A guide to 403 errors, and how to troubleshoot the 'forbidden' webpage

Vivian McCall
·4 min read
403 error
You can try a few different troubleshooting tricks to get around a 403 error on a website. zodchiy/Getty Images
  • A 403 error occurs when a server won't allow you to access a webpage.

  • You can't always fix a 403 error on your own, but simple tricks like refreshing your page or clearing your cache could help.

  • If visitors to your webpage are getting 403 errors, you may have to reconfigure it.

  • Visit Insider's Tech Reference library for more stories.

A 403 "forbidden" error sounds more threatening than it is.

This type of error happens when a web server doesn't allow you to access a webpage. You can't always fix these sorts of errors, but if you can, the solutions are pretty simple.

Here's everything you need to know about why these errors happen and what to do if you encounter one.

The most common causes for 403 errors

403 errors occur for a single reason: You're trying to access a webpage that you don't have permission to see. Consider it a sister to the 404 error, which means the page simply doesn't exist.

This isn't any sort of grand conspiracy. Every website has pages that aren't open to the public - these are usually spots for the site owners to test new features, or edit other parts of the site.

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403 errors aren't rare, especially if you enter URLs manually. Crystal Cox/Business Insider

For example, Insider has pages that are used to edit the text and pictures in a story. People who don't work at Insider don't have access to these pages, because if they did, anyone could edit or erase any story at any time.

In most cases, if you've hit a 403 error, the solution is to just move on. But if you're seeing 403 errors on pages that you know you should have permission to see, there's a deeper issue.

How to troubleshoot a 403 error

Not all 403 errors can be fixed, and not all errors can be fixed by yourself - you might need help from the site's administrator.

But before you give up, try some of these fixes.

Fixing a 403 error

  • Try refreshing the page. Hit the circular arrow button on your browser. Sometimes, a 403 error is just a temporary glitch in the system. This won't always work, but is easy to try.

  • Double check the URL. Make sure that you're actually trying to open the right webpage. If you're not in the right place, you won't see the right page.

  • Clear your cache. A cache is a temporary storage location that saves small bits data (like logos, images, etc.) of websites you've visited so your computer doesn't have to fetch them again. You can usually clear your cache through the same menu you use to clear your browsing data.

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    Clearing your device's cache might and bringing in new data might fix the issue. Dave Johnson/Business Insider
  • Contact the administrators: If the simple tricks don't work, your computer may not be the problem. The owner of the server may need to update or change the page's permissions to give you access. Contact the website's admins.

  • Contact your service provider. This is a rare problem, but if you've exhausted all options, your IP address may be blocked. If this is the case, your internet service provider will be able to let you know. You can fix this using a VPN.

  • If you own the website, reconfigure your own permissions. You might have accidentally locked yourself out of your own pages. Make sure that they're set to allow visitors - or at the very least, set to allow yourself in.

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