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How to Fix “403 Forbidden Error” in WordPress

Updated on December 8, 2021

6 Min Read
wordpress 403 forbidden

Did you run into a 403 Forbidden Error in WordPress?

A 403 Forbidden Error looks critical enough to incite panic. However, these errors aren’t as much cause for alarm as they might appear. In this piece, you’ll learn some quick ways to solve the 403 Forbidden WordPress Error.

But before I move ahead with those solutions, let’s look at what this error is and why it happens, so you can understand the underlying causes and fix those ahead of time. Or you can jump right ahead to the fixes.

What is 403 Forbidden Error and Why Does It Happen?

This HTTP status code appears when you try to access a forbidden resource. A major reason for it happening in WordPress sites is improper configuration that denies access to the requested resource.

There are different versions of these 403 Forbidden errors, such as:

  • 403 Forbidden
  • HTTP Error 403 – Forbidden
  • Forbidden: You don’t have permission to access [directory] on this server
  • Forbidden
  • Error 403

These variations could result due to several scenarios, including:

  • A corrupt .htaccess file.
  • A poorly coded plugin.
  • Incorrect file permissions.

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How to Fix the 403 Forbidden WordPress Error

The error can be a bit tricky to resolve because the server doesn’t allow your browser to load the scripts. That said, there are several ways to resolve the 403 Forbidden Error in WordPress.

To fix a WordPress 403 forbidden error, follow these steps carefully:

1. Create a Backup

Note: Before trying any troubleshooting method, it is highly recommended to backup the entire website. Because if something goes wrong while troubleshooting it will help you recover your website without any hassle. If you want to learn how to back up a WordPress site, here’s a detailed guide that will help you to do that.

Clear Your Browsing Cache

Perhaps it’s an easy fix. The 403 error might simply be down to the browser cache. Clear your browser cache and cookies, or visit your website on Incognito mode to check your issue.

2.  Rollback to a Running Version From Your Hosting Backup

If your hosting provider offers an application or server level backup, you can revert the changes and roll back to the previous running version. For example, your website was working fine on  March 4th, but stopped on March 5th. In that case, you can go back to the previous site version with a few clicks to fix this issue.

hosting backup

You can see below a Cloudways application backup section where I have multiple backups available for my WordPress site.

3. Check .htaccess File

One of the reasons why the 403 forbidden WordPress error occurs is a corrupted .htaccess file. You can fix a corrupt .htaccess file in a few seconds with any FTP manager. First, log in to your server using FTP, and download the .htaccess file located in the public_html folder.

edit htaccess file

After that, right-click on the .htaccess file and click download on your computer to stay on the safe side. Once you’ve downloaded it, you can now delete the .htaccess file from your server to check whether the error was resolved or not.

edit htaccess file

Now go to your browser and refresh your website to check if the WordPress 403 error is resolved. If the WordPress 403 forbidden error still persists, you need to move to the next troubleshooting method outlined below (check file permission). Don’t forget to upload the .htaccess file you previously downloaded to your server.

If the issue is resolved by deleting the .htaccess file, it confirms that you had a corrupted .htaccess causing the 403 error. Now log in to your WordPress admin dashboard to generate a clean .htaccess file. Then go to Settings > Permalinks and click on the Save Changes button at the bottom of the page to generate a new .htaccess file.

edit htaccess file

4. Check File Permissions

Many files in WordPress require access permissions. If these are incorrect, the server will demonstrate a 403 forbidden error to show you do not have the particular file you requested.

  • Connect to your WordPress website using an FTP.
  • Navigate to the root folder.
  • Now right-click public_html and find out the file permissions option.

403 forbidden error

You can see the file permission dialog box. Make sure the numeric value in the Permission box of your WordPress website is set to 744 or 755 and check the box next to ‘Recurse into subdirectories’. Then check the option that says ‘apply to directories only.

wordpress 403 error fix

Repeat this same process for all the files. Set the file permission to 644 or 640. Don’t forget to select Recurse into subdirectories > apply to files only.

Recurse into subdirectories wordpress error 403

Check again to see if the 403 forbidden WordPress error is resolved. If it still persists then you need to perform the next step.

5. Deactivate All Plugins

Sometimes a poorly coded plugin causes this 403 forbidden error on WordPress sites. Therefore, we are going to deactivate all our plugins and check whether the issue is resolved or not.

To deactivate your plugins, you need to again access your WordPress files using an FTP like FileZilla. Go to public_html > wp-content and change the plugins folder name to something like plugins-old.

Deactivate All Plugins

Now go back to your browser and check your website. If the website starts working fine, then obviously the error was in the plugins. Now, you need to change your plugins-old folder name to plugins.

upload new plugin file

Once you’ve changed the folder name, go to WordPress Dashboard > Plugins > Installed Plugins. You will see that all plugins are deactivated by default so you need to activate each plugin one by one and check out your website after each activation.

installed Plugins

The problematic plugin will soon be identified.

Hotlink protection prevents other websites from using your site images if you don’t want to allow Google Images, Pinterest, or anything else to display your images. Also, it helps you with site bandwidth and server resource consumption.

If you have enabled hotlink protection on your CDN/hosting and haven’t set it up properly, it can trigger a 403 error on your website. Therefore, it’s highly recommended to configure it properly and then check the site status.

7. Contact Your Hosting Support

If you have performed all the troubleshooting methods and none of the methods above helped you resolve the issue, contact your hosting support. Many managed hosting providers offer help with these issues; Cloudways has a 24/7 live chat & ticket support assistance.

That’s all there is to it. You can also check out How To Fix 404 Error Page On WordPress.

Summary

I hope you found this guide helpful and that you were able to solve your “WordPress 403 error” problem. Have you figured out any other ways to get rid of this problem? Please share your solutions with us in the comment section below for people facing similar issues.

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Farhan Ayub

Farhan is a community manager at Cloudways. He loves to work with WordPress and has a passion for web development. Mostly, he spends his time interacting with the people in the WordPress community. Apart from his work life, Farhan spends his time gaming and playing sports. Feel free to contact him at [email protected]

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