How to Understand (and Fix) HTML Errors

By Rebecca G.

Why does every error seem to have some sort of obscure number rather than a true explanation of what just went wrong when you tried to pull up a website or load your email? But numbers are the norm, and figuring out what's wrong with your computer requires digging just a bit deeper than we might prefer. Interestingly enough, many errors have similar causes or - at the very least - similar solutions.
Error 400
When you see a message that looks like "400:Bad Request" or more specifically "HTTP Error 400 - Bad Request" you can trust what you see. The request you made was faulty in some way. Typing a URL in your browser is a sign to the computer that you're requesting a page from another computer, or server. When something is wrong in the URL you typed, it can't load and it gives you an error.
While a typo is certainly a strong possibility for Error 400, it may also be that the page you're trying to reach has been deleted, the URL was copied down wrong or is missing key elements. The website may have been updated as well.
Error 401
"401: Unauthorized" means you're not the person the website was hoping to see when you tried to log in. Error 401 is a simple error - the virtual door was just slammed in your face by the website security. If you didn't log into a website that requires users to enter their username and password, you'll see Error 401. If you did attempt to login, but the website server didn't recognize you, you mistyped something or some other odd twist of fate, you won't be allowed to proceed and you'll be staring down Error 401 as well.
Error 403
You naughty thing! When you get an Error 403 message, it means you've tried to access part of a website that is absolutely, positively forbidden. Who knows what the webmaster is trying to hide behind the virtual brick wall you just slammed into, but one thing is for sure - you're not going to go any farther with that particular URL. At least not right now.
You may hit Error 403 rather innocently, of course, but typing something wrong in the URL or perhaps just trying to access the website at the wrong time of the day. This error doesn't mean you did anything with a sinister motive... unless you were doing something with a sinister motive.
Error 404
You might see any number of unique messages for Error 404, but they will all have something along the lines of "Error 404: Page Not Found". You'll see the Error 404 message when you try to pull up a webpage that isn't actually located on the server.
In very general terms, Error 404 is supposedly your fault, but in reality not all Error 404 messages appear because of user error. Pages may be down on a website or you may have been trying to reach a page that the website owner took down or changed, and nobody can blame that on you.
Error 408
Error 408 is a particularly frustrating stumbling block on the internet. You type in the URL or click on a link. And you wait. And you wait. And then the website returns an error rather than the site you were trying to reach. This is Error 408 - you've "Timed Out."
When you send a request for a website and it doesn't load fast enough, the server gives up. Rather than loading the site in question, it coughs up an error. Sometimes a quick refresh helps, but other times more drastic interaction is required. To Refresh your browser, click on the circular arrow near the address bar.
While there are many numbers attributed to the various internet errors above, many will have the same or similar solutions. When you're not getting to the website you're attempting to reach, solving the problem involves something of a drill down technique.
Check the Internet Connection
Do a quick check that you're getting full internet access by pulling up a search page and searching for something random. If you get results and you're able to click through to those sites, you can cross faulty internet off your list of possible problems. If you aren't getting to any new websites, you would do well to reset your router and restart your computer to be sure you're fully connected to the internet.
Check for obvious mistakes
Look over the address you just typed and look for obvious mistakes - long URLs especially are hard to type correctly. If you miss one letter or dot, you won't be going far. Check also, especially on Error 403 where passwords would be encrypted, that you don't have Caps Lock turned on. Check also that Number Lock is set as you normally have it. If you do discover an honest mistake, simply correct it and try again. The solution may be that simple.
Restart your computer
While it's allegedly the internet giving you trouble, not your computer, it never hurts to restart the computer. When you restart your computer may update some critical software or reset the connection to the router so that your internet works correctly or at a higher speed. It's an easy possible fix, and worth the few minutes it takes.
Update your browser
If you notice that you're having a lot of internet problems and seeing quite a few issues spring up, check to be sure that your internet browser is fully up to date. Your browser is probably set to automatically update as new versions become available, but if you've put off updating or missed an update, you can get caught up by going to Windows Update for Internet Explorer, and by going to the Tools menu for Firefox and Chrome.
Update plug-ins
If your browser is totally up-to-date, check to be sure that plug-ins that are commonly used are up to date as well. Among common plug-in for websites are things like ActiveX and Flash. You may see a message on the website to update the plug-in or you might manually update these by visiting the websites and downloading the offending applications to update or install the plug-ins. Firefox offers a plug-in check page here as well to get ideas for what may be causing the problem.
Check back later
Finally, if nothing else seems to be working, you can always throw your hands up and walk away. But be sure to come back later. Often websites have their own issues that can cause these errors and simply waiting five minutes will be all you need to do in order to have things working correctly again.

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