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How to Fix 403 Forbidden Error?

How to Fix 403 Forbidden Error?

Occasionally, your browser may display the “403 Forbidden” error when you open a webpage. In general, the browser informs you that you don’t have permission to open the page. However, there could be different reasons for this issue.

The following guide will explain the “HTTP Error 403” and its common causes and solutions.

“HTTP Error 403 Forbidden” means, that the server understands your request but refuses to authorize it.

Therefore, you cannot access the website’s resources, and your browser informs you of the problem.

The error code 403 is one of the many 4XX HTTP status codes. The common trait shared between all 4XX codes is that they are client-side errors produced by your browser.

Website owners and servers could customize the “HTTP 403 Error” page. Therefore, you may see different design variations and messages on the error page. The message may state:

  • HTTP 403 Error
  • 403 – Forbidden access is denied
  • 403 Forbidden error
  • HTTP 403 Forbidden
  • Forbidden
  • 403. That’s an error
  • 403 – Forbidden

The page design may also vary. On some websites, you will see a generic error page, while on others, it will have a custom design. Below, you can see a standard-looking page for “403 – Forbidden Error”.

Generic page for "403 Error- Forbidden"

Other times, you will see a custom page with a different design and message.

Custom page for "Error 403 - Forbidden"

Troubleshooting the error depends on the nature of the problem causing it. The following section will examine the usual causes.

How to Fix 403 Forbidden Error in WordPress – Video Tutorial

How to Fix the “403 Forbidden” Error?

The problems causing the “403 Forbidden” error are quite diverse and require different approaches to be fixed. Some of the solutions can be implemented by both visitors and website owners, assuming that the problem originates from their local device or network. However, issues caused by a website configuration can be examined only by the website administrators as they require access to the backend settings.

We will start with the general solutions that anyone can try and narrow down to the more specific ones that mandate administrator privileges to the website.

Reload the Page

Sometimes, the error may briefly appear on a site due to a misconfiguration. The issue is then fixed and the website is now accessible but you loaded the webpage at the wrong moment.

It’s always worth testing by reloading the page again since it’s the fastest and simplest check that can save you a lot of time from troubleshooting further.

All browsers have a Reload button located next to the address bar. You can also use the keyboard shortcut Command+R on MacOS or F5 (Control+F5) on Windows. Below, you can see the Reload button on the popular browser Google Chrome.

Reload/Refresh button in Chrome Browser

Clear Cache and Cookies in Your Browser

You may see the “403 Error” message on a webpage if you previously visited it and your browser generated cached files and cookies. The webpage may have been altered, and the cached browsing data is expired and outdated.

Thus, the browser doesn’t load the required assets to visualize the webpage, producing the “403 Restricted Access” page. You can clear the browser cache and cookies and then reload the web page. For detailed instructions on clearing the browsing data on your specific browser or device, read the guides below:

Open the website from another network

Some website owners intentionally block a specific range of IP addresses and in some cases, access from an entire country. Therefore, your ISP network or country may be blocked by the website.

Test opening the site from another network or VPN from another country. If the website opens, it is an indication that either the network or your country is blocked.

You can contact your ISP and ask them if your IP has been changed or reach out to the website’s administrators and inform them of the restricted access.

Check the URL of the web page you try to access

A common cause of the 403 error code is a mistyped URL. Double-check the URL you typed in the browser. Most web servers are configured to disallow direct access to directories by default.

Usually, webpages of static websites have an address ending with a file extension like .php or .html. If the extension is missing, you may be accessing a folder, and since the server protects it from browsing, you receive the “Permission denied” error.

Pages on WordPress and other CMS applications (Joomla, Magento, e.g.) are entries in the website database. They are not individual files, thus their URL addresses don’t end with a file extension. A typical problem with such websites is an existing empty folder sharing an identical name with a website page.

If you are only a visitor, make sure you have the correct URL, as you may have mistyped it.

If you are the website owner, inspect the folders of your website. SiteGround users can access their Websites section in their Client Area and open Site Tools. Navigate to the section Site and select File Manager, where you can check your website folders.

For example, we created a webpage sg-testing.com/test-page/ on our WordPress site.

Check the webpage's URL - Test page

Later, we created a sub-folder test-page/ in the root folder of the website sg-testing.com/public_html.

Check the webpage's URL - A folder with the same name as a webpage

The folder test-page/ has the same address as the page – sg-testing.com/test-page/. The server always loads the folder with priority. Since the folder is empty, the address comes up with the “403 Forbidden” error.

Your website may also contain a folder sharing the name with an existing webpage or post on your website. You can test renaming the folder or deleting it. Then, reload the page and the error should not appear anymore.

Check if the domain of the website is pointed to the correct server

A website can return the “Permission denied” error if its domain is not pointed to the correct server. This issue can usually appear after a website migration from one hosting server to another.

The standard scenario is when you’ve already transferred the website data to the new hosting server, but its domain is still pointing to the old server by DNS records. The previous hosting has already limited access to your expired account, and since the domain still opens from their platform, visitors receive the “Permission denied” error.

Your first step should be to check where your domain currently points to. There are many online DNS checkers and the most popular tool is DNS Watch. Type your domain in the DNS lookup tool to see its A record and nameservers.

Open your current hosting panel which should display information about the server/website IP address and nameservers. SiteGround users can see the detailed steps in this tutorial on how to find their website IP.

Once you have the details, point your domain’s nameservers or A record to the correct servers.

Look into your server’s error logs

Often, the error is caused by a server configuration for the website. As a website owner, you can check the error logs from your hosting panel as they might show the source of the problem.

If your website is hosted by SiteGround, access Site Tools from the Websites tab of your Client Area. Navigate to the section Statistics and choose Error log. Examine the records and look for any errors that indicate denied access.

Error log showing a "403 Forbidden" error

In this example, the error log reads the following text.

2022-07-04 11:08:08 UTC [apache][autoindex:error] [pid 41000] [client] AH01276: Cannot serve directory /home/customer/www/sg-testing.com/public_html/test-page/: No matching DirectoryIndex (index.html,Index.html,index.shtml,index.php,Index.php,index.phtml,Index.phtml,index.htm,Index.htm,home.htm,Home.htm,Default.htm,Default.html,default.htm,default.html) found, and server-generated directory index forbidden by Options directive

The record points out that the website is missing an index file, hence the server denies access. Your website might show a similar log that could help you narrow down the problem.

Fix the File and Folder Permissions of the Website

Incorrect file and folder permissions for your website can also cause the HTTP 403 Error. Many servers have default permissions, and if your website doesn’t match them, access for visitors is denied.

You may have transferred the website from another hosting where their servers required different permissions from the ones used on your current hosting. Or perhaps a plugin or script altered your website’s permissions. Either way, having the wrong permissions would trigger the 403 error. Ensure that your website files and folders have the permissions required by your hosting.

SiteGround-hosted websites should have the permissions set to 644 for files and 755 – for folders. For a WordPress site, you can easily reset the permissions from the section Install and Manage in Site Tools.

Your hosting may not have a similar tool for permissions management, or your website might be built on another application. Read the following guides about other ways to reset the permissions.

Check if the Website has an Index File

Many server configurations deny access to the website when the index file is missing. Perhaps you migrated the website to a new hosting, but the index file did not carry over; you deleted it by mistake or renamed it. In either case, visitors accessing the website may see the error page.

Examine your website root folder and check if the index file is present. If you are a SiteGround user, navigate to the Websites section in your Client Area.

Open Site Tools of the respective site and choose Site. Then, select File Manager and open your website root folder, which is the site name/public_html.

In our example, the website is sg-testing.com, so the root folder is sg-testing.com/public_html. There is no index file, and the access is blocked from the server-side.

To correct the issue, inspect the backup archive you have from your previous hosting and look for the index file – index.php or index.html. Use the File Upload button from File Manager and upload the file in public_html from your backups.

Upload an index file from File Manager

If you haven’t recently migrated the website, the index file may have been deleted by mistake. You can restore the index file from the backup service of your hosting. SiteGround clients can use the Backups tool in Site Tools to restore specific files.

Inspect the .htaccess file of the Website

A common cause of the “Restricted Access” error is Apache rules placed in the .htaccess file. Using those rules, you can define which IP addresses can access your site, which files should be accessible, etc.

The rules can be added manually by the website owner or a collaborator, but there are also many plugins for WordPress that can automatically add such rules.

You should open the .htaccess file to examine the code via FTP or File Manager. On SiteGround hosting, you can use File Manager in Site Tools.

From your Client Area, open Websites and select the respective Site Tools. Open the section Site and then choose File Manager. Navigate to your website’s root folder, which is your website name/public_html.

In this folder, find the .htaccess file and press Edit to open the Editor mode.

Inspect the .htaccess file- Edit .htaccess with File Manager

Look for any “deny from” rules as they limit access to the website. In our case, there is a “deny from” order that limits access for any visitor.

"deny" rules in .htaccess

Your website may have a similar code restricting access to it. Find similar directives in your .htaccess file, delete them, and Save the changes.

If you have trouble finding the code and the issue started recently, you may consider restoring the .htaccess file from a backup made before the problem existed. Find detailed steps in this tutorial about restoring files from a backup.

Examine the security panel on your hosting server

Apart from the .htaccess file, another method for blocking access is your hosting server. Such restrictions are not set directly in a file on your website but rather on the reverse proxy server of your hosting.

Typically, those settings are managed in a dedicated security section of the hosting panel. SiteGround users are able to control the access from Site Tools→Security→Blocked IPs.

Blocked IPs in Site Tools

In this section, you can limit individual IPs or a range of IPs. If the restriction was not intended, delete the blocked IPs under Manage Blocked IPs with the corresponding Delete button.

Disable the plugins in your WordPress website

WordPress websites frequently suffer from the “HTTP 403” error due to a faulty plugin. It may be an incorrect setting in a security plugin or a conflict between several plugins.

A standard troubleshooting method is disabling the plugins. Given that the 403 error is not preventing access to the dashboard, you can navigate to the section Plugins and choose Installed Plugins.

Check the box Plugin and from the drop-down menu Bulk action, select Deactivate to disable all plugins.

Deactivate plugins from the WordPress dashboard

After the plugins are disabled, try loading the page again. If the error is no longer present, it means that one of the plugins caused it. Activate them one by one to find out which plugin causes the problem. Then, you can replace the plugin with an alternative one or contact its developers.

Occasionally, the error may lock you out of the dashboard. Thus, you need to use an alternative method to disable the plugins. You can find the detailed steps in the following tutorials:

What causes the “403 Forbidden” Error?

The reason why you see the “403 Forbidden” error could have different origins. It could stem from a local problem from the visitor’s side or a specific setting or issue of the website.

From a visitor’s perspective, the possible causes include:

  • You loaded the webpage at a brief moment when the website experienced the error
  • Expired cached files and cookies from the browser
  • You are visiting an incorrect webpage URL

On the other hand, the restriction for visitors may be intentional. Some website owners choose to make the website available only for specific networks, countries, or users. Therefore, the 403 error’s meaning could be:

  • Your IP may be part of a blocked range of IPs
  • The website is available only for specific users

When all visitors observe the “403 Forbidden”, it usually means the problem stems from the website. The access may be restricted unintentionally due to a misconfiguration. The standard issues are:

  • A conflict between folders and website pages with identical names
  • The website domain is not pointed to the correct server
  • Wrong permissions for the website’s files and folders
  • Missing index file
  • Restrictive rules in the website’s .htaccess file
  • Restricted IPs from the website’s reverse proxy
  • Misconfigured WordPress plugins


The “403 Forbidden” error indicates that your browser is restricted from visiting a website. Understanding the problems causing the error is crucial for fixing them in a timely manner – before the website suffers from traffic loss.

Another error caused by restrictions is the “401 Unauthorized” error. For detailed information, read this tutorial about the 401 error and how to fix it.

Read the following guides for restricting access to your website correctly.

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