At its best, the internet just works. At its worst, it tosses error codes at us, like “HTTP 404 Not Found,” for which we then have to figure out how to solve. Debugging and solving our browsers’ errors can be messy work, but thankfully, this one isn’t too bad. As we’re going to show you below, this particular error code is both incredibly common and unusually straightforward when you stack it up against others.
If “HTTP Error 404: Not Found” is something that you’re far too accustomed to seeing when you’re online, read on to figure out what, exactly, the deal is!
We’ve all been there, before. You’re making your daily rounds online, visiting sites that you traffic frequently. Maybe you’re reading news, the most recent movie reviews, or checking out links provided by friends on your social media feed. The situation matters less than where it leads you — to a blank screen that most certainly is not the website that you wanted, and words similar to HTTP Error 404: Not Found. Unless you know how to decipher the meaning of those numbers (which we’ll help you to do, below) there’s no indication as to what you’re supposed to do if you want to resolve this. Or why you weren’t able to get to the online content that you wanted.
Compounding the frustration for this particular error code is the fact that numerous different things can prompt it, meaning that there isn’t a single tried-and-true solution. Still, most of the steps necessary to figuring out the problem are fairly simple; you won’t need a deep knowledge of online connectivity, networks, or computer software to do it. Quite a lot of reassurance for casual users, right?
Browser Error Codes
Because most of us are used to working on a single software ecosystem — Windows, Mac OS, Linux, or another — it can be tempting to think that the same types of problems don’t show up across all of them. In spite of the fact that we might be working on different operating systems, many errors — especially online or browser-based errors — occur across all platforms, where the same browsers are used.
After all, programs like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox are often popular because of their cross-platform functionality. In the same way, people on all of those platforms are capable of encountering the HTTP Error 404: Not Found issue. It’s not exclusive to any one platform because it’s an issue that crops up when a browser has difficulty connecting to a particular website.
Windows, Mac, & the Rest
As stated above, if you’re online, there’s a chance that you could run into this particular problem. Even browsers on smartphones are vulnerable. Essentially, it’s important to remember this — the browser that you choose to use or the specific operating system or hardware will not resolve your Error 404 issue.
While we wouldn’t necessarily recommend one browser over another, we will recommend that you always have a backup browser installed on your computer, to help with the debugging of various error codes that you encounter. Even though a particular issue might not be a result of a browser, it’s important to have some method of determining whether you’re running into an issue with a particular site host or connectivity issues on your own end.
If you’re opting for one of the Windows defaults — Internet Explorer or Microsoft Edge — we’d recommend checking out Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, to accompany it. If you’re hooked on the Mac OS X platform, then choose one of the same two alternatives to compliment your use of Apple Safari.
Here at Error Codes Pro, we frequently like to make sure that your online obstacles aren’t being caused by connectivity issues. And in order to double-check against that, having two browsers ready is immensely handy, even if one of them is never used outside of these circumstances.
Client & Server Errors
One last thing, before we dive into the peculiarities of the Error 404 message — it’s important to understand at least one, basic principle of online error codes. The difference between client errors and server errors will take a lot of guesswork out of the equation when you run into different messages in the future.
It all comes down to that first number, 4 or 5. Error codes in the 4xx series are designated as client errors, while error codes in the 5xx series are server errors.
Client errors occur either when there’s a problem with your own connectivity, software, or hardware. Essentially, it means that the perceived problem is occurring on your end — not that of the site host that you’re trying to access. Debugging the nature of that problem is going to be a different process depending on the particular error code that shows up, but anything in the 400-range is a client error.
If a 500-range error code shows up, then you can be certain that the problem is on the server’s end of things. As above, the nature of that error is going to be determined by the particular code, but there’s very little that you can do to fix a 500-series error code, without the help of server administrators. This information is only going to help you to figure out error codes; it isn’t going to give you all of the necessary know-how to solve them, but it’s a very good start.
Just like we said at the top of this article, the Error 404: Not Found obstacle isn’t actually that hard to interpret. It’s defined within very simple parameters, but trying to figure out the precise reason that it’s showing up can be anywhere between simple and outright maddening.
Also as we said above, the Error 404: Not Found message isn’t limited to any one browser or operating system. Windows, Mac, Linux — it doesn’t really matter which you use, or what browser you prefer. The error codes that you encounter online are determined by your connection and the sites that you’re trying to access, not anything else.
Also potentially frustrating is the fact that many websites choose to display their Error 404 messages uniquely. It’s something that can be coded into the backend of a website, and while a few sites occasionally choose to do something clever with how an error code is displayed, the variation between several sites showing the same error code in different ways can be confusing for users.
Source of the Error
Because the 404 error is in the 400-range, it’s technically designated as a client error. However, the actual root of the problem can potentially be the fault of a site administrator. Here’s how and why it shows up in your browser.
When you type in a URL to a specific page, and the page both does not exist and has no redirect, you’ll be prompted with an Error 404: Not Found message. The exact verbiage of the error message might change on a site-by-site basis, but the 404 code itself will be present, thereby letting you know what’s happened. As far as the website server and your browser are concerned, you’ve entered the URL of a web address that doesn’t exist. Hence, it’s being displayed as a client error.
However, site administrators sometimes make mistakes. When a page is deleted or relocated without being given a redirect to the new address, users will be left with that 404 code. In actuality, if this is the correct circumstance, the fault isn’t with the client, at all.
Your ability to resolve this error is limited, but there are a few very simple steps that you can take which might work. Do understand that if it is a fault of a site’s administrators, the only surefire way that you’ll be able to fix it is to hunt down the new URL of the site that you’re trying to find, or contact the administrator directly.
- First, try re-entering the URL. If you made any mistakes in typing it, that will obviously prevent you from getting to the correct site! Make sure that the URL is accurate, first and foremost.
- Next, if you still get an Error 404 message, try working your way up the URL. For example, if a URL consisted of http://www.website.com/real/apple/pie, try omitting the /pie from the URL, followed by the /apple. This is just an example, but if you work your way through the site structure, it should land you on a site that isn’t delivering a 404 error.
- Try using a search engine to find that site that you’re looking for. If it was moved without being given a redirect, this is a method you can use to find the new URL.
- Clear your browser’s cached data (which is something that you should do on a regular basis, anyway).
- This is quite a longshot for resolving a 404 Error, but try resetting your modem and router. Unplug each for 30 to 60 seconds, and once they’ve rebooted completely, try to connect again.
- Use a different DNS registry. Changing this can be a little bit tricky for those who aren’t knowledgeable about web connectivity, but detailed instructions can be found here.
The very last step that you can take is to contact a site’s administrators directly, either by way of a link on their website or a social media presence, like Twitter. Apart from this, the Error 404: Not Found obstacles will inevitably remain quite frustrating — which is usually a firm prompt for admins to step in and fix it if the fault is truly on their end. Hopefully, our above steps have helped to show you how to fix this particular problem. If you have any remaining questions, be sure to let us know in the comments below!
Ryan is a computer enthusiast who has a knack for fixing difficult and technical software problems. Whether you’re having issues with Windows, Safari, Chrome or even an HP printer, Ryan helps out by figuring out easy solutions to common error codes.