What is a 404 Error?


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.

Like we mentioned, you get a 404 error when the web page you’re trying to get to doesn’t exist. It’s called a 404 error because that’s the HTTP status code that the web server uses to describe that kind of error. Different websites might show you different kinds of custom pages when you get this error.


Websites might also use slightly different names for this error. For example, you might see things like:

  • 404
  • 404 Resource not found
  • Error 404
  • HTTP 404
  • 404 Not Found
  • Error 404 Not Found
  • 404 Page Not Found
  • 404 File or Directory Not Found

They all mean the same thing. Above, you can see Google’s 404 error page, and the top of this article, you can see How-To Geek’s own custom error page. Some 404 error pages might even provide you with suggestions for finding what you’re looking for or ways to navigate to other parts of the site.

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.


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, which 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
Last but not least

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!

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