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

What is a 401 error?

The proper 401 Error meaning is an HTTP status code that indicates the request lacks valid authentication credentials for the requested resource. It means that the server knows about the client but the client doesn’t have sufficient permissions to access the resource and is not authorized to do so without proper authentication.

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

For example, if you are an administrator, it will help you implement effective security measures. Meanwhile, for regular users, it will be beneficial for them to understand the reason behind denied access to certain resources.

HTTP Error 401
HTTP Error 401

401 Error variations

Here are some of the 401 error variations which 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, they can be understood as a set of standardized three-digit numbers used by web servers to communicate the outcome of a client’s request.

This means they provide you with the status or information about the success redirection, type of errors, and other states of the request-response cycle.

These status codes play a crucial role in web communication as they provide important feedback, indicating whether a request was successful or encountered any problems. With the assistance of these codes, one can readily take appropriate actions based on the response received from the server.

Now, when discussing the 4xx series status codes, such as 401 errors, they are typically classified as client error codes. This series indicates that the client’s request has failed or is invalid due to certain reasons. These error codes generally represent the issues or errors caused by the client’s request or a lack of proper authentication.

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 have 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 unable to provide authentic credentials due to any reasons or provide incurred or expired credentials, a 401 error will be triggered.
  • Unauthorized access attempt: When you try to access a resource that requires authentication, but the provided credentials do not grant sufficient permission, a 401 Error will be returned.
  • 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: If you ever see a 401 error, it’s usually because your browser’s cache and cookies are outdated or corrupted. This can cause trouble with authorization. If your browser doesn’t have the correct authentication credentials (or any at all), the server won’t accept your request. Just remember to keep your browser’s cache and cookies up to date to avoid running into these kinds of errors.
  • Incorrect or Outdated URL: Sometimes, in a rush, 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 a 401 Error affect the user experience?

The 401 Error code can have various impacts on the user experience. It typically results in the user being denied access to the requested resource or receiving an error page instead. The error message associated with the 401 Error should provide guidance on how to resolve the issue or provide appropriate instructions.

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 many users make is typing an incorrect URL in the browser’s address bar. Therefore, it’s important to take a moment and carefully enter the correct URL, ensuring that there are no misspelled or outdated entries.

If you happen to enter a wrong, outdated, or misspelled URL, you might encounter an “Error code 401” message. But there’s no need to worry! This error simply indicates that the URL you were trying to access doesn’t exist, resulting in a “401 unauthorized access” response from the server.

Let us understand it with an example, Suppose you have bookmarked a page or saved its address in your browsers, but things can change over time. The page’s address might have been updated or even deleted.

To investigate it further, you can try going to the website’s homepage and looking for a link to the page that is causing the “Unauthorized 401” error. If the page opens correctly through that link, make sure to compare the URL of the page with the one that initially gave you the error.

2. Ensure correct Authentication credentials

Sometimes, you might come across the frustrating 401 Error code when you’re trying to access a locked resource, such as a password-protected page. It basically means that your authentication credentials are not valid, and as a result, you’re denied access to the page you’re trying to open.

Here’s what you can do to tackle this issue. Take your time to double-check if you are logged in with the correct login credentials such as the user ID and password or not.

If you’re confident that you’ve entered the details correctly, you might want to consider changing your password. This could help ensure that you have the right credentials to access the resource without any hiccups.

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

3. Clear your browser cache and cookies

Without a doubt, browser cache and cookies are intended to enhance your online experience by speeding up website loading. However, there are occasions when they can also be the culprit behind triggering errors.

Specifically, corrupted or outdated cache files and cookies can result in unexpected interruptions or browsing issues. To resolve this, the best course of action is to completely clear your browser’s cache and cookies.

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 stored 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 important to note that the cause of the 401 error may not always lie with your browser, but rather with your WordPress plugins. If you are experiencing difficulties accessing your WordPress site, it is possible that certain plugin(s) are responsible for this issue.

Especially, security plugins have a reputation for causing these types of problems. These plugins are designed to block access and return a 401 error message if they detect any suspicious activity.

Another possibility is that there may be compatibility issues with certain plugins. Some plugins can conflict with your website and trigger such issues. In such cases, the best course of action is to disable all the installed WordPress plugins and check if this resolves 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 occurring, it indicates that one or more of the plugins were causing the issue. You can then proceed with identifying the conflicting or incompatible plugins by reactivating them one by one and testing the website after each activation until the error reappears. This way, you can pinpoint the specific plugin causing the conflict.

If you find the defective plugin, consider either updating it to a newer version or reaching out to the plugin developer for support. Alternatively, you may need to find an alternative plugin that serves a similar purpose but does not cause conflicts.

6. Check out your website’s .htaccess file

You might be surprised to learn, especially if you are not aware of it, that the hosting panel is not the only place where you can set a password for your website. Another method is by configuring the code in the .htaccess file.

If you have previously set a password through the .htaccess file but have either forgotten about it or it was added through a plugin, it’s essential to check or examine 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 cPanel accessibility, it will become easy for you to locate WordPress .htaccess files without using an FTP client.

1. To do this, first, you need to login 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

The login credentials for the protection are stored in a file called “.htpasswd.” This file contains the encrypted password and the associated username.

If you no longer require the protection, you can remove 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, this means the issue is from the server side.

The “WWW-Authenticate” header is an HTTP response header that is used to indicate the type of authentication required for accessing a resource on a web server. When a server sends a “401 Unauthorized” status code, it includes the “WWW-Authenticate” header to specify the authentication scheme that the client needs to use in order to access the requested resource.

This header provides information to the client about the authentication method that should be used, such as Basic Authentication or Digest Authentication. It typically includes a challenge, which is a value that the client needs to include in subsequent requests to authenticate itself.

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 HTTP Authentication Scheme Registry for more information about page authentication methods.

Comparison: 401 vs 403 Error

The 401 Error differentiates itself by focusing specifically on the lack of valid authentication credentials. It indicates that the client needs to provide proper authentication to gain access to the resource, while the 400 and 403 errors highlight other issues, such as 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 summary, 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 a user attempts to access a private profile or restricted content without logging in or providing valid credentials, a 401 Error may be returned.
    • Cause: The user attempts to view a private post without logging in or providing valid credentials.
    • Resolution: The platform returns a 401 Error and prompts the user to log in or create an account to gain access to the restricted content.
  • Online banking: When a client 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.


A “401 Error” is triggered when the client lacks or is unable to provide valid authentication credentials to access a password-protected resource. Additionally, you may have noticed that this error is primarily caused by the client side, making it easily fixable. However, it can also be triggered from the server side, although this is rare.

So, in this post, we have compiled 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 401 unauthorized error?

The reason 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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