Confluence tip – HTTP 500 or 504 error with Copy Space plugin

This tip is for people using the Copy Space plugin on Confluence wiki. If you’re copying a large space, you may see an HTTP 500 or HTTP 504 server error a few minutes after starting the space copy. Don’t panic. It’s likely that the copy process is still going on. Whatever you do, don’t close the browser tab or window until you know for sure.

It happens to me often, and it happened in a rather spectacular fashion earlier this week. I’m letting you know, in the hope that I can save you from a moment of panic. Or, as in my case this week, from a few hours of unnecessary frenzy.

About the HTTP 500 and HTTP 504 errors

When you get an HTTP 500 error, your browser window displays a message something like this:

  • 500 Internal Server Error
  • Internal Server Error
  • HTTP Error 500

The error message is a bit useless. It doesn’t give you much information, and it sounds very dire. Basically, it means that something has gone wrong and the server can’t give you more information. This is the error we get when using the Copy Space plugin on our production documentation wiki.

I’ve also seen an HTTP 504 error appearing in the same situation on a test server. It seems that the server configuration determines which error you get. HTTP 504 is a Gateway Timeout error. That’s a bit more helpful and a little less scary.

What to do if you get an HTTP 500 or 504 while copying a space

First, wait a while. It is most likely that the front end has timed out, but the copy process is still happening in the background. Do not close down your browser.

Open another browser window or tab, and try going to the address of your new space. The space will become available when the copy operation has finished. Keep trying.

How long should you wait? Ah, now there’s the rub. The copy operation can take anything from a few minutes to a few hours, depending on the size of your space. Until this week, I would have said 2 hours was the maximum time to wait. This week, one of our spaces took 5 hours to copy. I guess the answer is: It depends on your previous experience with copying spaces on your wiki.

When the waiting period has gone on too long, raise the alarm with your system administrators. Ask them to examine the logs to see what has happened, and to determine whether the process is still running.

If you have no joy there, start the copy process again.

What is the Copy Space plugin?

The Copy Space plugin is an add-on that you can install into your Confluence wiki. It gives you a way to copy the content of a space to a new space, with a new space key. One of the Confluence developers wrote this plugin for the Atlassian technical writers, and it’s available for everyone else to use too. It is not a supported plugin, but we use it all the time. It would be very difficult to do without it.

There’s a request for the Copy Space plugin to be supported and bundled with Confluence: CONF-14198. If you like, you can vote for and comment on the issue. If the plugin were supported and bundled, we could ask for better handling of long-running tasks. 🙂

Banksia flower

I love the colours of this Banksia flower I saw when walking in the Australian bush. The flower head is made up of hundred of tiny individual flowers. (Ref.) Perhaps 500, or even 504? 😉

About Sarah Maddox

Technical writer, author and blogger in Sydney

Posted on 7 April 2012, in Confluence, technical writing, trees and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Laura Mahalel

    Hi Sarah,
    Related to this subject… if I needed to export a site to a thumb drive in order to transport it to an entirely different network, would this be the tool to do it? What if I didn’t have access to this plugin? Can exported XML or HTML files be “reconstituted” back into good old Confluence pages?


  2. Laura Mahalel

    Hi Sarah – looks like XML export is the ticket I’m looking for.
    Thanks for sharing that gorgeous flower photo! Have a g’day!

    • Hallo Laura

      Yes, you’re right: The XML export is the one you’re looking for. One thing to be aware of: The major version on the two Confluence sites has to be the same. By “major version”, I mean the first two numbers in the release number.

      For example, you can export the XML from Confluence 4.2, and import it into another site running Confluence 4.2 or 4.2.1. You can export from any Confluence 4.2.x and import into any Confluence 4.2.x. But you can’t export from Confluence 4.2.x and import to 4.1.x.

      Cheers, Sarah

  3. Hi Sarah –

    I’m attempting to copy a space for our technical documentation using the Copy Space plugin and am having issues. I’m not getting either of the error screens you mentioned, but our DBA is seeing some errors on his end.

    Could the space be too large? I haven’t been able to find any official recommendations on individual space size in Confluence. Is there any upper limit you would recommend for spaces that will be copied using the Copy Space plugin? The size of the space I’m attempting to copy is about 570,000 KB.

    Thanks for any help,

    • Hallo Jen

      About the size: we use the Copy Space plugin successfully on the Confluence documentation space, which is the biggest one we have. The XML export of the space is 140 meg.

      One issue that’s caused problems before is when we’ve had very old Gliffy diagrams in the space. Do you use Gliffy? If that’s the cause, you should be able to see the offending page name or diagram name in the error message. All you need to do is open the Gliffy diagram and save it. No need to change it.

      Otherwise, the best thing to do is ask the question on the forum:

      Although the Copy Space plugin isn’t officially supported, the support team is pretty good at answering questions on the forum.

      Good luck, and I hope this helps.


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