You know about 404 error codes, but what the heck is a 503?

Some website errors are quick and easy fixes, but others are out of your hands. We'll explain.

Dashia Milden Editor
Dashia is a staff editor for CNET Money who covers all angles of personal finance, including credit cards and banking. From reviews to news coverage, she aims to help readers make more informed decisions about their money. Dashia was previously a staff writer at NextAdvisor, where she covered credit cards, taxes, banking B2B payments. She has also written about safety, home automation, technology and fintech.
Dashia Milden
5 min read

Here's your guide to the sometimes mysterious world of 404s and beyond. 


Sure you've seen a 404 error code -- remember Twitter's infamous fail whale? -- but what about a 503? Or a 400 or 301, for that matter? Is there anything you can do to fix it? Although these website errors are hopefully few and far between in your life, these online uh-ohs can throw you off your groove or worse, ruin an urgent task (like buying concert tickets or the hottest gaming console). 

Sometimes, like if you mistyped the URL, a simple text change can put you back in business. Other times, there's nothing you can do. Here's a guide to 404s and beyond. Keep scrolling for tips on how to fix error codes for images and videos, and which errors could be your fault.

(P.S. If you're fascinated by all of the code-lingo, you can always dig in deeper with a coding course for beginners.) 


One of the most common errors you'll see, it means the page cannot be found. Nowadays, some sites will design its error code pages with cute puppies, links to other pages or a funny illustration to lighten your no doubt frustrated mood. Double-check the URL for typos and try again. If you're typing the correct URL and you still have no luck, the page has been moved or deleted.


You'll likely see the message "503 Service unavailable" when a website's server is down, so you won't be able to access the site until it's fixed. Possible reasons for the error: The site's server could be down for maintenance, too many people may be causing the site to overload, the site could have a bug or someone looking to cause trouble has taken the site offline. You won't be able to access the site while it's up, so try again later to see if the server issue is resolved.


This one is best known as a "bad request" for the user. On Google Chrome, you'll get the message, "This page isn't working at the moment" along with some guidance about contacting the website administrator. Usually, it's caused by an error on your end: There may be a typo in the URL, the server may not understand your request or the file you're trying to upload is too big. Try clearing your cache and checking the URL for typos. If it still isn't working, take Google's advice. 


This is the "Gone" status. You may see a message like, "This page does not exist" or "Page deleted or gone." There's no problem on your end -- you've got the right page, but the website administrator may have deleted it for good. 


If the site's server is down, you'll see the 503 status code.

Getty Images


This code blocks you from seeing a URL for various legal reasons. According to a developer resource page from Mozilla, an individual or organization may have made a legal demand to remove the content or the page may be blocked because of government censorship. You should see the legal reason on the page with the status code, but it's not always guaranteed. If you're determined to see the content, you may be able to get there with a few tech-savvy tactics -- like a virtual private network or proxy server that acts as a tool to bypass the server's restrictions. 


You may have heard of a "301 redirect" but probably haven't seen this code displayed on a site. Think of it as a smooth transition from one old URL to a new one, like forwarding your mail. You should still see the webpage you wanted when this happens, but it likely has a different URL than the one you entered. It's a permanent move, and even if you use the old URL, you'll still be automatically routed to the new one. Bookmark the new URL for future reference.


This is an invisible code you won't see because it means that everything is OK. The site, its server and your browser are all working fine, so there's no need to alert you there's not a problem. The only place you'll likely see it is in the code (or back end). In fact, most codes that start with a 2 are a good sign that communication between your browser and the company's server is working.

How can I fix website codes with images and videos? 

It can be frustrating if you're trying to play a video, upload or download media, but see error codes instead. More often than not it's a user error, and it's up to you to fix the problem. Sometimes you'll see a small icon that looks like a picture in place of the video or image you'd hope to see. In that case, you'll know something's wrong. 

If you get status code 415, it's a red flag that the server doesn't recognize the file type you're using. Popular photo- and video-sharing sites will list the file types they support, typically on the Support page (here's the list for YouTube). If yours isn't listed, try converting the file to one of the approved formats before uploading it again. 

Front-end developer Allan Hernandez says that most common supported types are .mp3 and .mp4 for videos and .jpeg, .png, .svg and .web for images. If you're uploading a video or image using one of the correct file formats, he says, it should be easy and error-free. 

Another common problem occurs when you try to upload files that are too big for the server, also known as status code 413. In this case, it's best to reduce the file size before uploading again. 

Here are a few other common error codes you may come across with media and what they mean. 

  • 404: The media file has been moved or deleted. 
  • 403: The server cannot access your image or video, possibly because the firewall is blocking it. 
  • 429: You may have sent too many requests without giving the server time to process them. If you've clicked "upload" a bazillion times, you may get this code. 

Are any errors my fault?

Yes, there are two types of code errors: client and server. Most client errors start with a 4. You'll need to fix something on your end before continuing. For example, the 403 code may mean the page is forbidden, or the web administrator restricts access to that page. You'll need to go to another page or site. 

Usually, if there's an error, you'll need to do one of these things.

1. Restart your computer, modem or router. 

2. Check the URL for typos.

3. Visit a different URL.

Sometimes, other actions may be required, such as you need to pay to see gated content or, if you've clicked a button constantly, you just need to wait patiently because the request isn't processing fast enough. 

If an error starts with a 5, it's the server's problem and there may not be much you can do. Try contacting the website's support to let them know you're getting a server error.