WordPress Tutorial

What Is 403 Forbidden Error And How To Fix It

What Is 403 Forbidden Error And How To Fix It


If you are reading this, you recently came across an error message saying 403 Forbidden – you don’t have permission to access ‘/’ on this server’. And most likely, you have no idea what it is all about? Well, don’t worry, this is a quite common scenario. Almost all webmasters have come in contact with.

403 Forbidden Error Example
In this tutorial, you are going to learn about the reasons that might be liable for 403 forbidden error in detail and possible solutions that will help you to get rid of this error. As an example we will show you how to fix this error on a WordPress site. However, steps would be almost identical on other CMS or static websites.

It is worth mentioning that 403 errors might differ based on various circumstances. Occasionally, this error can also be a result of a few changes that your hosting company might have made in their system or due to the implementation of some updates.

Whatever it is, let’s look deeper into the error and find out more details about it. We will then list out various reasons responsible for this error, and the possible solutions for it.

Let’s get started.

What you’ll need

Before starting this tutorial, you’ll need the following:

  • Access to your hosting control panel

What is 403 Forbidden Error?

Before we dig deeper and try to fix the 403 Forbidden Error, let’s first understand what it actually is. 403 forbidden error is an HTTP status code. When you encounter this error message, you are basically trying to reach an address or a website that is forbidden to access.

Here are examples of some these errors that are commonly thrown:

So what causes these errors? Let’s find out.

Causes of 403 Forbidden Error

Getting a 403 Error message in the middle of development might seem disturbing. But before we can fix it, we need to know about the actual reason causing it. The simple reason why we are seeing this error is because you are trying to access something you don’t have the permission to. Throwing a 403 forbidden error is your website’s way of stating that you don’t have enough permissions to proceed further.

This error is basically due to:

  • Incorrect file or folder permissions
  • Incorrect settings in .htaccess file

That said, let’s have a quick look at how you can fix Error 403 forbidden message.

Fixing the Error 403 Forbidden message

Now that we know the various factors causing the error, it is time to look how to get rid of this error. The steps mentioned here mainly focus on the tips for fixing this error message on WordPress, but they can be applied to other websites as well. Let’s go through some of the steps involved:

Step 1 – Checking .htaccess File

You may not be familiar with the .htaccess file. This is because the file often remains hidden in the project directory. However, if you are using Hostinger File Manager, your should be able to see .htaccess by default.

htaccess file in Hostinger File Manager

In other cases, for example, if you are using cPanel,  it can be done by accessing your hosting Control Panel with the help of File Manager. Let’s go through the steps involved:

  1. Locate File Manager from the hosting Control Panel
  2. In the public_html directory, look for .htaccess file.
  3. If you do not come across any .htaccess file, you can click on Settings and enabled Show Hidden Files (dotfiles) option.
    cPanel Show Hidden Files

To help you understand the .htaccess file better – it’s a server configuration file and mainly works by altering the configuration on the Apache Web Server settings.

Although .htaccese file is present in almost all WordPress websites, in some rare events, when your website doesn’t have a .htaccess file or is deleted unintentionally, you need to create a .htaccess file manually.

Now, that you have found your .htaccess file, all you need to do is:

  1. Download the .htcacess to your computer to have a backup of it.
  2. Once done, delete the file.
    Delete .htaccess to fix 403 forbidden
  3. Now, try accessing your website.
  4. If it works fine, this simply indicates that your .htaccess file was corrupt
  5. Now, to generate a fresh .htaccess file, login to your WordPress dashboard, and click on Settings > Permalinks.
  6. Without making any changes press Save button at the bottom of the page.
    Fix 403 forbidden error in WordPress by refreshing permalinks
  7. This will generate a fresh .htaccess file for your website

However, if this doesn’t solve the issue, move onto the next step.

Step 2 – Dealing with permissions

Another reason for encountering a 403 Error Forbidden message is bad permissions for your files or folders. In general, when files are created, they come with certain default permissions. These basically control how you can read, write and execute the files for your use. However, at times, these permissions might prove to be challenging and you need change permissions as per the requirement. Changing the permission is easy. This can be achieved with the help of FTP client or File Manager. FileZilla FTP client provides more options for changing file and folder permissions. Thus it’s recommended to use this FTP client for the following steps:

  1. Access your website files using FTP client.
  2. Navigate to the root directory of your hosting account.
  3. Select the main folder which contains all your website files (usually it’s public_html), right-click on it and select File Permissions.
    File Permissions FileZilla
  4. Check Apply to directories only, enter permission 755 in the numeric value field and press OK.
    Change Folder Permissions with FileZilla
  5. Once FileZilla is done changing folder permissions repeat the step 3, but this time choose to apply to files only option and enter 644 in the numeric value field.
    FileZilla Change File Permissions Only
  6. Once done, try accessing your website now, and see if the error is solved.

If you want to better understand how file and folder permissions work in Linux environment, or you want to use command line to change permissions, see this tutorial.

However, if nothing seems to happen, it is the time to move onto the next step.

Step 3 – Disabling WordPress plugins

If you have come this far, chances are high that the error was thrown due to an incompatible or faulty plugin. In this step, we will try disabling plugins to see if it fixes the 403 Forbidden Error. The best thing to do would be to disable all the plugins at once instead of going through the process individually. With this step, you would be able to detect the problem and work towards a solution. Here is what you have to do:

  1. Access your hosting account with FTP and look for the public_html folder (or folder containing your WordPress installation files).
  2. Locate the wp-content folder on the page.
  3. Locate the Plugins folder, and rename it to something different like ‘disabled-plugins’ so that it is easier to keep track of.
    Disalbe WordPress Plugins

This would disable the plugin. You can have a deeper insight on the exact procedure to follow by checking our tutorial – how to disable WordPress plugins.

Once you have disabled all the plugins, try accessing your website again. Did this fix the problem? If yes, a problematic plugin is the actual source of error. Try deactivate plugins one by one, and check if your website is back to action now. This way you will be able to detect the faulty plugin.

You can then choose to update the plugin if it is necessary or install a new one. However, if nothing of the above-mentioned steps worked for you (which is rare!), you may need to contact your hosting provider.

Wrapping Up

By following the methods listed above, you can get rid of the 403 forbidden error. We understand that this error is irritating, and won’t let you access your website. Nevertheless, follow the above-mentioned steps one by one, and we’re sure, you’ll be able to bring your website back to action.

We hope that the above tutorial was easy to follow. For more comprehensive WordPress tutorials, tips and cheatsheets check this page.

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