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What Are HTTP Error Codes? (And How To Fix Them)

Every single internet user has encountered HTTP error codes at some point. No matter if it’s a 404 not found, 403 forbidden, or a more cryptic 504 or 508, these things happen to everyone once in a while.

That’s why everyone must be aware of how to handle them.

There are some error codes that can be resolved by the user, while others are server-side or just applicable to web hosts. Whichever the case, we’re here to let you know about the common HTTP error codes and how to fix them.

What Are HTTP Error Codes Anyway?

Before we get into what error codes are, you’ll have to understand the concept of HTTP status codes, which represents a server’s response to a browser’s request.

When you visit a website, your browser sends a request to the site’s server, and the server replies to the browser’s request with a three-digit code.

You can see this expressed as 1xx or 5xx to indicate status codes in that range. The first digit of each three-digit status code begins with one of five numbers, 1 through 5. Each of those ranges cover a specific type of server response.

This article will focus on 4xx and 5xx, which represent HTTP error codes specifically. But to give you more context, here’s an image to help you understand which codes stand for which.

http response status codes
There are a lot of HTTP status codes that cover a specific type of server response.
(Credit: XeonBD)

To put it simply, status codes tell you whether everything is going well, is touch and go, or if there is a problem. And now that you know what they are, let’s dive into the common 4xx and 5xx HTTP error codes.

HTTP Error 401: Unauthorized (or Authorization Required)

error 401 unauthorized
You need to access the website with a user ID and password if you encounter error 401.

If you see an error 401, this means that the page you are trying to access probably requires a user ID and password. And if you’ve already signed in to this page but still see the error, then it’s likely that the user credentials you entered are invalid.

The fix could be as simple as going back to the homepage of the website, finding the login screen, and entering the correct information once more. Before logging in again, you could also try reloading the page, clearing the cache, or closing and then reopening your browser.

But if all the steps mentioned above don’t work, you may need to contact the site administrator for help if you are certain that your login credentials are accurate and the issue is not from your end.

HTTP Error 403: Forbidden (or Denied Access)

error 403 forbidden
Error 403 means you don’t have access to the webpage. (Credit: Caprahost)

When you encounter this error on a webpage, it means that you are trying to view a page that you are not authorized to view. You may see this message for several different reasons, but the general implications are that this site’s not for you.

The first thing you should do is to double-check if you’re accessing the right URL, as you might be trying to view a page that you have no permission to access. In some cases, refreshing your browser and clearing your browser cache may also do the trick.

Another solution is to use a VPN to connect to servers of other countries (e.g. the country the website is based in/intended for) and try reaching the URL again.

For example the BBB website (bbb.org) is intended for US audiences only, which means that non-US-based users will see a 403 error when trying to reach the website. You can connect to a US server using a VPN to bypass the 403 error and access the site freely.

HTTP Error 404: Page Not Found

google 404 error page
Error 404 is the most common and well-known HTTP error code.

This is probably the most well-known of the 4xx status codes. It frequently appears whenever your browser requests that you’re trying to visit a page that its server cannot locate. This is most likely to occur if you entered the URL of a web page incorrectly, clicked on an incorrect link, or misdirected it. If you encounter this error, there’s a high chance that a mistake was probably made on your end and not the website’s.

This problem can be solved easily by checking if you’ve entered the URL correctly. Make sure there aren’t any spelling errors and that you’re not trying to access a non-existent domain or subdomain.

You can also try searching the web page on search engines such as Google. This’ll let you see if the page has been recently moved or not.

HTTP Error 408: Request Timeout

error 408 request timeout
Error 408 is similar to the 504 Gateway Timeout status code. (Credit: SaturnVPN)

A 408 error, while not as common as the previous ones on this list, indicates that the server was not willing to wait for the website to finish loading. This might occur if the client sends the request too slowly (i.e. your internet connection was too slow), or if the server is overloaded and unable to handle the load, or if it has a misconfigured timeout duration.

You can often easily fix the problem by refreshing the web page. It probably was just a case of your browser not handling the request properly or your internet connection being slow at the time.

HTTP Error 500: Internal Server Error

error 500 internal server error
Errors in the 5xx range are usually caused by errors within the server. (Credit: Crazy Domains)

It’s important to remember that errors in the 5xx range usually result from a problem with the website’s server or server software. In other words, the issue with the URL extends beyond a simple spelling error. If you see this message, it’s possible that the website ran into an unexpected error while attempting to contact the server.

To fix this problem, always start by refreshing the page or restarting your device for a quick fix. If that doesn’t work, the next best option is to use another browser or access the website from another device. This helps determine where the problem stems from and if the problem is on you, the user’s side.

And another thing – browser cookies have been suggested by some internet searchers as a possible cause for error 500 too. That being said, deleting all of the cookies in your web browser may be all you need to resolve the issue.

HTTP Error 502: Bad Gateway

error 502 bad gateway
Error 502 usually happens when two servers don’t communicate with each other.
(Credit: WPServices)

If you encounter a 502 Bad Gateway error, it’s likely that the issue’s server-based and not unique to your setup. This indicates that the error will occur regardless of the device or operating system you’re using to attempt to access the website. Typically, this error happens when two servers are not in communication with one another.

Most of the time, this is easily resolved by simply clearing the browser cache or refreshing the browser. If you recently migrated to the site, give it 24–48 hours. You can even get in touch with the web hosting company to raise the concern. The best web hosting companies have around-the-clock support so you don’t have to worry about them not replying to your queries.

Also, since most websites nowadays use managed web hosting platforms, your 502 response can occasionally be caused by a WordPress plugin or a third-party CDN service. So if the fixes we mentioned don’t work, try utilizing a different WordPress theme.

HTTP Error 503: Service Unavailable (or Service Temporarily Unavailable)

error 503 service unavailable
Error code 503 means that the server is currently unavailable. (Credit: Qode Magazine)

Whenever you see this message while attempting to access a website, it just means that the server is currently unavailable. Either it’s experiencing high traffic, or undergoing regular maintenance.

Refreshing the page might help since the issue is not user-related. You can also attempt to reopen the page a few minutes later, since the issues are likely to be only temporary. And if the same 503 error keeps occurring, you can also try restarting your modem/router and your device.

HTTP Error 504: Gateway Timeout

error 504 gateway timeout
504 error code means the website you’re trying to access has expired.

If you encounter an HTTP error 504, it means that the time limit for the website you are trying to access has expired. This error happens because there’s a communication problem between the server and the website.

To address error 504s, check the page after refreshing it to see if the issue gets fixed right away. If not, try resetting your router or modem and checking your DNS settings to see if that fixes it. The next best course of action is likely to contact the site administrator if the issue still hasn’t been resolved.

Instant Troubleshooting Is Made Easier by Recalling HTTP Status Codes

An excellent way to understand problems between the web server and the client is through HTTP status codes. For web administrators to troubleshoot issues, fix issues, and guarantee a positive end-user experience, it’s crucial to remember the significance of the list of status codes and their implications.

This can also be said for problems on the user’s side. Utilizing the quick fixes mentioned can save you a lot of time, so you can continue having a pleasant browsing experience.

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