Are you having trouble when trying to browse the Apple Store online? While it could be down to connectivity issues, there’s also the possibility that the Apple Store could be closed while being updated with new products.

The Apple Store was down for several hours on 18 March, and returned at 12.30pm GMT with surprise new iPad models. We've been treated to the long-awaited iPad mini update, as well as a new iPad Air that seems to have replaced the 10.5in iPad Pro.

There's no sign of AirPower, new AirPods or the other rumoured products such as new Macs or an iPod Touch, but perhaps those will get some airtime at Apple's event on 25 March.

Why is the Apple Store down?

If you've noticed that the Apple Store is down, it doesn't always mean that new products are coming or that products are about to get price changes. Sometimes there can be scheduled maintenance, or server issues. Here, we explain how to spot the difference between planned maintenance and server issues, and how you can easily check the status of the Apple Store.

Read next: How to use the Apple Education Store

Apple could be updating the online store

Before we explain how to check the status of Apple’s online store, we should first explain the possible reasons why the store might be down. Of course, the most obvious reason is that there are issues with Apple’s servers and that is having an effect on the performance of the Apple Store, but there are other possibilities too.

Apple tends to shut down the Apple Store while it updates the range of products available, whether it be removing old products and adjusting pricing or featuring the latest iPhone or iPad. The tell-tale difference between server issues and Apple updating the Store is the splash page that you land on.

If the Apple Store is down due to product changes, a message along the lines of "Be right back" (It used to say: “We’ll be back soon”) should be displayed. If this is the case, you don’t need to do anything else: there are no server issues, you just need to sit tight and wait for Apple to update the Store.

However, if when you try to access the Apple Store you get a 404-error message (or if the site isn’t performing as you’d expect) then there may be an issue with Apple’s servers. To determine whether this is the issue, you can skip the next section and read about how to check the system status below.

How to check Apple’s System Status

The first step in establishing whether the Apple Store is down (apart from going on the site itself!) is to visit Apple’s System Status website. This site displays the current status of every Apple service, from iOS device activations to iCloud and, of course, the Apple Online Store.

It not only informs users of any potential problems with the online services, but also gives users a heads up on any scheduled maintenance that could cause issues. It also indicates whether there were recent disruptions that have now been resolved.

If you see a message next to the Apple Online Store status, click it. It should bring up more details about the issue including the duration of the outage and the issues that users would have/are experiencing.

Read next: How to get an education discount at Apple

Check crowdsourced status websites

Apple’s System Status site isn’t the only place to find up-to-date information on the status of the Apple Store. Down Detector is a hugely popular third-party status website that relies on crowdsourced information from users to provide up-to-date statuses on a range of online services from PayPal to Steam and the Apple Store too.

The site allows users to report issues and allows you to see past issues that have affected the performance of the service. It also features a handy heat map of live outages, so you can see whether the issue is local to your city/region/country.

Another good resource is the aptly named “Is It Down Right Now?”. The site offers similar data to Down Detector, but also features a grid displaying access speeds over the past few days.

It works in a different way to Down Detector though, as you have to search for the service via URL and at the time of writing, it checks the status of the entire Apple website, not specifically the Apple Store.