What is 401 Error Unauthorized Access and How to Fix It

Staff Writer
Last Updated
June 28, 2024
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It’s never been easier to access a wide range of websites thanks to the internet, but have you ever wondered about what goes on behind the scenes of each click? While it may seem like information just appears at your fingertips, your browser is actually having a conversation with various web servers with the help of HTTP codes. 

If you’ve ever tried to access a protected web page without logging in, then chances are that you’ve already encountered one of these HTTP codes, specifically the 401 status code.

What is the 401 Error?

The 401 error is a status code that is sent to your browser when you’ve tried to access a protected resource or website without providing valid authentication credentials. There are a few error messages that this error can show on your browser, such as the following:

  • HTTP 401 Error - Unauthorized
  • Error 401 Unauthorized
  • 401 Authorization Required

What Causes 401 Error?

There are a few reasons why you may be experiencing a 401 error on your browser:

Invalid or Missing Login Credentials

This is the most common reason behind 401 errors. When a user tries to access a restricted page without providing authorized login credentials, the server will interpret this as unauthorized access and send a 401 error.

Incorrect Website URL

If the user makes any sort of mistake when inputting the URL of the website, then the server will respond with a 401 error as it won’t be able to provide the requested information. Some examples include misspellings, wrong punctuation, and incorrect path specifications.

IP Address Restrictions

Some websites may only provide access to certain IP addresses while blocking others. If your IP address doesn’t fall within the authorized range, then any attempt to access the website may result in a 401 error.

Incompatible Extensions or Software

Any extensions you may have installed on your browser may be inadvertently interfering with the server’s ability to verify your credentials.

Expired Browser Data

Your browser stores cache and cookies to optimize its performance and loading speed, but these files may also be corrupted or outdated, potentially causing a 401 error.

How to Fix 401 Error?

It’s important to understand that 401 errors are often caused by an issue on the user’s side, which means that the owner of the website is rarely at fault and won’t be able to do much to resolve this issue. Here are some things you can try to resolve the issue!

Clear Browser Data

Some files stored in your browser data can expire and become corrupted, leading to unexpected browser behavior, including 401 errors. If you’re faced with this issue, it can help to clear your browser’s cache and cookies to see whether this will solve it.

Clear DNS Cache

Just like your browser data, your DNS cache will also need to be cleared and flushed regularly, as the files stored here may also become outdated or corrupted. 

Check the Website URL

While there are many more technical reasons for a 401 error, it can also be caused by something as simple as an incorrect URL. Check the inputted website URL for any misspellings or other errors, as you may be trying to access a website that doesn’t actually exist.

Deactivate Plugins and Extensions

If your browser has any plugins or extensions installed, then they may be causing the 401 error. Some of these programs may be interfering with the authentication process, causing the error in the first place, so try deactivating each one to see if this is the issue.

Check Login Credentials

Similarly to the website’s URL, it’s also important that you check the login credentials you’re entering to see whether they are correct. Keep an eye out for errors such as misspellings and incorrect cases before trying again.

The Takeaway

A 401 unauthorized access error is often caused by a miscommunication between your browser and the website’s server, but there are a few things that you can do to easily resolve this issue.

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