How to Fix 401 Error “Unauthorized Access”? [7 Methods]



How To Fix 401 Unauthorized Error?

Now that you have obtained a solid understanding of the 401 unauthorized error and its background, let’s delve into the methods to resolve and fix this issue.


1. Ensure the URL is correct

One of the most common mistakes that any users generally make is typing an incorrect URL in the browser’s address bar. Therefore, you need to recheck the entered URL carefully and make sure there is no misspelled or any missing character is present.

If you have entered a wrong, outdated, or misspelled URL, you might encounter an Error code 401 message. But you do not need to panic. This error message simply indicates that the URL you were trying to access doesn’t exist and it shows up as a “401 unauthorized access” response from the server.

For your better understanding, let us take an example. Suppose, you have bookmarked a page or saved its address in your browser. But over time, things might change. The page you were trying to visit might be updated or even deleted.

To investigate further, you can try visiting the website’s homepage and searching for the link to the page that is causing the “Unauthorized 401” error. If the page opens without any issue, you need to compare the match the URL of the page to the one that initially gave you the error.

2. Ensure correct Authentication credentials

Sometimes, you might even encounter the 401 Error code when you are trying to access a locked resource or content that is password protected. This means you have provided invalid authentication credentials, due to which you’re denied access to the resources.

Here is what you can do to avoid such issues. First, take your time and double-check the login credentials such as user ID and password before proceeding further.

If you are confident that you’ve entered the correct credentials, then it is better to change your password. This will help you to reset your password and have the right credentials to access the resources.

However, in case you are unable to access your password-protected website, Check out our complete guide on “How To Reset WordPress & Start Over Easily?“.

3. Clear your browser cache and cookies

Without a doubt, browser cache and cookies are meant to enhance the user experience by speeding up website loading. However, sometimes they can even become the culprit for triggering errors.

It is because over time these browsers’ cache and cookies get outdated or corrupted resulting in unexpected interruptions and browsing issues. To fix this issue, the best practice is to clear your browser’s cache and cookies completely.

If you are using Chrome browser, follow the steps given below:


Read: 🚩 Browser Market Share & Usage Statistics


Step 1: Depending on your browser, Go to the settings menu.

In Google Chrome, for example, you can find the settings menu by clicking on the three vertical dots located in the upper right corner of the window.

Step 2: To proceed, select “More tools” and then click on “Clear browsing data”.

Clear browsing data in Chrome
Clear browsing data on Chrome

Step 3: A pop-up window will be displayed, and you can choose all three options located under the “Basic” section as depicted in the picture below. These options consist of “Browsing history,” “Cookies and other site data,” and “Cached images and files.

Step 4: Click on “Clear data” to initiate the process.

Clearing data in Google Chrome
Clearing data in Google Chrome

By doing so, any corrupt or invalid information stored locally in your browser will be completely erased. This ensures that if it was causing the authentication issue, it won’t occur again.

4. Flush your DNS Cache

Similar to your browser cache and cookies, the DNS cache is also used to store locally on your computer. Although it is uncommon for a DNS cache to trigger a 401 error, it is worth giving it a try as a troubleshooting step.

For Windows 10 and Windows 11 users:

Step 1: Open the Run command by pressing the Windows key and R. Alternatively, you can search for it in the Start menu.

Step 2: Type “cmd” and hit Enter to open the Command Prompt.

Opening Command Prompt in Windows
Opening Command Prompt in Windows

Step 3: Once the Command Prompt window is open, type “ipconfig/release” to release your current IP address.

Using Ipconfig command on CMD
Ipconfig command on CMD

Step 4: Next, type “ipconfig/flushdns” to release the DNS cache.

Step 5: Type “ipconfig /renew” to obtain a new IP address.

ipconfig renew
ipconfig renew

Step 6: Type “netsh int ip set dns” and hit Enter to reset your IP settings.

Step 7: Finally, type “netsh winsock reset” to restore the Winsock Catalog.

netsh winsock reset
netsh winsock reset

Step 8: After completing these steps, restart your computer to ensure the changes take effect.

For MacOS users:

Step 1: First of all, open the system preference options on your Mac. If you have Gas Mask installed, it can make searching for system-related tasks easier.

Step 2: Next, navigate to the Ethernet tab and click on the advanced options.

Step 3: Under the TCP/IP tab, you will find the option to release a DHCP lease. Clicking on this option will allow you to clear out the local DNS on your Mac.

Renew DHCP in MacOS
Renew DHCP lease in macOS

Step 4: Go to Utilities > Terminal and enter the command to clear the local DNS cache.

Step 5: The command for flushing the local DNS cache is “dscacheutil -flushcache”.

Step 6: Once you have entered the command, there will be no separate success or failure message that pops up. However, in most cases, the cache will be cleared without any major issues.

5. Disable WordPress Plugins

It is also possible that the browser you are using might have not the issue, but the WordPress plugins you have used on your site might have, especially the security plugins.

These security plugins are notorious for causing such type of issues. These are specially built and designed to block any suspicious activity found and return a 401 error message.

Another possibility can be, incompatibility issues. Some WordPress plugins can conflict with your website and trigger such errors. If this is the cause, the best thing you can do is to disable all the installed WordPress plugins and check if this fixes the issue.

Step 1: Log in to your WordPress admin dashboard

Step 2: Navigate to the “Plugins” menu option on the left-hand side of the dashboard.

Step 3: A list of installed plugins will be displayed. Take note of the currently active plugins or make a list if needed.

Step 4: Select all the plugins by ticking the checkboxes next to their names or use the “Bulk Actions” dropdown menu to select all.

Step 5: From the “Bulk Actions” dropdown menu, choose “Deactivate” and click the “Apply” button. This will deactivate all the selected plugins simultaneously.

Deactivate WordPress Plugins
Deactivate WordPress Plugins

Step 6: Once the deactivation process is complete, try accessing your website and check if the 401 error is resolved.

If the error is no longer showing up, it indicates that one or more plugins were causing the issue. You can then proceed with identifying the conflicting or incompatible plugins by enabling them one by one and testing the website after each enabling the plugin until the error appears again. This way, you can determine the specific plugin causing the conflict.

In case, if you find a faulty plugin. You can either update it to a newer version or contact the plugin developer for support. Also, you can even find an alternative plugin that has similar features and does not cause any issues.

6. Check out your website’s .htaccess file

You might be surprised to know, especially if you are not aware of the fact, that the hosting panel is not the only place where you can set a password for your website. But you can also do this by configuring the code in the .htaccess file.

If you have already set a password through the .htaccess file, but you have forgotten about it or added it through a plugin. It is important to check your website’s .htaccess file to determine if it is causing the issue.

Let us see how you can proceed.

If your web hosting provider offers you access to cPanel, it will become easy for you to locate WordPress .htaccess files without using an FTP client.

1. To do this, first, you need to log into your cPanel as shown below:

cPanel login page
cPanel login Page

2. Lookout for the Files section and click on the File Manager option as shown.

File Manager in cPanel
File Manager in cPanel

3. Now you will be able to see a list of all the core files displayed on your screen. Select and click on the public_html folder to open.

Public_html folder
Public_html folder

4. Now if you have an existing .htacess file available, it will reflect in the public_html or htdocs folder, if not then either it is hidden or doesn’t exist yet.

htaccess file
.htaccess file

However, if your WordPress .htaccess file is hidden, you can unhide it by simply going to the Settings section located at the top right corner of the “files manager window” as shown in the image below:

Unhide htaccess files
Unhide .htaccess file

A preferences window will pop out as shown in the picture below:

Unhide .htaccess File
Unhide .htaccess File

Now simply, check the ” Show Hidden Files (dotfiles)” box and click on Save. All the hidden files will start reflecting on your file manager window.


Read: 🚩 WordPress .htaccess File: How to Create And Edit it?


Now when you right-click on the .htaccess file and select the edit option, Its content should look similar to this: 

AuthType Basic
AuthName "Permission required"
AuthUserFile ../../.htpasswd
require valid-user

For security reasons, the login credentials are kept stored in a file named “.htpasswd”. This file contains your password and the username.

However, if you no longer want the security, you can revoke the corresponding code from the .htaccess file and Save the changes to confirm.

7. Check the WWW-Authenticate header

If the above troubleshooting methods don’t work, it means the issue is from the server side.

When a server sends a “401 Unauthorized” status code, it includes the “WWW-Authenticate” header to specify the authentication scheme. Which the client needs to use to access the requested resource.

You might be wondering what is WWW-Authenticate header. It is an HTTP response header that indicates the type of authentication required for accessing a resource on a web server.

This particular header provides information to the client about the authentication method that should be used, such as Basic Authentication or Digest Authentication.

To check the “WWW-Authenticate” header, you can follow these steps:

Step 1: Open your web browser and navigate to the desired web page that generates a 401 error code.

Step 2: Right-click anywhere on the page and select “Inspect” or “Inspect Element” from the context menu. This will open the browser’s developer tools.

Step 3: In the developer tools, navigate to the “Network” tab.

Network tab in browser's developers tools
Network Tab

Step 4: Refresh the page by pressing the “F5” key or clicking the refresh button in the browser.

Step 5: Look for the request corresponding to the resource you want to check in the list of network requests. It should have a “401 Unauthorized” status code.

Step 6: Click on the request to view its details.

Step 7: In the headers section, locate the “WWW-Authenticate” header. This header will provide information about the authentication scheme required for accessing the resource.

Authentication scheme Information in header section
Authentication scheme Information in the header section

Step 8: The value of the “WWW-Authenticate” header will indicate the authentication method to be used, such as “Basic”, “Digest”, or others.

You can also refer to the HTTP Authentication Scheme Registry for more information about page authentication methods.


What is a 401 error?

The meaning of 401 error is, that it is an HTTP status code that indicates the request does not have any valid authentication credentials to access the requested resource. This means, the server acknowledges the request sent by the client but the client doesn’t have valid authentication details or permissions to access the server resource.

If you are a web developer, website admin, or regular user, you need to know the importance of 401 Error. It is because it helps you to diagnose and troubleshoot issues related to authentication and access control.

Let us understand with an example, Suppose you are a website admin, it will help you to implement effective security measures. But if you are a regular user, it will help you to learn what is the exact reason for being denied to access the resource.

HTTP Error 401
HTTP Error 401

401 Error variations

Here are some of the 401 error variations that indicate the same:

  • HTTP Error 401
  • Access denied
  • 401 Unauthorized Error
  • 401 Authorization Required
  • 401 Unauthorized

Understanding HTTP Status codes

If you are a non-techie and don’t know exactly what are HTTP status codes, then you can understand them as a set of standardized three-digit numbers used by web servers to communicate the result of a client’s request.

It means they provide you with information about the outcomes of processes such as redirection, type of errors, and other states of the request-response cycle.

These status codes are so important in web communication that, they provide you an information about whether a request was successful or has some issues. With the help of these HTTP status codes, you can easily understand what a possible error is, and the cause of it, and also you can easily take necessary actions to fix it.

Now, when considering the 4xx series of status codes, such as 401 errors. They are typically classified as client-side errors. This means, the client’s request has failed or is invalid due to authentication issues. These

Some examples of 4xx Series error codes

As we have already discussed, the 4xx series is called client-side errors which includes some of the popular error codes that you might be familiar with.

Now, let us focus on 401 Error. This error is specifically used when the client is unable to provide valid authentication credentials to access a resource. Its main purpose is to show the client that the requested resources require valid credentials to proceed further.


What causes 401 Error?

Some of the most common scenarios when you might face a 401 Error message:

  • Missing or invalid credentials: If you are not able to provide valid credentials or provide incorrect and expired credentials, the server will return an error message 401 error.
  • Unauthorized access attempt: If you are trying to access a resource that requires proper authentication but the authentication you provided is not sufficient, the server will return a 401 error.
  • Revoked or Expired tokens: If you use an expired or outdated authentication token, the server may respond with a 401 error.
  • Corrupt or outdated Browser cache and cookies: It is also possible that corrupt browser cookies and cache can also be responsible for 401 Error. It is because, over time the information stored in your browser cache or cookies might get changed or corrupted. Due to this the server won’t accept your request and return a 401 error.
  • Incorrect or Outdated URL: Sometimes, In a hurry, you might mistakenly enter the wrong URL or encounter a situation where the URL has been changed. This can trigger a 401 error as a result.
  • Plugin conflicts: Sometimes, a 401 error can happen because of a plugin issue. For example, if you are using a firewall or security plugin that might mistakenly think your login attempt is suspicious and block access with a 401 error to keep the page safe.

How does a 401 Error affect the user experience?

You might surprised to know that the 401 Error can seriously affect the User Experience. It typically will not allow the user to access the resource and receive an error page instead.

To make it better, you should guide How to resolve the issue or provide appropriate instructions along with the 401 Error message.


Comparison: 401 vs 403 Error

The 401 Error differs from the 403 Error by focusing specifically on the lack of proper authentication credentials. Error 401 indicates that the client has provided an invalid, expired, or incorrect authentication to gain access to the resource.

whereas, the 400 and 403 errors provide information about invalid requests or insufficient permissions.

Here is a comparison table between a 401 error and a 403 error:

Error CodeError NameMeaning or authentication information
401UnauthorizedIndicates the need for authentication.
The client lacks valid credentials
Error CodeError NameMeaning of authentication information.
403ForbiddenIndicates that the client is authenticated, but lacks the necessary permissions to access the requested resource

In short, you can simply understand that a 401 error signifies the need for authentication, while a 403 error indicates that the client is authenticated but lacks the necessary permissions to access the requested resource.


Real-world Examples of 401 Errors

Examples from popular websites or web applications

  • Social media platform: If someone tries to access a private profile or protected content on a social media platform without logging in or providing valid credentials, the 401 error will be displayed.
    • Cause: The user attempts to view a private post without logging in or providing valid credentials.
    • Resolution: The platform returns a 401 Error and asks the user to log in or create an account to gain access to the protected or restricted content.
  • Online banking: When a user tries to access account information or perform financial transactions without proper authentication, a 401 Error can occur.
    • Cause: The user tries to access account details or perform financial transactions without providing the correct authentication credentials.
    • Resolution: The banking system returns a 401 Error and directs the user to enter valid login credentials to access their account securely.

By analyzing real-world examples of 401 Errors, it becomes evident that these errors occur when accessing sensitive or restricted resources, emphasizing the importance of proper authentication and authorization.


Conclusion

From the above post, it is clear that the 401 error is triggered when you are not able to provide valid authentication details to access password-protected resources.

In addition to that, you must have also noticed that the most common reason for causing this error is the client. Which also means, that it can be easily fixed too. But you should also keep in mind that this error can also be triggered from the server end, but it is very rare.

So, in this post, we have brought you some of the best 7 troubleshooting methods that you can try to fix 401 errors.

  • Ensure the URL is correct
  • Check Authentic credentials
  • Clear your browser cache and cookies
  • Flush Your DNS cache
  • Disable WordPress Plugins
  • Check out your website’s .htaccess file
  • Check the WWW-Authenticate header

We hope the methods mentioned above will help you fix the 401 error and resolve your issues. If you have any queries or would like to suggest any additional methods, please let us know in the comment section below.


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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I fix a 401 error?

You can fix a 401 error by following these methods:
1. Ensure the URL is correct
2. Check Authentic credentials
3. Clear your browser cache and cookies
4. Flush Your DNS cache
5. Disable WordPress Plugins
6. Check out your website’s .htaccess file
7. Check the WWW-Authenticate header

What is the reason for the 401 unauthorized error?

The reasons for the 401 unauthorized error are:
1. Missing or invalid credentials
2. Unauthorized access attempt
3. Revoked or Expired tokens
4. Corrupt or outdated Browser cache and cookies
5. Incorrect or Outdated URL
6. Plugin conflicts

What is an example of a 401 error?

An example of a 401 error is If a user attempts to access a private profile or restricted content on a social media platform without logging in or providing valid credentials, a 401 Error may be returned.


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