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7 Common Website Error Codes & How to Handle Them

As you surf the internet, it’s fairly common to encounter an error code while attempting to visit one of your favorite web sites or blogs. When this happens, it’s tempting to just shrug off the error and move on, dismissing the site as “broken” in your head. However, the error may have a simple cause, or may be very temporary. Learning a little bit about http error codes can help you determine precisely what’s gone wrong with your favorite web sites, so that you know a little bit more about the inner workings of the internet.

While there are quite a few obscure codes that are important to programmers, site builders, and developers, an average internet user only encounters a few as they go about their browsing. Let’s examine these common http errors and define them, so that you’ll have a better idea of what’s going on behind the scenes when they pop up on your monitor.

403 Error – Forbidden

You may encounter a 403 Error code if you are attempting to access a forbidden area of the directory of a site. If there are areas of a website’s directory that are forbidden and password protected, but a visitor does not have the password, or that are simply programmed to be inaccessible, this error may display. It simply means that the visitor is attempting to access an area of the website that they are not permitted to have access to, and that the information on those pages is, and will remain, unavailable to them.  If you receive this error on a site that you should have access to, you’ll need to contact the administrator to regain access. 

404 Error – Not Found

This http error is very common, and is likely one that you have seen quite frequently while browsing the internet. In fact, many site owners have customized 404 error pages so that they are clever or entertaining, as they display quite frequently. This error simply means that an error has occurred and the page you are attempting to access no longer exists. The blog or website owner may have taken down the content, you may have typed in the URL incorrectly, the link that you clicked on to get there may have been coded incorrectly or broken, or the content may have been moved to another web address. No matter the reason, the content that you are searching for is no longer at the address that you used to locate it, and you are receiving a 404 Not Found error.

408 Error – Request Timeout

A 408 error occurs when a request times out. If there is too long between your computer making a connection and the servers of the website you are attempting to visit receiving information from it, the connection may be dropped. These request timeout errors may happen if you are using a slow internet connection or your computer is having difficulty transferring information quickly enough due to software issues. Reloading the website by using the refresh button on your browser or pressing F5 may resolve the issue.

500 Error – Internal Server

This http error acts as a generic catch all for multiple server side errors. If a server is overloaded, having difficulty keeping up with the load that is being placed on it, or having other issues, you may receive an Internal Server error. This error message displays when there is not enough information for the web browser to give you another, more specific error message.

502 Error – Bad Gateway

You may receive this error if there is a proxy server involved in transmitting information between computers. If this proxy gets an invalid response from a server computer located farther up the chain, it may have difficulty communicating and return this error. The proxy computer is acting as a gateway, but is doing so improperly and is keeping you out, making it difficult for you to access the website you are attempting to get to.

503 Error – Service Unavailable

The server that is running the web site you are visiting cannot currently handle the request that you are making due to overloading, or due to it being temporarily down for maintenance. Basically, the server has been temporarily taken down for repairs, and, hopefully will be back up soon. If you receive this message on a site that you own, you’ll need to contact your hosting company to determine why your site is down. If you receive it on a site that you’re visiting, you’ll need to wait until the servers are back up before you are able to access the site correctly.

504 Error – Gateway Timeout

This issue is completely caused by slow communication between computers on the internet, and is not caused by your individual computer or your home internet connection. A server or chain of servers is having difficulty communicating, and it is slowing down web traffic and leading to the error message that you are receiving. This can cause an outage with your hosting company, your internet service providers, or with other services that you pay for that are web based. Unfortunately, often the only solution to this problem is to wait it out.

Now you have a basic understanding of seven of the most common http errors on the internet. This arms you with the knowledge that you need to diagnose what’s wrong with your favorite blogs, as well as to determine precisely how long they’re going to be out of commission when you notice an error page pop up. Now, you know if you’ll just need to hit refresh and grab another cup of coffee, or if you’re cut off from catching up on your favorite posts for several days – useful information, indeed.