Deciphering Error Messages on Your WordPress Home Screen: A Beginner’s Guide

"What does this random combination of numbers mean? Is my site broken?" you wonder anxiously.

While confusing at first glance, WordPress error codes act as handy clues pointing you to potential issues. Once decoded, they transform from indecipherable codes into helpful guides directing you to solutions.

This beginner’s guide will decode common WordPress error messages so you can resolve issues quickly and confidently.

Anatomy of a WordPress Error Code

Let’s first demystify what these codes are actually referring to.

A standard WordPress error code consists of:

  • A 3-digit number indicating the error type
  • A brief 1-2 word description

The 3-digit number categorizes the error into one of the following groups:

1xx Informational

100-level codes are provisional response codes that indicate an initial request was received and the server is ready for the request to continue. These are mainly status codes that are useful for the server itself, not so much for the user. For example, the "100 Continue" response indicates the server has received the initial part of the request and the user can continue sending the remainder. The "102 Processing" code indicates the server has received and is still processing the request, but there is no response available yet.

2xx Success

The 200-level codes indicate that the server successfully received, processed, and accepted the user's request. The most common example is the "200 OK" code, which is the standard response for successful HTTP requests. Other examples include "201 Created", which confirms the request succeeded and a new resource was created.

"204 No Content", meaning the request succeeded, but there is no content to return to the user. These 200-level success codes signal that the user's request was handled successfully.

3xx Redirection

The 300-level status codes indicate that the requested content has moved or been redirected. For example, the common "301 Moved Permanently" code means the requested page or file has been permanently redirected to a new location, and the browser should automatically go to the new address.

Other 300-level codes include "302 Found" for temporary redirections, "304 Not Modified" indicating cached content can be used, and "307 Temporary Redirect" for temporary redirections to a different URL. These codes prompt the user's browser to redirect to a new location for the requested content.

4xx Client Error

The 400-level status codes indicate there was a problem with the user's request that originated on the client-side.

One of the most common 4xx errors is "400 Bad Request" which means the request syntax was invalid and the server couldn't understand it. This is often caused by incorrect programming code.

Another frequent 400-level error is "401 Unauthorized", meaning the user is not authorized to access the requested content and needs to provide authentication credentials first.

The "403 Forbidden" error indicates the server understood the request but access is not allowed, typically due to incorrect file permissions on the server blocking access.

A "404 Not Found" error signals the user-requested page or file could not be found on the server after searching for it. Some common reasons this occurs include broken links, mistyped URLs, deleted content, or changed permalinks.

Other client errors in the 400 category signify issues like request timeouts, unavailable content, and unsupported media types in the uploaded files. Overall, 4xx errors mean there was a problem in the user's initial request.

5xx Server Error

The 500-level status codes indicate there was an internal server error that prevented fulfilling the user's request.

One of the most frequently seen is "500 Internal Server Error" which is a generic server error message that typically occurs when the server encounters an unexpected condition that prevents it from fulfilling the request. This may be caused by incorrect server configuration, overloaded server resources, CGI script errors, or other faults on the hosting provider's side.

Another common 5xx error is "503 Service Unavailable" meaning the server is currently unable to handle requests, usually due to overloading or maintenance downtime. This is generally a temporary state.

Some other examples of 500-level errors are "502 Bad Gateway" indicating an invalid response from a server acting as a proxy or gateway, "504 Gateway Timeout" meaning the proxy server didn't get a timely response, and "508 Loop Detected" signifying the server encountered too many iterations trying to resolve the request.

The main takeaway for 5xx errors is they point to an issue with the web server rather than the user's specific request or website content. The resolution requires server-side changes by the hosting provider.

Knowing the category helps you determine whether the issue lies with the WordPress site itself or the hosting server environment.

Decoding Common WordPress Error Messages

Now let’s explore some of the most frequent WordPress error codes and what they mean specifically:

403 Forbidden

This client error means access to the requested file or page is forbidden, typically due to incorrect file permissions set on WordPress directories. It can sometimes indicate a plugin conflict as well.


  • Confirm file permissions are set correctly
  • Disable plugins one-by-one to identify incompatibility

404 Not Found

The ubiquitous 404 error simply signifies that the requested file or page could not be found on the server. Some common reasons include broken links, mistyped URLs, deleted pages, changed permalinks, or migration issues.


  • Check for broken links/URLs
  • Reupload deleted files
  • Resolve any permalink issues

a cartoon graphic computer with the words 404 Not Found above - This beginner's guide demystifies confusing WordPress error codes like 403 Forbidden and 404 Not Found. Learn what common WordPress error messages mean and how to quickly troubleshoot issues. - Demystifying WordPress Error Codes: A Beginner’s Guide - your wp guy

500 Internal Server Error

This generalized server error indicates a problem on the hosting server itself. It often occurs when the server is overloaded or not configured properly to run WordPress.


  • Contact the hosting provider, provide error details
  • Your host may need to increase resources or reconfigure the server

503 Service Unavailable

A 503 error specifically means the hosting server is currently unavailable or overloaded, so it can’t handle requests. This is typically a temporary issue.


  • Usually resolves automatically once the server is back online/less overloaded
  • Contact the host if it persists, they can provision more server resources

Troubleshooting Your Error Codes

When an unfamiliar error appears, don’t panic. Here are some tips on investigating and resolving the code:

  • Search the specific error code on the WordPress support forum to uncover possible fixes.
  • Check your server error logs. These often contain more details about when and where the error originated. Your hosting provider can help access these logs.
  • For site-related errors, try disabling plugins one-by-one to check for conflicts. Also, update WordPress core, themes, and plugins to eliminate any potential buggy code.
  • For server errors, contact your web hosting provider. Share the error details, and they can troubleshoot server configuration issues.
  • If needed, bring in a professional WordPress developer. They can rapidly diagnose complex error codes and identify solutions tailored to your unique site.

Hopefully, this breakdown demystifies those cryptic WordPress error codes and gives you the confidence to tackle them hands-on. Though frustrating, error messages give you insights to get your site back on track.

Let Your WP Guy Handle Your Error Codes

As WordPress beginners know, error codes can be intimidating. But our technical team at Your WP Guy can swiftly crack any error code that comes your way. With over 17 years of experience across every WordPress issue imaginable, we’ll diagnose what’s wrong and take action to get your site up and running again.

We understand how frustrating and damaging website downtime can be for small business owners, so we won't keep you waiting on hold as the error sits on your website. Don’t let obscure codes stand in your way. Schedule a discovery call with us today to steer your website into an error-free future!

Deciphering Error Messages on Your WordPress Home Screen Summary

  • WordPress error codes have a 3-digit number indicating the error type and a short text description.
  • Error codes fall into 1xx informational, 2xx success, 3xx redirection, 4xx client error, and 5xx server error categories.
  • Common codes include 403 Forbidden for file permission issues, 404 Not Found for missing pages, and 500 Internal Server Error for general server problems.
  • Troubleshooting involves checking error logs, disabling plugins, contacting your hosting provider, and seeking professional help.
  • Learning to decode error codes allows you to rapidly resolve WordPress issues before they escalate.

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