What does 403 Forbidden mean and how to fix the error?

The 403 Forbidden error is an HTTP status code that means that access to the page or resource you were trying to access is absolutely prohibited for some reason.

Different web servers report 403 Forbidden Errors in different ways, most of which are listed below. Occasionally, a website owner will customize the site’s HTTP 403 Forbidden error, but that’s not very common.

How the 403 error appears

Here are the most common incarnations of 403 Forbidden Errors:

  • 403 Forbidden
  • Http403
  • Forbidden: You do not have permission to access [directory] on this server
  • Forbidden
  • Error 403
  • HTTP Error 403.14 – Forbidden
  • Error 403 – Forbidden
  • HTTP Error 403 – Forbidden

The 403 Forbidden error is displayed within the browser window, just like web pages. 403 Forbidden errors, like all errors of this type, can be seen in any browser on any operating system.

In Internet Explorer, The website declined to display 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 through Microsoft Office programs generate the message Cannot open[url] . Unable to download the requested information within the MS Office program.

Windows Update may also report an HTTP 403 error, but it will show up 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 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 full list here.

How to fix the 403 Forbidden error

  1. Check for URL errors and make sure you’re specifying a real file name and web page extension, not just a directory. Most websites are configured to not allow directory browsing, so a 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 a 403 Forbidden error. Be sure to fully explore this possibility before spending time troubleshooting below.

    If you operate the website in question and want to avoid 403 errors in these cases, enable directory browsing in your web server software.

  2. Clear your browser’s cache. Problems with a cached version of the page you’re viewing could be causing 403 Forbidden Issues.
  3. Log in to the website, whenever it is 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.

  4. Please clear your browser cookies, especially if you normally log in to this website and re-login (the last step) did not work.

    While we’re talking about cookies, make sure you have them enabled in your browser, or at least for this website if you do log in to access this page. The 403 Forbidden error, in particular, indicates that cookies may be involved in gaining proper access.

  5. Please contact the website directly. It’s possible that the 403 Forbidden error is an error, everyone else is seeing it too, and the website isn’t aware of the problem yet.

    Check out our list of website contact information for contact information for many of the most popular websites. Most of the sites have support based accounts on the social networking sites which makes it really easy to get hold of them. Some even have support email addresses and phone numbers.

    Twitter is often full of words when a site goes down completely, especially if it’s popular. The best way to focus on talking about a down site is by searching for #websitedown on Twitter, like #amazondown or #facebookdown. While this trick certainly won’t work if Twitter is down with a 403 error, it’s great for checking the status of other down sites.

  6. Contact your Internet Service Provider if you’re still getting the 403 error, especially if you’re pretty sure 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 result in a Forbidden error, usually on all pages of one or more sites.

    See How to Talk to Technical Support for help in reporting this problem to your ISP.

  7. Come back later. Once you have verified that the page you are accessing is the correct one and that the HTTP 403 error is being seen by more than you, simply revisit the page on a regular basis until the problem is fixed.

Errors like 403 Forbidden

The following messages are also client-side errors and thus related to the 403 Forbidden error: 400 Bad Request, 401 Unauthorized, 404 Not Found, and 408 Request Timeout.

There are also various server-side HTTP status codes, such as the popular 500 Internal Server Error, among others that you can find in this list of HTTP Status Code Errors.