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‘Oops. Something Went Wrong’: What Those Dreaded Computer Error Messages Mean

If you're receiving computer error messages, don't panic, but do call your website developer to have it fixed.

You instantly panic as you see a computer error message, and those comical words and pictures don’t make you feel much better.

“Seriously, it isn’t funny!” you say in exasperation.

While website developers are simply trying to make light of an uncomfortable situation, website owners really should take those warning messages seriously. Even though some are more urgent than others, any such messages should be addressed as soon as possible.  After nurturing leads for months, the last thing you want is for them to finally land on your website only to be rejected.  They might never come back, and that’s clearly bad for business.

Understanding in very general terms what the error messages mean can help you communicate with developers and customers more effectively.

What These 7 Common Computer Error Messages are Trying to Tell You

Following are some of the common messages you may come across, along with a brief explanation of what they might mean.

1. Security Certificate Errors (Certificate Authority Invalid)

A site’s certificate allows the browser to establish a secure connection with the site. Certificate errors occur when there’s a problem with a certificate or a web server’s use of the certificate. If you do use access this site anyway, take precautions to protect your security, as the error could mean that:

2. 400 Bad File Request

A 400 bad request error can be a complicated one to fix. It means the server cannot process the request due to invalid syntax. In reference to programming, syntax is a set of rules for grammar and spelling. It could be related to the client, a web application, web server, and others involved or a combination of several factors.

3. 401 Unauthorized Error

You may believe you hear security alarms go off when you read this one, but it likely isn’t your fault. A 401 error is displayed when there is a problem accessing a page. This often happens when the user enters an invalid username or password. It also may occur due to an error that requires every visitor to enter a password even though a password is not required. Essentially, therefore, everyone visiting the site only sees the 401 error.

4. 403 Forbidden Error

As it implies in the name, you may receive this message if you are not allowed to view something or proceed. Forbidden is such a strong word, but it’s nothing personal. It usually is due to incorrect file or folder permissions that are out of your control. Your website developer should be able to fix it for you.

5. Page Not Found (404)

This is when a specific page on the site is not found. Some of the top reasons for this common computer error message include:

The good news is that the page is not likely “broken” or gone for good. Usually, some troubleshooting by a professional developer can help restore the page relatively quickly.

6. 408 Request Timeout

A 408 error is deceptive. On the surface, it sounds like it simply took too much time for something to happen, so the server gave up, took a brief nap, and will come back refreshed soon.

However, identifying why the error occurred and how to fix it can be challenging, as it could come from the client side or server side for a variety of reasons. Essentially, it means the client is not receiving any response from the server, and this can happen if the request does not reach the client or server.

7. 500 Internal Server Error

One of the most common computer error messages, the 500 error code is a little like a shrug. It’s not clear to the computer what the error is, but it knows something is wrong. It usually appears as, “This page isn’t working and (identifier) is currently unable to handle this request.”

Leave the Hard Work to Us

If you regularly experience these common error messages or other messages on your website, let us know. We’ll help identify the root of the problem and address it as soon as possible.

Of course, we’re about much more than designing and build websites, so if you want to know what else we can do for you, we’ll tell you all about that too. Just make sure you have a couple hours to spare.

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