now, if you check your WordPress dashboard, you see that the “An Automated WordPress Update Has Failed to Complete” error has disappeared.

If you can’t find the file, then it might be hidden because of a setting in File Manager. On your File Manager, go to Settings and select Show Hidden Files from the window that pops up.

show hidden files popup in file manager.
Enabling hidden files to show up in the File Manager

Save your changes and refresh the File Manager. You should find the maintenance file in the public_html folder.

Delete the maintenance file via FTP (FileZilla)

If your host doesn’t offer a file manager, you can also access and delete this file using FTP.

In order to connect via FTP, you’ll need an FTP client. We’ll use FileZilla for our screenshots because it’s free and cross-platform, but the basic steps will apply to any FTP client.

Once you open FileZilla, you’ll need to enter your Host, Username, Password, and Port to connect to your server.

If you’re not sure how to do this, check out our full guide to WordPress FTP.

filezilla ftp credentials fields
FTP credential fields in Filezilla

After you enter your credentials and establish a connection with your site’s backend, you will notice that the panel on the right has been populated with folders. Find the public_html folder and click on it.

This folder might have a slightly different name depending on your host. If you don’t see a folder named public_html, just explore and look for the folder that contains other folders like wp-admin and wp-content.

The panel below will show you all the files and folders inside the public_html folder. You should find the .maintenance file in that panel.

accessing maintenance file via filezilla
Accessing the maintenance file in the public_html folder via Filezilla

Next, right-click on the .maintenance file and select Delete to remove the file from your site.

deleting maintenance file via filezilla - an automated wordpress update has failed to complete
Deleting maintenance file via Filezilla

If you don’t see the .maintenance file, it might be hidden because of a setting in FileZilla. To make sure FileZilla is showing all files, select Server from the top toolbar and then enable the Force showing hidden files option.

How to force showing hidden files in FileZilla

What next?

After deleting the maintenance mode file using the above methods, if you still see the “an automated WordPress update has failed to complete” message on your wp-admin, it’s most likely a cache issue. Please clear the cache and check again.

Post Fix Measures: After you remove the failure message from your wp-admin, it’s time to update the plugins on your website. If the updates are unsuccessful again, then check your plugins for compatibility issues and seek help from your hosting provider.

How to prevent update failure in the future

One of the best ways to prevent update failure in a WordPress website is to carry out the updates on a staging site instead of the live site.

A staging site is a replica of your live site and can be created with the help of staging plugins or backup plugins that offer staging facilities. Some hosting providers also provide staging services.

We have a separate guide on setting up a staging site – read it if you want to learn how to use staging plugins, backup plugins, and your hosting account to create a staging site.

While carrying out updates on a staging site, you are likely to encounter occasional errors. We recommend using this guide to troubleshoot the issue. After you find a fix, you can carry out the updates on your live site.

Conclusion

The “an automated WordPress update has failed to complete” error is a common WordPress phenomenon.

It is likely to appear due to reasons like plugin incompatibility, server overload, and accidental closure of the browser when the update is being carried out.

To remove the warning message from your wp-admin, you need first to access the backend of your site using tools like File Manager or Filezilla and then delete the .maintenance file.

For future updates, try to carry them out on staging websites instead of your live site.

If you have any questions about the “an automated WordPress update has failed to complete” error, let us know in the comments below.

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