HTTP Error 431: Definition, Status, Causes & Solutions

6 min. read

Let's imagine the following scenario:


You're checking to see if everything works properly on your website when an error appears.


It says: 


HTTP Error 431 - "request header fields too large."


What the heck does it mean?


You know that status codes are a set of codes that indicate the response when a web browser or other client requests information from an HTTP server. But you've never come across an error 431. 


Although the error 431 is not as notorious as other error codes in its group, such as the 404 status code, it doesn't mean that it's less frustrating for website owners.


So, if you’re getting an HTTP Error 431, here are a few troubleshooting tricks to try.


Let's dive in!


What Does Header Too Large Mean?

In order to understand the HTTP Error 431, we first must understand the HTTP language


There are two players on the internet: the client and the server. The client makes the request, and the server processes and answers that request. 


The process would go something like this:


  • You open your Chrome browser and access the internet. 

  • You send a request to a web server to access a page, for example,wikipedia.com. 

  • The server receives your request to access that page.

  • The server responds. 


Here's the thing you should learn:


Requests are also known as "headers." Although the HTTP protocol doesn't say how big these pieces of data can be, some servers impose a limit size for security concerns. 


And this is where the error 431 comes in.


This status code indicates that the server cannot process the request because the header is too long. In short, this status code appears if the data you ask for is too chunky or lengthy. 


Servers will often show this code if:


  • The Referer URL is too long

  • There are too many Cookies sent in the request


The bad news is that the site won't load until you fix the issue – but more on that below.

Is It a Server-Side or a Client-Side Error?

The 431 status code is only one of the 50+ status codes that represent the complicated relationship between servers and clients. 


There are five groups of status codes, including redirects, server-side errors, and client-side errors.


The HTTP Error 431 belongs to the class of status codes known as client-side errors. In other words, something on the client-side of things is causing the issue. 


The 4xx category contains 20+ HTTP status codes, including:

If something on the server-side is causing the issue, the server will come up with a 5xx status code, such as the error 501 or error 511


To sum up, the cause for a 431 error code is something on the client-side of things. More precisely, the server cannot process the request sent by the client because the header is too long.


How Do I Fix Error 431?

Here are four troubleshooting tactics for fixing the HTTP Error 431:

Delete Cookies and Clear Cache

Cookies are a type of data created by a website to store preferences, track sessions, and remember what had been done on the site. They're used to collect information about your browsing habits and use that information to target ads towards you. Cookies can be very useful for personalizing your experience on the internet. 


However, they can also have negative consequences. The 431 error can happen if your server sends too big headers, including cookies.


Here are step-by-step instructions on how to clear cookies in different browsers:

Eliminate the Referrer URL

If you know you have active links on a site with a very long URL, eliminate this query before allowing access.

Restart the Browser

If you tried the two troubleshooting tips above and nothing works, try closing and re-opening the browser.

Get In Touch With Your Host

If you tried the three methods explained above and the error still appears, then it may be time to get in touch with your hosting provider. 


Your hosting provider will have access to better diagnostic tools and may possess the technical experience to detect the problem.

Final Word

To sum up:


  • There are two players on the internet: the client and the server. The client makes the request and the server processes and answers that request. 

  • The 431 status code indicates that the server cannot process the request because the header is too long.

  • The HTTP Error 431 belongs to the class of status codes known as client-side errors. It means that something on the client-side of things is causing the issue. 

  • Website owners should try fixing the issue by deleting cookies, eliminating the referrer URL, and re-starting the browser. 

  • If nothing, business owners should get in touch with their host. 


If you want to learn more about the different types of status codes, we've prepared this extensive HTTP status code cheat sheet. Let it serve you as a learning resource for understanding status codes and how they work. 


Finally, don't forget to invest in proper website maintenance services. Taking care of your website is essential for any company that wants to stay ahead of the game in this digital age.  There are many benefits to hiring a professional company to take care of your website such as:


  • Your site will be accessible 24/7/365

  • Any future updates will be made in a timely manner

  • You have someone looking out for security flaws in your site

  • You have a team that is skilled in SEO techniques that will help grow your business

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