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403 Forbidden error: What it is and how to fix it

Maria LeLaurin
Maria LeLaurin

Apr 22, 2020 — 3 min read

Fixing a 403 forbidden error message is easier than you might think. Discover some solutions, learn what a 403 error is and what causes it.

While it may seem intimidating at first, a ‘403 forbidden’ error message is easier to resolve than you might think.

It simply means that for some predetermined reason, the website’s content you’re trying to access is being blocked.

The reason might be within your control – but it’s more likely caused by something on the content-owner or server side.

The good news is there are a few quick and easy ways to fix the issue.

What is a 403 forbidden error?

A 403 error is an HTTP status code that means “access denied.”

If you ever had a treehouse as a kid, you may have posted a sign above the door that said “keep out.” Essentially, that’s what a 403 forbidden error is. You may also see it appear as:

  • 403 forbidden
  • 403 error
  • 403 forbidden access

Before we jump into how to solve the issue, let’s explore why you’re getting the message in the first place.

Reasons why you might get a 403 error

There are several possibilities as to why you’re seeing a 403:

  1. The content is private – The owner of the content has designated it as private. The reason? It could be anything from temporary, behind-the-scenes website updates to the website being subscriber-only access.
  2. User restricted – Only authenticated users can access the content. This comes into play with organizations such as libraries and schools, both of which might have a limited number of content users.
  3. Geographically restricted – Some sites only allow you access if you live in a specific geographic location. Examples of this are Netflix and Hulu. How does the website know where you’re located? Your IP address, which is unique to your computer and acts like a street address.
  4. Prohibited IP address – There can be a number of reasons for this, but sometimes it boils down to spam or unwanted posts coming from a specific IP address. It can also be as simple as too many failed login attempts.

5 ways to fix a 403 forbidden error

Take a few minutes to troubleshoot a 403 error. These suggested techniques aren’t complicated or overly technical and are well worth the time. We suggest that you try them in the order provided since you might fix the problem on the first attempt.

  1. Double-check the URL – It’s easy to mistype a URL, so simply retyping may fix the 403 error.
  2. Clear your cache and cookies – You’ve likely heard the terms cache and cookies, but you should know that they play specific and different roles. Think of a cookie as leaving crumbs or tiny bits on information about where you’ve been on a site, what you like on the site, etc. Cache is more about speed since its purpose is to make loading time faster. An added benefit to clearing cache is that it may also improve your overall internet speed.
  3. Give it some time – Visit some other sites, get a cup of coffee or go for a walk. Allowing some time to go by may reveal that the 403 error was nothing more than in-progress website updates. Those updates are generally made as quickly as possible to minimize disruption.
  4. Contact the company, service or organization directly – It could be that the 403 error is ongoing and that multiple people are experiencing it. You may need to reach out and let someone know about the issue.
  5. Contact your internet service provider – Your IP address may be blocked for some reason; however, this scenario is last on our list because it doesn’t happen often. If you’ve ruled out all of the above suggestions, contact your internet service provider to get some insight on whether or not the site is blocked.

A 403 error isn’t the most common error message

Chances are, you’ve seen a 404 page not found error more often than a 403. Explore the rest of the Resource Center to learn more about common internet errors and what you can do about them.