Unlocking Access: Fixing the 403 Forbidden Error on Your Site



7 min. read

Have you ever faced an error message on a website that reads "403 Forbidden"? This can be inconvenient, especially if it's happening on your own website and you're unsure why users are seeing it. Understanding the causes and knowing how to fix them can help you quickly restore access.

A 403 Forbidden error typically occurs when your server permissions are not set correctly or when there's a problem with your website's .htaccess file. It might also happen if your IP address is blocked or if there are issues with your hosting provider. Admiral Studious is here to help you understand and cope with this error.

What does 403 forbidden mean?

A 403 Forbidden Error is a Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) status code that indicates a server has understood your request but is refusing to give access due to permission restrictions. Unlike a 404 Not Found Error, which signifies the requested resource doesn't exist, a 403 Forbidden Error suggests the resource exists, but you, the user, lack the necessary authorization to view it. 

What is a 403 forbidden error from another side? From a technical SEO perspective, a 403 Forbidden Error can negatively impact your website's search engine visibility. Search engines like Google strive to index all publicly available content. If a significant portion of your website returns a 403 error, search engines may struggle to crawl and index that content, potentially affecting your website's ranking in search results.

Common Causes of a 403 Forbidden Error

Several factors can contribute to a 403 error code. Here's a list of the most common issues:

  1. Incorrect File Permissions: Websites are built using a collection of files and folders. Each of these elements has specific permissions that define who can access them (owner, group, or public). Incorrect file permissions, for example, if a file essential for a webpage is set to "read-only" for everyone, can cause a 403 error.

  2. .htaccess File Errors: The .htaccess file is a configuration file commonly used on Apache web servers. It controls various aspects of server behavior, including access restrictions. Errors within this file, such as typos or incorrect syntax, can lead to unexpected 403 errors.

  3. Plugin Conflicts (WordPress): If you're using a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress, certain plugins can interfere with file and folder permissions. Incompatible or outdated plugins might inadvertently restrict access to specific areas of your website.

  4. Directory Indexing Issues: Directory indexing refers to the process of displaying a list of files within a directory when no specific file is requested (e.g., visiting If directory indexing is disabled for a directory but a user attempts to access it directly, they might encounter a 403 error.

  5. IP Blocking: Some website owners choose to block access from specific IP addresses or ranges. If your IP address is accidentally included in a blacklist, you might see a 403 error when trying to access the site.

  6. Server-Side Issues: In rare cases, the 403 error could originate from problems within the web server itself. This could be due to server misconfiguration or malfunctioning software. If you suspect server-side issues are causing the 403 error, it's best to contact your website hosting provider. They have access to server logs and expertise to diagnose and fix these issues.

A 403 error code can be caused by a variety of factors. However, by understanding the most common culprits, you can effectively solve the issue and restore access to your website.

Troubleshooting and Fixing the 403 Forbidden Error

Understanding the root causes and solutions for this error can help you resolve it effectively and restore access to restricted content. Let’s find out how to fix 403 forbidden on your website.

1. Check Browser Cache and Hard Refresh

A simple first step is to clear your browser cache and perform a hard refresh (Ctrl+F5 or Cmd+Shift+R). Sometimes, outdated cached data can lead to temporary permission issues.

2. Analyze Error Message

The specific wording of the 403 - forbidden: access is denied message might offer clues about the cause. Some servers provide more detailed information within the error message itself. Look for phrases like "permission denied" or "access forbidden," which can point toward permission-related issues.

3. Review File and Folder Permissions

If you have access to your website's file system (through a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) client or a hosting control panel), you can check the permissions of the affected files and folders. Standard permission settings for website files are usually 644 (read-only for owner and group, no access for public) and 755 (read/execute for owner, read/execute for group, read-only for public) for folders. There are online tutorials and resources available that provide specific steps on how to adjust file permissions on different hosting platforms.

4. Disable Plugins (WordPress)

If you suspect a plugin conflict might be causing the error (specifically on a WordPress site), try temporarily deactivating all plugins and then reactivating them one by one while checking for the reappearance of the error. This can help identify the problematic plugin. Once identified, you can either update the plugin, replace it with a compatible alternative, or seek help from the plugin developer.

5. Verify .htaccess File

The .htaccess file can be a double-edged sword. While it offers powerful configuration options, errors within this file can lead to unexpected behavior. If you're comfortable editing configuration files, try temporarily renaming the .htaccess file (be sure to back it up first!) to see if the error persists. If the request failed with status code 403 disappears after renaming the .htaccess file, you've likely identified the issue. You can then solve the specific errors within the file. There are online tools available that can help check the syntax of your .htaccess file. However, unless you're familiar with Apache configuration directives, it's recommended to seek assistance from a web developer or your hosting provider for editing the .htaccess file.

6. Check Directory Indexing

If you're facing the error when trying to access a directory directly, verify that directory indexing is enabled for that specific directory within your server configuration. This can usually be done through your hosting control panel or server configuration files.

7. Contact Hosting Provider

If you've followed the troubleshooting steps above and the error persists, it's time to contact your website hosting provider. They have access to server logs and error messages, which can provide a more accurate understanding of the cause of the 403 status. Additionally, they can help solve server-side issues if they are suspected to be the cause.

Additional Tips on How to Fix Error Code 403:

  • Document Your Changes: Whenever making modifications to file permissions or server configurations, it's crucial to document the changes you make. This will help you roll back to a previous state if something goes wrong.

  • Start Simple: When troubleshooting, it's best to begin with the most likely causes and work your way toward less common ones. This saves time and avoids unnecessary changes.

  • Seek Professional Help: If you're not comfortable editing configuration files or dealing with server administration tasks, don't hesitate to seek help from a professional web developer or your hosting provider. They have the expertise to diagnose and fix the issue efficiently.

By following these methods and understanding the common causes of the 403 status code, you should be well-equipped to troubleshoot and fix the issue on your website. Remember, a systematic approach, clear documentation, and seeking help when needed are key to resolving this error and restoring access to your website.