401 Error: Cause and How to Resolve

Billie Hillier

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401 Error

Struggling with a mysterious 401 error on your WordPress website?

This particular error, commonly referred to as Error 401 or the 401 Unauthorized Error, is a common stumbling block for WordPress users.

It effectively bars access to your website and is often associated with messages such as Access is denied due to invalid credentials or Authorization required. In essence, this error typically results from a failure in authentication.

401 Error

401 Error

Let’s dig into the possible reasons behind a 401 error, examine a range of potential solutions to eradicate this issue, and offer tips on how to prevent it from cropping up in the future.

Understanding the Origin of a 401 Error in WordPress

The root cause of a 401 error in WordPress is generally an incorrect authentication process while interacting with your WordPress hosting server. For instance, if you’ve implemented password protection on your WordPress admin directory but fail to input the correct password, you’ll likely encounter a 401 error when trying to access your WordPress login and admin pages.

Interestingly, a 401 error can also arise in the absence of any special password protection measures on your site. This could occur due to security plugins installed on your WordPress site or protective measures taken by your hosting company, especially if they notice excessive access attempts on your WordPress login pages.

While 401 errors commonly appear on WordPress admin and login pages, they can occasionally affect the entirety of your website. To fix this issue, it’s crucial to identify its cause and address it accordingly.

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Let’s explore several strategies to swiftly remedy the 401 error in WordPress:

Use a Default WordPress Theme

Occasionally, a function within your WordPress theme can prompt a 401 error. Switching to a default WordPress theme for a brief period can help determine if your theme is at fault. If your website operates correctly with the default theme, you can inform the theme developer about the issue or permanently switch to a different WordPress theme.

These themes can be found under APPEARANCE -> Themes and are named by the year released, i.e., Twenty Twenty-Two.

Disable All WordPress Plugins

At times, a rogue or misconfigured WordPress plugin can cause the 401 error. Deactivating all WordPress plugins temporarily can assist you in detecting if a plugin is the culprit. If you can’t access the WordPress admin area, you can use an FTP client to change the plugins folder name, thereby deactivating all plugins. After that, you can reactivate plugins one by one to find the problematic one.

Purging Firewall Cache

Using a cloud-based WordPress firewall service like Sucuri or Cloudflare can sometimes result in a 401 error if there’s a communication failure with your site. In this case, purging the firewall cache can be beneficial. Once you’ve done this in Sucuri or Cloudflare through the appropriate section in your dashboard, ensure you clear your browser cache or WordPress cache to discard any outdated data.

Reset WordPress Password

Repeated unsuccessful password entry attempts might lead your WordPress hosting company to temporarily restrict access to the wp-admin and login pages. In this case, you can either retry after a few minutes or reset your forgotten WordPress password.

Removing Password Protection on WordPress Admin Temporarily

If you’ve applied password protection to your WordPress admin directory, forgetting your admin directory password or any changes in your server configuration could be the root cause of the issue. To address this, log into your WordPress hosting control panel and select ‘Directory Privacy’ or ‘Password Protected Directories’. Then, deselect the ‘Password protect this directory’ option and save your modifications. Now, you can try logging into your WordPress site. If it’s successful, you can reactivate password protection for your admin area.

Reach Out to Your WordPress Hosting Provider

Certain WordPress hosting companies automatically detect unusual activity and restrict access to ward off potential attacks. If you can’t regain access after a while or if a 401 error affects all your website pages, get in touch with your hosting provider. They can review access and error logs to address the problem.

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