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Error Messages

To Err is Human; to Understand is a Miracle

Error messages can easily ruin any cyberspace outing, but they’re not impossible to overcome. In fact, you can avoid many error messages by using a few simple techniques -- and when it comes to simple, who else are you going to turn to but Mr. Simple himself? Thank you, thankyouverymuch.

In this article, I’ll catalog some of the most common World Wide Web error messages and provide semi-practical solutions that may prevent you from indulging in delightful Internet user activities such as teeth-gnashing, primal screaming, or the ever-popular aortic embolism stretch.

Even though coming face-to-face with any of the following messages can be a bit frightening, just think of it as learning the Internet by that tried-and-true educational process known as trial and terror.

400 - Bad Request
This error message indicates that the server computer cannot figure out the URL (Uniform Resource Locator) or address that you requested. The problem often occurs because of incorrect URL syntax – and you know how painful that can be. If you typed the URL, check it for incorrect uppercase or lowercase letters, colons, and slashes. Try typing the URL again. If you still receive an error message, try to backtrack the URL to the directory the document resides in. If the error message persists, the problem might be with the document itself and not with you. Big relief, isn’t it?

401 - Unauthorized
This error usually occurs when an Internet site’s access is protected and the server didn’t receive the correct encryption identification or password necessary for entry. If you’re registered with the site, you can try your password again if you have the opportunity before the Cyber Police show up at your front door. Passwords are most often case sensitive so type the password carefully. You can also get this error from servers that deny access from certain domain types, for example, .edu, for educational institutions.

403 - Forbidden or Connection Refused by Host
This error is similar to the 401 error. It usually occurs when a server denies access because of your domain, because of security restrictions, because you don’t have a password, or because it just doesn’t like you. This error also occurs when you haven’t signed up with a site that requires registration. If that’s the case, register with the site or try your password again.

404 - Not Found or File Not Found
These error messages are common and occur when the host server cannot find the specific html (hypertext markup language) document you request. A 404 error usually stems from a document name change or a document deletion. It can also occur when you’ve made a syntax error in the document name. Your best bet is to assume that you made a mistake – difficult as it might be to admit -- when you typed the URL. Backtrack by deleting the portion of the URL that follows the last slash. Then re-access the URL and look for it in the parent or primary directory displayed.

502 - Services Temporarily Overloaded
Better to see this message on the Internet than on the door of a restroom during a personal crisis. This error indicates that the server is experiencing high traffic load and cannot process your request. You can often access the site by trying to reload it with a click of the Reload button on your browser. If the error persists, you may want to try again later. Or not.

503 - Service Unavailable
This error occurs when your access provider, gateway, or system is down for the count or busy. Your only alternative is to wait a minute or two and try again.

Bad File Request
This message appears if you request an x-rated file. All your friends and colleagues will be notified via e-mail of your nasty little secret. Just kidding. This error message indicates a problem with html coding at the site. The problem may be that your browser doesn’t support the form you’re trying to access. Make sure you’re utilizing a current version of Netscape, Internet Explorer or other browser software.

Cannot Add Form Submission Result to Bookmark List
This error message appears when you try to save the results of a form-based search engine (such as WebCrawler) as a bookmark. The problem is that the URL of your query result is invalid, even though it may not appear to be. You can bypass this problem by printing the search results or you can try to save them as an html document on your hard drive.

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Failed DNS Lookup
Don’t take this as a personal failure. This error indicates that the domain name system (DNS) cannot translate the URL into a valid Internet address. This DNS error message occurs in several situations. The server that you’re trying to connect to may be overloaded with traffic or temporarily down. If the server is simply busy, you can sometimes get through by trying to access the site again. If the server is temporarily down or off-line, there is nothing you can do except try later. Unfortunately, there is no way for you to tell whether a server is down or just busy. You might also have incorrectly typed the URL.

If you’re accessing the Internet via a modem and you receive a DNS error for each Web site that you try to access, chances are, something is wrong with your connection. Try re-launching your browser and your required communication software. If the problem persists, take two modems and contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP) first thing in the morning.

File Contains No Data
When you receive this error, it means that you’ve accessed the right Web site, but the file you requested is empty and therefore the document requested doesn’t exist or is not available. There’s a slight possibility that the site administrator is updating the file, in which case you can try to access the document again later. You can also try to bypass this problem by retyping the URL with :80 (that’s colon eight-zero) before the last forward slash.

Helper Application Not Found and Viewer Not Found
These errors occur when your browser doesn’t recognize a file. This usually happens when you download a file that needs a specialized viewer, for example, a RealAudio sound file or video clip. If you don’t have the helper application, your best bet is to save the file to disk (via File > Save As command) and then get the application that will let your browser read the file.

Additional Resources:

Helper Applications and Drivers

Internet Tools and Helper Applications

Host Unavailable
This error usually occurs when the host server is down and perhaps a bit depressed. You can try to access the site again by clicking the Reload button on your browser’s toolbar. Best advice is to check back later.

Host Unknown and Unable to Locate Host
These errors often occur for one of three reasons: The host server is down, you’ve lost your Internet connection, or you incorrectly typed the URL. Try clicking the Reload button first. If this method doesn’t work, check the URL. If you still get the error message, check your Internet connection.

Network Connection Was Refused By the Server and
Too Many Connections - Try Again Later

These errors indicate that the server is too busy to handle more traffic. You can try the site again by clicking the Reload button or wait until a later time.

NNTP Server Error
An NNTP (Network News Transfer Protocol) server error appears when you try to log on to a USENET newsgroup and cannot gain access. This error signals several possible problems. The host server may be down or you may have incorrectly typed the URL. It’s also possible that the newsgroup you chose isn’t available through your Internet Service Provider (ISP), in which case you cannot access the newsgroup unless you contact your ISP and motivate your ISP to add the requested newsgroup. Another possible problem is that you may have incorrectly entered your browser’s newsgroup preferences.

Permission Denied
Oooh, I just hate it when this happens. I just know they won’t let me in because they’re talking about me…plotting…scheming. This message typically occurs when you are attempting to upload a file to an FTP (file transfer protocol) site. The message indicates that the site administrator won’t permit the upload, the site is too busy, or you’ve used the wrong syntax in the URL. Look at the URL syntax first and type it again. If the error message reappears, just try again later.

Unable to Locate This Server
This error message indicates that your browser cannot locate the server or that you incorrectly typed the URL. Look carefully at the server name in the URL and try retyping the URL.

You Cannot Log On As An Anonymous User
This error message appears when you try to access certain FTP (File Transfer Protocol) sites. It indicates that the site allows access only to registered members, or that the site allows access to only a limited number of non-members, in which case the site is simply busy and you’re out of luck for the time being. You can try to access the site again later, or if you’re a registered member, try entering your user identification and password manually using an FTP software package such as WS_FTP or or CuteFTP.

Fatal Exception Errors
You may occasionally encounter error messages that say 'A fatal exception XY has occurred at xxxx: xxxxxxxx.' Fatal exception errors are codes that are returned by a program in the following cases: Access to an illegal instruction has been encountered; invalid data or code has been accessed; or the privilege level of an operation is invalid. When any of these occur, the processor returns an exception to the operating system, which in turn is presented to you, the user, as a fatal exception error. In many cases the exception is non-recoverable and the system must either be restarted or shut down, depending upon the severity of the error. For more information, visit Microsoft's Fatal Exception Errors.

For even more error message information, visit
h How To Search the Microsoft Knowledge Base for Errors

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