When you are visiting a website, and you find the error 401, the first query that strikes your mind will be, what is this error 401? Error 401 is an HTTP response status code which means when your browser sends a request to the server, the request cannot be authorized, and thus, your browser displays the error message instead. The status code will be displayed with the HTTP WWW-Authenticate response header that will contain the information about how the client can re-request the data after entering authentication credentials. The 401 Unauthorized is similar to the 403 Forbidden, but in the latter, the authentication is entered by the browser or client, but it is still not allowed to visit the particular site. In this informative article, we are going to show you in detail what the error 401 means and how to quickly fix it.
What is the 401 Unauthorized Error?
When you are opening an application or a website from the browser and you find the error 401 instead of the desired result, you will know that the request your client sent to the server was unauthorized. Every time you attempt to visit a website or webpage, your browser sends a request to the server, and if the server verifies the request, then you will see the desired results in the browser. In the case of error 401, the verification is missing. But if you provide valid login credentials, the request will be verified.
Why Does the Error 401 Occur?
When you are trying to access a website from your browser, and it shows the error 401, it means one of the three things:
- You are trying to reach the wrong URL
- You have entered an incorrect username or password, or
- Your browser caches and cookies are outdated
For starters, the error mostly comes up when you are attempting to access a restricted site without using the right credentials. For example, Netflix needs login credentials to show you details of your account, but if you don’t provide them with any, you can’t access your account. But sometimes, the error can also be rendered by the webserver. If the server is blocking the client or your browser from accessing the web page, that means there is something wrong with the server. Maybe the authentication process is not valid, or due to some reasons, the server is blocking the client from accessing the web page intentionally. When the 401 error occurs, you will find these messages along with the error code:
- HTTP Error 401
- Access Denied
- 401 Authorization Required
- 401 Unauthorized Error
But there can also be multiple variations of the 401 error, and they can mean different things.
- 401.1: The log-in attempt is invalid
- 401.2: The log-in attempt will not be completed because of poor server configuration
- 401.3: The log-in attempt will not be completed because of the ACL (Access Control List)
- 401.501: There are a lot of requests made at a time by the client, or the client has reached its max limit
- 401.502: When the same client sends a lot of requests to one server, it encounters the dynamic IP Restriction Concurrent request rate limit
- 401.504: The client’s hostname is listed on the deny list of the server
- 401.503: The IP address of your device has been listed on the deny list of the server
If any of these 401 errors appear on your browser when you are desperately trying to browse something important, then there are some fixes that you can apply to them.
Most Acceptable Ways to Fix the Error 401
By now, we have talked about error 401 and its probable causes but if your main concern is to fix it, then here are some options you can try.
1. Re-check the URL You Are Attempting to Access
When you are accessing a website, and it is showing the 401 error, the first fix you can try is to re-checking the URL, whether or not you are entering it right. Also, if the web you are trying to visit is linked to the wrong URL, then it can show you the 401 error. Do a double-check before accessing an URL and if possible, try to type it yourself to make sure that there is no spelling error.
2. Clear Your Browser’s Caches
Your browser keeps caches and cookies to make sure the users are getting the best online experiences. Saving caches means the pages load faster and take low bandwidth as well. But this approach also has a downside. When your browser saves caches, it means it has saved the older version of the page you have visited before. But if the information on that page has been updated, then you can encounter the 401 error. If you clear the caches of your browser, then the current problem might be fixed. On Google Chrome, perform these steps:
Step 1: Go to Settings from the three vertical dots at the top-right corner
Step 2: Go to Privacy and Security
Step 3: Click on Clear browsing data
Step 4: A new window will appear, tick all the three boxes under the Basic tab.
Step 5: Select Clear data
On Mozilla Firefox, the steps will be:
Step 1: Click on the library icon from the top-right corner of your browser
Step 2: Go to History
Step 3: Go to Clear Recent History
Step 4: Click on Everything from the scroll-down menu
Step 5: Select cache
Step 6: Click on Clear Now
If these steps do not work in resolving the error then you must move on to the next one.
3. Flush DNS Cache
You can flush the DNS cache along with clearing the browser history on your web browser. Flushing the DNS cache is like clearing DNS records that are stored on your device’s local storage. DNS caches store data that allows your device to match the URLs with your IP addresses which assist in faster loading of the web pages. But the browser cache and cookies are operated on your browser, and the DNS cache is operated on your device. In rare cases, DNS error can lead to a 401 HTTP error and in that case, if you are running outdated DNA caches that have incorrect URLs and IP addresses, then you must flush them. When you flush your DNS records from your system, it will allow the client to request a new connection, and it will also re-authenticate the URLs. Here are the ways you can flash your DNA caches on Windows:
Step 1: Hit the Start button on your Windows computer and type “Command Prompt”
Step 2: Command Prompt will appear, and you will have to open the application
Step 3: In the Command Prompt, type “ipconfig/flushdns” and hit the Enter button
Step 4: When successfully done, the message “Successfully flushed the DNS Resolver Cache” will appear.
But if this method does not work as well, then you will have to move on to the next resolution given in this post.
4. Re-check Authentication Credentials
Since the error is related to authorized access, it’s obvious that you should check the credentials you are inputting. If you are attempting to gain entry to a password-protected site, then you must provide the right user credentials otherwise, you might not be capable of accessing the webpage. If you are using the right user credentials and still can’t access the website, then try to change the password and try again.
5. Disable Password Protection
If you are working on the site instead of being a user and you see that the 401 error is bothering the users then one thing you can do is to disable the password protection feature from your website and see if it is working or not. Most website developers enable password protection using .htaccess and .htpasswd files. Here are the steps that will help you disable password protection:
Step 1: When you are running a website, you are probably already using a hosting provider. You have to login into your hosting account first and then follow the next steps.
Step 2: Open File Manager from your hosting account.
Step 3: Look for the .htaccess file which you created when you were aiming for the password protection of your website. When you find the file, you will see the below content:
AuthName “Your authorization required message.”
Step 4: You will have to back up the content of the file if you are looking to re-enable the password protection of your website.
Step 5: Then delete the .htaccess file from its main directory.
Step 6: You will now have to find the place where the .htpasswd file is situated, and then you will have to back it up as well, just like you did it with the .htaccess file. And then you will have to delete the .htpasswd file likewise.
When you see that the error 401 is not appearing when you have disabled the password and access file, then you can keep It that way, or if you want, you can also enable the password protection feature by recreating the file from the backup that you have already stored.
6. Deactivate WordPress Plugins
When you are seeing that the error 401 is recurring then it might be because of your browser, which is causing problems accessing the WordPress site due to the plugins you have installed. Typically, a single plugin does not cause this problem alone, but there are multiple ones involved in the scene. There are vital plugins in WordPress which aim for better security, and if you configure them, they might show the 401 error when they find a suspicious login activity. But other known security plugins might show the 401 error because they are not compatible with your website. It will be better if you deactivate all the plugins at once and reactivate them one by one to see which one is creating issues and if deactivating them would help you resolve the issue. Here are the steps you need to deactivate your WP plugins all at once from your WordPress website:
Step 1: Open the WordPress dashboard and from the left-hand side, find the Plugins option
Step 2: Click on Plugins and click on Installed Plugins
Step 3: Check all the boxes from the top to select all the plugins at once
Step 4: Now you will find the Bulk Actions drop-down menu where you will find the Deactivate button. Click on that.
Step 5: Now click on Apply
And now, try to reload your website, and if the error is not occurring anymore, then try to manually activate the plugins one at a time to find out the one that was causing the error.
Now you know that the error 401 on WordPress occurs when your client’s request to the website’s server is invalid or does not have any valid authentication credentials. This error is typically rendered by client-side cases that you can effortlessly correct. In this post, we have given you 6 solutions that are to re-check your URL if it is accurate, clear your DNS and browser caches, double-check your authentication credentials, and disable your password protection. Another resolution is troubleshooting the code. Sometimes the WWW-Authenticate header can create a 401 error on WP, but on your Chrome browser, you can inspect if it is creating the error in the first place. What you have to do is right-click on the header and choose the inspect option, and from the network tab, you will find the status of the error. It will display the method that the server requires to deliver access to the webpage’s content, and in that case, you can disable all the plugins, modules, and themes to prevent the error from occurring again.