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

Alex Sheehan

Dec 12, 2022 — 3 min read

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

Adult male concentrating on laptop.

While it may seem intimidating initially, 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 an HTTP 403 error message.

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 an HTTP 403 Forbidden message is. You may also see it appear as:

  • 403 forbidden
  • 403 error
  • 403 forbidden access
  • HTTP 403
  • Status code 403
  • Access denied

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 status code 403:

  1. The content is private – The content owner 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, 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 is unique to your computer and acts like a street address.
  4. Prohibited IP address – There can be several reasons for this, but sometimes it boils down to spam or unwanted posts from a specific IP address. It can also be as simple as too many failed login attempts.

6 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 worth the time. We suggest 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 of information about where you’ve been on a site, what you like on the site, etc. The 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 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 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 lower 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.
  6. Disable your VPN – If you use a VPN and get a 403 status code, try disabling it and reloading the page, as some sites restrict access through a VPN.

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.

Alex Sheehan

Written by:

Alex Sheehan

Contributing Writer

Hey! I’m Alexandra Sheehan, a self-employed content strategist and copywriter for B2B companies in the retail, e-commerce and travel industries. I’ve also written for Verizon, Four Season Hotels and Resorts,… Read more

Robin Layton

Edited by:

Robin Layton

Editor, Broadband Content

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