What is a 401 Error And Why Do You Need To Know About It?

Coming across a 401 error is common to many of us. However, it turns out to be a big headache sometimes. For instance, if you are running a business and depending upon the website to get new customers, it may not be good news for you. The reason being, you know that the visitors may not be able to order your product from your website. Other reasons can be an inability to subscribe to your service or may miss out on the information about your business on the website. In other words, error code 401 is bad news for a business person on whose website the error message is displayed.

This means you may lose out on the business prospects. It’s an evil omen? In such cases, you might wonder that it would have been good if you could have understood the cause for the error 401 and you could fix it. If you are thinking so, you are on the right path. This article would guide you to work on various prime factors for the error and fix it.

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Understanding 401 error

401 unauthorized error may give an impression of a monster in your mind and turning out to be a big hurdle for your business. It is just an HTTP status code. In most scenarios, the error is shown when the server receives an authentication request. That is, invalid credentials have been received on a particular web page of your website. It is usually coupled with a WWW-authenticate header that is in charge of authorization.

In simple terms, the person receiving the error is providing insufficient information to authenticate himself. Connect with the server and hence, he is coming across the error. For example, vital credentials such as username and password are required to login into a certain website. If an appropriate username and password are not provided then, the authenticity is declared as invalid and the error is displayed. The various types of error are 401 unauthorized error; access and authorization denied, and unauthorized HTTP error 401. The error message that is displayed may depend on the request provided to the server.

401 unauthorized error


401 error code due to URL problem

The website must be designed in such a way that there is no interlinking problem between the URL and the website. To elaborate, many times it so happens that the URL is changed frequently by the owner of the website. Hence, the user finds it difficult to locate the website through the old URL. Also, frequent changing of the web pages of the website to enhance the look may not be a good idea always. More importantly, it also affects the ranking of the search engine results.

Even a small change in the URL in the form of a letter may make your website difficult to find for the old customers. The reason being they may be only aware of the old URL and not about the recent changes you have made in the URL. When these factors occur, the server displays the 401 error message.


HTTP error 401 due to login

DNS malfunctioning & firewall issues For login credential problems, there should be a facility for changing the password. This would help to access the website in case of an invalid password. This is one of the reasons why the error message is displayed. Unless valid credentials are fed into the system, the server may not give access to the website. There is also a possibility that an admin related issue occurs on your website.

This means, your website may be asking the user to log in when it will not be needed. A reason can be that, mistakenly, a login page may be created where it is not required at all. The error response can also be due to DNS malfunctioning wherein the domain name system fails. This type of malfunctioning is rare. In certain cases, the website is protected by robust firewalls. Hence, an error message is observed even if a small element of malicious activity is identified. It is also possible that the plug-in within the user’s browser or the website plug-in may be triggering the error.


Comparing 401 error vs other 400s error

There are different types of errors that can be displayed in the 400 range. This indicates that there is some problem on the client-side. A 401 error should not be confused with a 403 error. A 403 error appears only when the user tries to enter the website which is forbidden for him to enter. Conversely, a 401 error may not be related to prohibiting anyone but related to authentication problem access to the website.


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Troubleshooting 401 error causes and how to fix error 401?

If your customer is not able to view your website or login into the website, the following ideas can help him:


1. Refreshing the website

Ask your customer to refresh the website


2. Using the latest URL

Provide your customers with the latest URL. There is a chance that he may be using the wrong or old URL.


3. Clearing cache

It must’ve so happened that the website browser must have stored local copies of the old website (URL). This will be different from the live version and hence, the error message will be displayed. Clearing the cache of the website browser helps to get rid of the problems many times. Hence, ask your user to clear up the history and cache. This also helps in decreasing the website loading time and offers a smooth experience to the user.

Clearing cache:


4. Clearing cookies

HTTP cookies, functions like cache, helps to cut down web loading time by storing data. Corruption or problems in cookies can lead to an authentication error. Hence, ask your user to clear up the history and cookies, and then, open the website.

Clearing cookies:


5. Flushing DNS

Whenever a DNS error occurs, flushing of DNS is required to fix it. Unless this is done, the server will continue to show the error message. Although this is a very rare event related to DNS, it is not difficult to repair

Flushing DNS:


6. Plug-in problem

Whenever issues related to plug-ins occur, ask your user to deactivate the plug-in in the web browser. The issue related to the plug-in has to be sent to the support team. It can also be triggered due to any kind of misconduct found by the firewall or antivirus. In such cases, the antivirus or firewall blocks the plugin, as it finds it suspicious due to a plug-in problem. In such cases, the browser itself fails to open or crashes every time you try to open it. The problem can also be due to the compatibility issue arising between the plug-in and the web browser.

Plug-in problem:


7. Server-level protection

Get rid of server-level protection through the cPanel if the problem is due to htaccess/htpasswd.


8. Overcoming password problems

Sometimes it so happens that the user forgets the password and tries to enter all the possible passwords he could remember. When this happens, the website firewall suspects unusual activity and links it with a malicious form of attack. That’s when it disables the user from further entering the password. Usually, in most of the secure forms of authentication, the users are allowed to enter password thrice. Post three attempts, the website is locked down for a shorter period. The website is usually locked for 24 hours and the user can try to reset the password post 24 hours. Another option is, he can enter the correct password if he remembers it.

Overcoming password problems:



There can be various reasons why the 401 error code is displayed. The error can be due to URL problem login credentials; DNS malfunctioning; firewall issues; login issues, or DNS problems. For the same, it is necessary that troubleshooting is done to understand the nature of the problem. Although there are many reasons for the error to occur, there is always a way to fix as described above.

Many times, the problem gets sorted out when you clear history, cache, and cookies, and refresh the website. To sum up, sometimes the problem can be fixed very easily, whereas at certain times it may be difficult to find the problem and fix it. But you should not give up as it may affect your business. 401 error can be generated due to some maintenance problem; login or plug-in issues and it cannot be resolved. In the case of WordPress plug-in issues, you can always Contact WordPress Support. Usually, the login issue could be due to the compatibility issue arising between the plug-in and the web browser.

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