What is the 403 Forbidden Error & How to Fix it (3 Methods Explained)

What is the 403 Forbidden Error & How to Fix it (3 Methods Explained)

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 that many web users run into.

In short, follow these steps in order to fix the 403 forbidden error:

  1. Check or reset/rename your .htaccess file
  2. Reset file and folder permissions
  3. Disable WordPress plugins

403 Forbidden Error Example
If you want to take a more depth look, keep reading this tutorial. You are going to learn about the reasons that might be liable for a 403 forbidden error and ways to get rid of it. As an example, we will show you how to fix this error on a WordPress site. However, steps would be almost identical on any other CMS or static websites.

Let’s get started!

What is the 403 Forbidden Error?

Before we dig deeper and try to fix the Error, let’s first understand what it actually is. It 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:

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

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

Causes of 403 Forbidden Error

Getting a 403 Error 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 that you are trying to access something you don’t have the permission for. 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 the .htaccess file

That said, let’s have a quick look at how you can make it disappear.

Fixing the Error 403 Forbidden Message

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

Check .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, you should be able to see .htaccess by default in your hPanel.htaccess file in Hostinger File Manager

In other cases, for example, if you are using a 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, you can click on Settings and enabled Show Hidden Files (dotfiles) option.
    settings on cpanel on how to show your hidden WordPress 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 the .htaccess is present in almost all WordPress websites, in some rare events, when your website doesn’t have a .htaccess or is deleted unintentionally, you need to create a .htaccess file manually.

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

  1. Download the .htaccess to your computer to have a backup of it.
  2. Once done, delete the file.
    Delete .htaccess to fix 403 error forbidden
  3. Now, try accessing your website.
  4. If it works fine, this simply indicates that your .htaccess file was corrupt
  5. To generate a fresh .htaccess file, login to your WordPress dashboard, and click on Settings › Permalinks.
  6. Without making any changes click the Save Changes 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 method.

Reset File and Directory 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.

If you’re using Hostinger, there’s a special tool that will take care of all your permission problems in just a single click. Enter Fix File Ownership in the search bar or scroll to the bottom of your control panel to Other and locate it there.

Fixing file and directory permission problem in a single click with Hostinger

This tool will save you loads of time and will restore all file and directory permissions to default values.

However, a FileZilla FTP client also provides all you need to edit file and folder permissions. To begin, you should:

  1. Access your website files using any 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 Attributes.
    File Permissions FileZilla
  4. Select 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 step 3, but this time select the 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 403 forbidden error is solved.

If you want to get a better insight on how file and folder permissions work in a Linux environment or learn to use the command line to change permissions, see this tutorial.

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

Disable 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 the folder containing your WordPress installation files).
  2. Locate the wp-content folder on the page.
  3. Locate the Plugins folder, and rename it something different like “disabled-plugins” so that it is easier to keep track of.
    filezilla disable the plugins to look for errors

Once you have disabled all the plugins, try accessing your website again. Did this fix the 403 forbidden problem? If yes, a problematic plugin is the actual source of error. Try deactivating your plugins one by one, and check if your website is back in working 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!) and the error message still appears, you may need to contact your hosting provider.

Note: If you have recently migrated from one web host to another, and forgot to change your nameservers, your domain may still be pointing to your old web host. This can be a problem when they cancel your account, resulting in a 403 Error. So make sure your site is pointing to the right place. For more information, check out this tutorial.

Wrapping Up

By following the methods listed above, you can get rid of the 403 forbidden error. We understand that this error message causes great frustration as you can’t access your website or a web page. 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 cheat-sheets check this page.



The author

Domantas G.

Domantas leads the content and SEO teams forward with fresh ideas and out of the box approaches. Armed with extensive SEO and marketing knowledge, he aims to spread the word of Hostinger to every corner of the world. During his free time, Domantas likes to hone his web development skills and travel to exotic places.