The HTTP error 403 blocks site access, use these steps to find out why
Updated November 08, 2019
The 403 Forbidden error is an HTTP status code that means that accessing the page or resource you were trying to reach is absolutely forbidden for some reason.
Different web servers report 403 Forbidden errors in different ways, the majority of which we’ve listed below. Occasionally a website owner will customize the site’s HTTP 403 Forbidden error, but that’s not too common.
How the 403 Error Appears
Lifewire / Alex Diaz Dos
These are the most common incarnations of 403 Forbidden errors:
Forbidden: You don’t have permission to access [directory] on this server HTTP Error 403.14 – Forbidden HTTP Error 403 – Forbidden
In Internet Explorer, The website declined to show this webpage message indicates a 403 Forbidden error. The IE title bar should say 403 Forbidden or something similar.
403 Forbidden errors received when opening links via Microsoft Office programs generate the message Unable to open [url]. Cannot download the information you requested inside the MS Office program.
Windows Update might also report an HTTP 403 error but it will display as error code 0x80244018 or with the following message: WU_E_PT_HTTP_STATUS_FORBIDDEN.
Cause of 403 Forbidden Errors
403 errors are almost always caused by issues where you’re trying to access something that you don’t have access to. The 403 error is essentially saying “Go away and don’t come back here.”
Microsoft IIS web servers provide more specific information about the cause of 403 Forbidden errors by suffixing a number after the 403, as in HTTP Error 403.14 – Forbidden, which means Directory listing denied. You can see a complete list at Microsoft.
How to Fix the 403 Forbidden Error
Check for URL errors and make sure you’re specifying an actual web page file name and extension, not just a directory. Most websites are configured to disallow directory browsing, so a 403 Forbidden message when trying to display a folder instead of a specific page, is normal and expected.
This is, by far, the most common reason for a website to return the 403 Forbidden error. Be sure you fully explore this possibility before investing time in the troubleshooting below.
If you operate the website in question, and you want to prevent 403 errors in these cases, enable directory browsing in your web server software.
Clear your browser’s cache. Issues with a cached version of the page you’re viewing could be causing 403 Forbidden issues.
Log in to the website, assuming it’s possible and appropriate to do so. A 403 Forbidden message could mean that you need additional access before you can view the page.
Typically, a website produces a 401 Unauthorized error when special permission is required, but sometimes a 403 Forbidden is used instead.
Clear your browser’s cookies, especially if you typically log in to this website and logging in again (the last step) didn’t work.
While we’re talking about cookies, be sure you have them enabled in your browser, or at least for this website if you do actually log in to access this page. The 403 Forbidden error, in particular, indicates that cookies might be involved in obtaining proper access.
Contact the website directly. It’s possible that the 403 Forbidden error is a mistake, everyone else is seeing it, too, and the website isn’t yet aware of the problem.
See our Website Contact Information list for contact information for lots of popular websites. Most sites have support-based accounts on social networking sites, making it really easy to get a hold of them. Some even have support email addresses and telephone numbers.
Twitter is usually abuzz with talk when a site goes down completely, especially if it’s a popular one. The best way to focus in on talk about a downed site is by searching for #websitedown on Twitter, as in #amazondown or #facebookdown. While this trick certainly won’t work if Twitter is down with a 403 error, it’s great for checking on the status of other downed sites.
Contact your Internet Service Provider if you are still getting the 403 error, especially if you’re pretty sure that the website in question is working for others right now.
It’s possible that your public IP address, or your entire ISP, has been blacklisted, a situation that could produce a 403 Forbidden error, usually on all pages on one or more sites.
Come back later. Once you’ve verified that the page you’re accessing is the correct one and that the HTTP 403 error is being seen by more than just you, just revisit the page on a regular basis until the problem is fixed.