How You Might See the 403 Error
403 Forbidden error messages are sometimes customized by the websites they appear on but for the most part, you'll see them in one of the following ways:
- "403 Forbidden"
- "HTTP 403"
- "Forbidden: You don't have permission to access [directory] on this server."
- "Error 403"
- "HTTP Error 403.14 - Forbidden"
- "Error 403 - Forbidden"
- "HTTP Error 403 - Forbidden"
The 403 Forbidden error displays inside the browser window, just as web pages do. 403 errors, like all errors of this type, might be seen in any browser on any operating system.
In Internet Explorer, a 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 errors received when opening links via Microsoft Office programs generate a Unable to open [url]. Cannot download the information you requested. message inside the MS Office program.
Windows Update may 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
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. In other words: "Go away and don't come back here."
Note: 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 here.
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.
Important: This is, by far, the most common reason for a web site to return the 403 Forbidden error. Be sure you fully explore this possibility before investing time in the troubleshooting below.
Tip: 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.
Note: 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 may 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.
You can often find a website's contact information through a WHOIS search, using the domain name (e.g. mtv.com) as your search term.
If an email address isn't listed, you might have luck emailing email@example.com, replacing website.com with the actual website name. Another option is to contact the site via one of their social networking profiles.
- Contact your ISP if your still getting the 403 error, especially if you've contacted the website in question and they say everything is good on their end.
It's possible that your public IP address, or your entire Internet Service Provider, has been blacklisted, a situation that could produce a 403 Forbidden error, usually on all pages on one or more sites.
Tip: See my How To Talk To Tech Support for some help on communicating this issue to your ISP.
- 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.
Still Getting 403 Errors?
If you've followed all of the advice above but are still receiving a 403 Forbidden error when accessing a certain webpage or site, feel free to ask for more help on my PC Support Forum.
Be sure to let us know that the error is an HTTP 403 error and what steps, if any, you've already taken to fix the problem.
Errors Like 403 Forbidden
The following messages are also client-side errors and so are related to the 403 Forbidden error: