401 Unauthorized Error: What It Is and 7 Methods to Fix It

5 min. read
Faced with a 401 Unauthorized Error? In this article, we'll look at what error 401 is and dive into seven methods to fix the problem.

Imagine you try to access a website only to see a 401 Unauthorized Error. The experience is highly inconvenient and frustrating, whether you're the site owner or a visitor. 


An HTTP error 401 indicates that there's an issue with your authentication credentials. 


But before you get angry or anxious, we want to tell you that the problem is only temporary. As luck would have it, there are a few ways to fix it. 


In this article, we'll look at what error 401 is and dive into seven methods to resolve the problem.


Let's begin!


What is a 401 Unauthorized Error?

A 401 Unauthorized Error is an HTTP status code that indicates that the server received an unverified request. 


In human terms, this means that the website you're trying to access won't load until you log-in with a valid user ID and password. This type of client error occurs on restricted resources, such as password-protected pages of your site that require authentication credentials. 


Consequently, instead of gaining access to the web page you requested, the web browser will show you an error message. 401 Unauthorized Error messages can appear in any browser, so the messages appearing may vary from one browser to another. 


There are a few reasons for the 401 Error code, like an incorrect URL, an invalid credential, DNS errors, firewall issue, or a faulty plugin.


The 401 Unauthorized Error and the 403 Forbidden error are at the same time similar and different. While the 401 Error indicates that the server received an unverified request, a 403 error indicates that although the client provided the needed authentication, they are still not allowed access to the requested resource. 


The 4xx client-side errors are also different from the errors in the 5xx category, such as the 503 Service Unavailable error, which is server-side errors.

How Can the 401 Error Appear?

There are several ways how a 401 Error can appear. Here are a few of the variations that may appear on different web browsers or websites:


  • HTTP 401 Error – Unauthorized

  • 401 Unauthorized

  • Access Denied

  • Error 401 Unauthorized 


Although they are slightly different, they all mean the same thing: there's an issue with your authentication credentials and the webserver is blocking your access.


There are seven methods you can use to fix the 401 Error:


  • Check the URL.

  • Clean your firewall and browser cache.

  • Log out and log in again.

  • Disable your plugins or theme.

  • Flush your DNS records.

  • Reload the page.

  • Check with your hosting provider.

How Do I Fix a 401 Unauthorized Error?

Check the URL



The first thing you need to do when you see a 401 Unauthorized Error is to check whether you typed the right URL.


Take a closer look at the URL and see if it contains all the correct letters. If the URL contains any special characters, ensure they're correctly inserted. 


It's also possible that you followed an outdated link that points to the wrong URL.


Clean Your Browser and Firewall Cache



Browsers store data, so they don't have to load websites from scratch every time you access them. This is known as caching.


There can be invalid log-in information stored locally in your browser that can be disrupting the log-in process and, as a result, throw in a 401 Unauthorized Error. 


Fixing this issue is relatively simple. The majority of modern browsers let you clear your cache in a matter of a few minutes. 



After you clear your cache, try accessing the website. If the problem is still there, the error 401 Unauthorized may be related to your firewall cache. 


Your firewall may not be communicating properly with the server, resulting in authentication errors. Fixing this issue depends on the type of firewall you're using. The process is similar to most firewalls, which includes purging your firewall's cache. Read the documentation of the firewall you're using and that should tell you the easiest and quickest way to clear your firewall's cache.


Logging Out and Logging in Again



Since the website in question involves some type of authentication, another method for fixing the error is logging out and logging back in. If you previously cleared your cache you should be logged out automatically.


Log in anew by inserting your credentials and see if things are working once again.


Try Disabling Your Plugins or Theme



Sometimes, a faulty plugin may be the cause of a 401 Unauthorized Error. To see if this is the cause:


  1. Go to your CMS dashboard and disable every one of your plugins.

  2. Start activating the plugins one by one to see which one causes the issue.

  3. Once you detect which plugin is the faulty one, reach out to the support team to ask them to help you fix the issue. 


Apart from a faulty plugin, an incompatible or faulty theme may also cause the 401 Error. The best way to see if your active theme is at fault is by disabling it manually and switching back to one of the default themes your CMS provides. 


If a theme is what was causing the 401 Error, it should be gone once it's disabled. 


You can additionally get in touch with the theme's designers to inform them of the issue.


Flush Your DNS Records



DNS errors are very rare, but they can sometimes cause a 401 Error on your site. To fix this, all you have to do is flush your DNS records. 


Flushing your DNS records means deleting temporary data from your computer. By doing so, the next time you try to access that problematic URL, it'll make a completely new request and reauthenticate. 


The process of flushing your DNS varies from one system to another: 


  • If you're a Windows user, you need to open the command prompt and type in the commandipconfig/flushdns. 

  • If you're a Mac user, you need to flush your DNS by typing in the commandsudo killall-HUO mDNSResponderin Terminal (Command Promt).


If you feel overwhelmed by fixing the DNS error yourself, you can always get help from a software engineer to assist you or get in touch with your hosting provider.


Reload the Page



Although it may sound simple, just by closing the browser and reopening it a few seconds after, you may fix the 401 Error. Reloading will resolve the error only if a misloaded page is what was causing the error.

Check With Your Hosting Provider



If everything on this list fails and the 401 Unauthorized Error persists, it may be a smart idea to get in touch with your hosting provider. 


You've tried everything on your end, so it's a possibility that it's a server error. Your hosting provider will have access to better diagnostic tools and can do a better job of detecting the problem. 


Hopefully, this post helped you resolve the 401 Error on your website, and if not, hopefully, your hosting provider did.


Final Word

There are as many types of HTTP status codes as there are rings on the Olympic games flag. Whether your site is affected by a 404 error or 502 bad gateway, knowing what these errors indicate can save your business. 


To help you, we've put together this comprehensive HTTP status code cheat sheet that you can use as a reference to learn about the different types of status codes and their meaning.


Finally, make sure you invest in proper website maintenance services. Regular monitoring and maintenance will help keep you worry-free and your website error-free.

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