If you have been a regular Internet user, you will encounter websites with errors. Most of these errors come with an error code that is hard to understand for the average web user. That’s where this guide comes in as we help break down common HTTP errors and what you can do when you encounter them. Let’s dive right in!
- What are HTTP Error Codes?
- What are Some Common Fixes?
- 1. HTTP Error 401 - Unauthorized (Authorization Required)
- 2. HTTP Error 403 - Forbidden
- 3. HTTP Error 404 - Page Not Found
- 4. HTTP Error 408 - Request Timeout
- 5. HTTP Error 500 - Internal Server Error
- 6. HTTP Error 502 - Bad Gateway
- 7. HTTP Error 503 - Service Unavailable (Service Temporarily Unavailable)
- 8. HTTP Error 504 - Gateway Timeout
- Frequently Asked Questions
What are HTTP Error Codes?
Before diving into specific cases, it’s helpful to have a little background on what these codes are and why you receive them. In a non-technical way, HTTP codes are a message that is being sent to a website’s server and back to the browser to indicate whether a request has or can be fulfilled.
There are generally five levels:
- 1xx: Informational (what is happening when a browser or server request has been sent)
- 2xx: Success (things are working as intended)
- 3xx: Redirect (the requested page has moved to a new URL)
- 4xx: This is a client error that indicates something is wrong with the way your browser, be it Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc. has asked the website server to see a page
- 5xx: This server error indicates that something is wrong on the server-side and how it tried to send the website to the browser
With that quick and easy read on what an HTTP error code is, let’s take a look at some of the more common ones you will experience. Keep in mind that these codes are not for anyone with technical knowledge, website managers, etc. How to fix these codes is very much in line with what a typical browsing experience would look like.
What are Some Common Fixes?
Before diving into more specific error codes, it’s important to know some of the common steps that you can take to fix any website error you encounter. While not true for all error codes, for the most part, your first act should be to try and refresh the page. It’s entirely possible that something happened while the page was trying to load and a refresh will resolve. Another common fix is to double-check the website address. It is possible that you typed the website URL incorrectly, leaving out or adding an additional number, letter or symbol.
If you have tried both a page refresh and double-checked everything is spelled correctly, clearing your cache is the next best step. Doing so is incredibly easy and it won’t affect your browsing experience. Every browser can have its cache cleared and it takes mere seconds to do so.
A few other common fixes also revolve around disconnecting from a VPN. While not super common, it’s possible that a website is impacted by a VPN so try to disconnect and see if the site loads. How about try loading the website on incognito mode, or using another browser?
1. HTTP Error 401 – Unauthorized (Authorization Required)
In an instance where you see this HTTP error code, it likely means that the page you are trying to visit requires a user ID and password. If it’s a page you’ve already logged into and still see the error, it means the user credentials you entered are not valid.
The fix might just require returning back to the main page of the website, locating the login screen, and re-entering your valid credentials. Separately, as is the case with a common fix, try reloading the page, deleting the cache and/or close and reopen the browser and then attempting to log in again. If you are absolutely sure your credentials work and the issue isn’t on your end, reach out to the website administrator for assistance.
2. HTTP Error 403 – Forbidden
When you land on a page with this error, it basically means you are on a page you don’t have the authorization to view. There are a variety of reasons you can and will encounter this message but the overall takeaway is “this page is not for you”.
To avoid this error, make sure you’re accessing the correct URL. That’s the easy fix and that’s even more true if you are trying to access a directory on a page that may contain files, images, downloads, etc. Additionally, make sure any necessary login has been entered to ensure you have the appropriate amount of access. Beyond that, other common fixes like refreshing the browser and deleting cache are your next best steps.
3. HTTP Error 404 – Page Not Found
Likely the best known of the 4xx status codes as this regularly appears whenever your browser requests to visit a page that cannot be found by its server. You’ll likely see this when you’ve clicked on a broken link, mistyped a webpage URL or it was improperly redirected. Realistically, if you see this error, there is a good chance the error is on the user end and not the website itself.
Resolving this issue is as easy as checking that you have entered the URL correctly. Alternatively, try a Google search for the website and see if the page has recently moved. Another possible solution is to move up one directory level in the URL to see if the issue is resolved. For example, if you are going to www.maketecheasier.com/a/b/c and you see the 404 error, try again with www.maketecheasier.com/a/ and see if the error resolves itself.
4. HTTP Error 408 – Request Timeout
While not as common, a 408 error means that the website took longer to load than the server was willing to wait. Because of that, the 408 error was provided to the browser. In many cases, the cause is something as basic as typing or loading an incorrect URL. This error is different from a 504 error as that is server specific while 408 is also impacted by the user client.
If and when you see this error, start by checking if the URL is correctly typed. Make sure to watch out for domain name spelling, backslash placement, etc. Does the URL have any particular character strings? Make sure those too are correctly spelled/inserted. Try and search the site via Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo and see if you can find the website this way.
5. HTTP Error 500 – Internal Server Error
It’s important to note that errors in the 5xx range are generally based on an issue from the website and/or its server. In other words, the issue isn’t a spelling error with the url. If you see this message, it’s likely that the website encountered some type of unexpected error trying to reach a server.
As indicated above, resolving this error resolves more around the webmaster resolving errors with a server, website code, database, etc. Given that, for the general web user, you have to wait for a fix. It could also be due to high traffic so keep refreshing the page periodically.
6. HTTP Error 502 – Bad Gateway
When you see a 502 Bad Gateway error, that’s a good indication the issue is server-based and not specific toward your setup. That means no matter which device or operating system you use to try and visit a website, the same error will appear. Generally, this error appears when two servers are not talking to one another. However, in some cases, a 502 error can appear because your browser of choice thinks there is an issue.
To troubleshoot, start by trying to refresh the page. If that fails, the next best option is to try a different browser or a different device. This will help nail down where the problem exists and if something is happening on the user end and not just server-side. Separately, try and reboot your computer to see if that also provides a quick fix. Some online sleuths have nailed down browser extensions as a potential 502 error cause. Because of that, if all else fails, try and disable browser extensions one by one to see if a fix is found.
If you are a website owner and are seeing the 502 error for your website, check out the steps here to fix it.
7. HTTP Error 503 – Service Unavailable (Service Temporarily Unavailable)
Whenever you see this message appear as you try to visit a website, you can attribute the cause to meaning that the server is not available at the moment. In most cases, the server might be too busy and suffering under heavy traffic or it could mean routine maintenance is being performed.
Given that the issue is not user-based, you can try to fix it by refreshing the site. As these issues are (likely) temporary, trying the page again a few minutes later is the best way to get on the webpage. Additionally, you can try to restart your modem/router as well as your computer, smartphone, tablet, etc. and see if the same 503 error persists.
8. HTTP Error 504 – Gateway Timeout
Should you see HTTP Error 504, that’s an indicator that the website you are attempting to visit is timing out. Said a different way, the website and its server are not properly communicating so this error appears.
As with the cases above, refresh the site to see if the problem fixes itself quickly. If not, you can try troubleshooting by resetting/starting your router/modem, make sure your DNS settings are set up correctly, etc. If all else fails, contacting the website administrator is likely the next best step.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can any of these error pages be customized?
Yes! Many website administrators customize their 404 and 5xx series pages with fun or delightful images or messages. As website crashes can impact SEO, utilizing these pages can help make sure the user knows these HTTP errors are temporary and that they should visit again. These pages can be an invaluable tool for website administrators as Google penalizes a website every time it cannot be visited.
2. What about non HTTP error codes?
Errors like “Network Connection Refused” or “Unable to Locate Host” is just as common as these numerical errors. The former is something you’ll see if a website is under heavy traffic or undergoing maintenance. Fear not as these issues resolve quickly and you can try and visit the site soon. The latter error is likely the result of the same issue but can also extend to the website not properly talking to its server(s). Check the URL (in both cases) and try again.
3. Should I be concerned if I see these while browsing the web?
You shouldn’t be. This article should give you enough understanding so that anytime you see these errors, you know the steps to resolve them. That might include waiting for a fix but even then, that’s helpful to know so you can remember to visit a website again.
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