What is 403 Forbidden Error & How to Fix it

Did you just meet with an “403 forbidden – you don’t have permission to access / on this server“?

First off, don’t panic.

A 403 forbidden error isn’t a big deal and is common for website owners.

Just like 401 error, 404 error or 503 error it’s an HTTP status code.

It means you are trying to reach an address that is forbidden to access or unable to fulfill by the server. You can meet an HTTP Error 403 – Forbidden even if you’re the owner of the website.

In this guide, we will discuss what an 403 forbidden error means and how to fix it for good.

What is the 403 Forbidden Error?

The 403 forbidden error is an HTTP status code that indicates that your web server understands what request the client (browser) is making but is unable to process it because of insufficient permissions to access that page.

Consider it like you’re a member of a shared Google drive folder along with your team mates. The admin of the folder mistakenly deletes your access and when tomorrow you try to access that folder you simply can’t.

This means Google drive understands that you’re wanting to access that folder (because you have the folder URL) but can’t open it for you because you now don’t have sufficient permission to access it.

When talking about websites, certain factors can trigger an error 403 and you can’t access a page or directory because the permissions have been overridden.

Now, you can get a variety of 403 error messages (based on how it is customized) but they all mean the the same. Here are some of the most common messages you might come across:

  • Access Denied You don’t have permission to access
  • 403 Forbidden
  • HTTP Error 403 – Forbidden
  • Forbidden: You don’t have permission to access [directory] on this server
  • 403 forbidden request forbidden by administrative rules
  • HTTP Error 403.14 – Forbidden
  • Error 403
  • Error 403 Forbidden
  • Forbidden

This doesn’t necessarily mean your website is hacked. There are factors that can cause 403 forbidden error and the good news is, you can fix them.

Talking about factors…

Now, that you know the reasons, let’s proceed to fix 403 forbidden error of your website.

Step 1 – Disable All the Plugins

Often times, a corrupt or infected plugin can be the cause for 403 forbidden error. Let’s see how to fix 403 forbidden error that’s caused by a faulty WordPress plugin.

If you can still access your WordPress dashboard, login and try to deactivate all the plugins one by one.

If you are unable to access your WordPress dashboard, you can connect to your server via any FTP client.

There are a lot of Free and Paid FTP clients to use from. For the sake of this tutorial, I am using Filezilla FTP client.

(FileZilla is a free FTP client available for Windows and Mac. It not only supports FTP but also TLS (FTPS) and SFTP.)

Here is how to connect to your server using Filezilla?

First of all, go to Filezilla official website and download the supportable client for your machine.

After installing it to your machine, open it.

Now you need to put your FTP credentials to connect to the server.

  • Host – The IP address of your server/ ftp.yourdomain.com
  • Username – Your FTP username
  • Password – Your FTP password
  • Port – Your server port number

What if you don’t know your FTP account details?

Sometimes we don’t know or forget our FTP account details. Here’s how you can find your FTP details in case you don’t have it handy.

It can be found by going to FTP Accounts inside your hosting cpanel.

Click to Configure FTP Client option next to your domain name.

Now you should be able to see your FTP credentials. If you want to reset your FTP password, click the Change Password link.

Now, connect to your server via your FTP client (Filezilla).

How to disable all plugins of your website:

  1. Locate to the wp-content folder inside the public_html folder
  2. Find the plugins folder inside the wp-content folder
  3. Now rename the plugins folder to something like plugins-old

You have deactivated all of your WP plugins safely.

Now refresh your website and look for the error. If the website is accessible, one of your plugins is faulty.

To find the faulty plugin, rename the plugins-old folder  back to plugins.

Login to your WordPress dashboard and try to activate plugins one by one and keep checking your website error.

This way, you can find the faulty plugin. You can update or replace that plugin with another one.

If disabling plugins method doesn’t fix the 403 forbidden error, move on to the next troubleshooting method.

Step 2 – Cross-check Your .htaccess File

One of the most common reasons for getting ‘403 forbidden error’ could be by your corrupted .htaccess file.

Some security or cache plugins overwrite the .htaccess file with bad code that leads the website to the 403 forbidden error.

By default, WordPress site’s .htaccess file comes with the following content:

# BEGIN WordPress

RewriteEngine On

RewriteBase /

RewriteRule ^index\.php$ – [L]

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d

RewriteRule . /index.php [L]

# END WordPress

Here’s how to fix your .htaccess file:

  1. Connect to your server using FTP client
  2. Find the .htaccess file inside the public_html folder
  3. Right-click and rename the .htaccess file to something like .htaccess-old

Now refresh your website and confirm the error. If there is no error, your .htaccess file has been corrupted. So, our next step would be to generate a fresh and functional .htaccess file for your website.

Here’s how to generate a fresh .htaccess file:

  1. Log in to your WP dashboard.
  2. Locate to Settings > Permalink
  3. Without doing anything, click the Save Changes button.

Voila! So easy.

You have successfully generated a fresh version of your .htaccess file.

If none of the above method work for you, move on to the next one.

Step 3 – File & Folder Permission Issue

Every file and folder on the server has the following 3 permissions.

  • Read – authority to open and read a file.
  • Write –  authority to modify/add/delete the contents of a file.
  • Execute – authority to execute the script/program.

By default, these permissions are set correctly to your WordPress site. But, in case they’re been messed around, it can cause the 403 forbidden error on your WordPress website.

In this case, let’s see how you can identify and fix the issue:

  1. Connect to the server via FTP
  2. By clicking right > File Permission, you can view the file permission of any file or folder.

According to WordPress, the idle file permission are

  • Files – 644 or 640
  • Folder – 755 or 750

Changing permission one by one can be a tiring task. So, let’s set these permissions for files and folders at one go.

  1. Right-click on the public_html folder
  2. Click to File Attributes

Now enter 644 or 640 into the Numeric value box. Choose Recurse into subdirectories and Apply to files only.

Once done, repeat the same process but this time for folders/directories.

  1. Right-click on the public_html folder
  2. Click to File Attributes
  3. Enter 755 or 750 into the Numeric value box.
  4. Choose Recurse into subdirectories and Apply to directories only.

If everything goes fine, you should have fixed the 403 forbidden error and your website should work again.

If not, there’s one more way to fix this…

Step 4 – CDN Assets Issues

If you’re using a CDN on your WordPress site and getting 403 forbidden error on the assets level (images, CSS, Javascript), chances are your CDN is causing the issue.

If this is the case, you can deactivate your CDN temporarily and check the website after clearing your browsers caches and cookies.

If the problem is solved, you can talk to your CDN provider. They can assist you better to solve your CDN issues.

Conclusion:

WordPress errors can be frustrating but they’re the part and parcel of running an online business using WordPress. But, that shouldn’t stop you because what business is flawless?

In this tutorial, we have explained the reasons of 403 forbidden error and how to fix it easily.

Let us know if these steps help you to fix your 403 forbidden error on WordPress.

If this tutorial helped you fix your 403 forbidden error, please consider sharing it on your favorite social media platform.

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