WordPress website owners can occasionally face an Error 403 — Forbidden. But don’t worry, it is not as serious as it looks: it is like having the right key to open a door but still being unable to enter. You just have to find the reason why the key isn’t turning.
Now, let’s consider you have paid for a hosting service, set up your CMS (Content Management System) by yourself, and the servers didn’t decide to take control over your site (a more conducive assumption for those who love a conspiracy theory).
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See the answers to your questions about Error 403:
What does an Error 403 mean?
The Error 403 is usually related to the page access settings on WordPress. There are some permissions needed so the process can run smoothly, but a small failure can happen, especially in the system’s installation.
The problem can also be identified as HTTP Error 403 or simply Forbidden. The message you see depends on the server:
- Your client does not have permission to get URL/intl from the server.
- No permission to access.
- You don’t have permission to access the server.
- Request forbidden by administrative rules.
You will probably spend more time thinking about what went wrong than actually fixing the issue. Despite that, let’s see some of the possible 403 forbidden error’s causes next.
What causes an Error 403 Forbidden?
Even if the HTTP status codes the page is sending is correct, the server can still forbid access to a URL when it considers that the data isn’t compatible with keeping its communication stream.
That “comm error” can be useful to identify problems with your website’s settings — in short, the server understands your request but doesn’t execute them because you don’t have the right permissions. That is the most common issue that leads to an Error 403.
It is also possible that you didn’t set up right the protection for a directory or list of files in that folder, that a .htaccess file is corrupted, or that some plugin is not working as it should.
How do you fix Error 403 on WordPress?
Before pointing out the steps to fix Error 403, you need to certify that your backup is up to date. In the case you didn’t set up a backup solution for your WordPress website, do that immediately — it will spare you from a lot of headaches, especially with website-breaking issues. When that is covered, just take the following three steps.
1. Verify your file permissions
As we mentioned at the beginning of this post, Error 403 is a consequence of the server denying a request because you lack the appropriate permissions. To verify those, you need to access the FTP manager on your hosting service dashboard.
In your WordPress installation folder, there is a directory called public_html. Click twice to open it:
Inside each of the files, there will be a number like you see on this image:
That value tells which interactions are activated for each group of users. For example, all WordPress folders should be set up to 755 by default. If the column with that data isn’t showing, you can:
- Click the right mouse button on the columns’ header to activate it.
- Click the right mouse button on each file/folder and choose the “File Permissions” option.
This numeric value can be changed manually, and it will be automatically updated:
The value 755 (or 744) is applied to folders and allows users to read and execute the files included in it. It also limits to the admin the permission to make alterations.
The value should be 777 to let any user insert and edit the files — not advised due to security concerns. In the case of individual files, the code is 644 (or 640), which has the same specification as 755.
All folders should have the value set to 755. You can configure this permission by checking the box “Apply to directories only”. By clicking OK, the FTP manager will update all permissions for every subdirectory included in the folder.
You will also need to repeat the steps with individual files, in this case using the value 644 and also checking “Apply to directories only”. If the error persists, follow the next step.
2. Inspect your .htaccess file
Another common issue causing the Error 403 message is a corrupted .htaccess file. The good news is that it’s easy and quick to fix it via FTP. You can find it in the main directory where you installed WordPress; usually, it is the first individual file listed.
Click on it using the right mouse button and choose the “download” option. After that, it will be stored locally on your system:
When your backup is saved, delete the .htaccess file stored on the server via FTP and try to access the website again. If the problem isn’t solved, restore your backup and go to the next step.
3. Deactivate and reactivate plugins
To investigate if you have a defective WordPress plugin, you can disable them on your dashboard and see if it solves the issue. If it does, then test one by one to identify which is causing the problem.
If the error persists, you will also have to use the FTP: rename your plugins folder to see if the 403 is gone. If the answer is still negative, you will need to change each name individually until you find the culprit.
The Error 403 is a great annoyance to users, but it is not that big of a deal for WordPress. With our tips, you can quickly solve it and recover access to your website. Just follow this sequence: verify permissions, inspect the .htaccess file, and investigate your plugins!
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