How To Troubleshoot an Error in a URL

Getting an Error When Clicking on a Link? Check the URL for Errors

Picture of red alert icon in front of a blue circle
© Carlo Eduardo Rodríguez Espino / iconfinder.com

Few things are more frustrating than when you click a link or type in a lengthy website address and the page doesn't load, sometimes resulting in a 404 error, a 400 error, or another similar error.

While there are a number of reasons this might happen, often times the URL is simply incorrect.

If there's a problem with a URL, these easy-to-follow steps will help you find it:

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: Closely inspecting the URL you're working with shouldn't take more than a few minutes.

How To Troubleshoot an Error in a URL

  1. If you're using the http: portion of the URL, did you include the forward slashes after the colon - http://?
     
  2. Did you remember the www? Some websites require this to load properly.

    Tip: See What is a Hostname? for more on why this is the case.
     
  3. Did you remember the .com, .net, or other top level domain?
     
  4. Did you type the actual page name if necessary?

    For example, most web pages have specific names like bakedapplerecipe.html or man-saves-life-on-hwy-10.aspx, etc.
     
  5. Are you using backslashes \\ instead of the correct forward slashes // after the http: portion of the URL and throughout the rest of the URL as necessary?
     
  6. Check the www. Did you forget a w or add an extra by mistake - wwww?
     
  7. Did you type the correct file extension for the page?

    For example, there's a world of difference in .html and .htm. They aren't interchangeable because the first points to a file that ends in .HTML while the other is to a file with the .HTM suffix - they're entirely different files, and it's unlikely that they both exist as duplicates on the same web server.
     
  1. Are you using the correct capitalization? Everything after the third slash in a URL, including folders and file names, is case sensitive.

    For example, http://pcsupport.about.com/od/termsu/g/termurl.htm will get you to my URL definition page, but http://pcsupport.about.com/od/termsu/g/TERMURL.htm and http://pcsupport.about.com/od/TERMSU/g/termurl.htm will not.

    Note: This is only true for URLs that indicate the file name, like those that show the .HTM or .HTML extension at the very end. Others like http://open-nandra.com/?url=what-is-a-url-2626035 are probably not case sensitive.
     
  1. If the website is a common one that you're familiar with then double check the spelling.

    For example, www.googgle.com is very close to www.google.com, but it won't get you to the popular search engine.
     
  2. If you copied the URL from outside the browser and pasted it in the address bar, check to see that the entire URL was copied properly.

    For example, often times a long URL in an email message will span two or more lines but only the first line will be copied correctly, resulting in a too-short URL in the clipboard.
     
  3. Another copy/paste mistake is extra punctuation. Your browser is pretty forgiving with spaces but watch out for extra periods, semicolons, and other punctuation that might have been present in the URL when you copied it.

    In most cases, a URL should end with either a file extension (like html, htm, etc.) or a single forward slash.
     
  4. Your browser may autocomplete the URL, making it appear as though you can't reach the page you want. This isn't a URL problem itself, but more of a misunderstanding of how the browser works.

    For example, if you start typing "youtube" in your browser because you want to search Google for YouTube's website, it may suggest a video you've recently watched. It will do this by automatically loading that URL into the address bar. So, if you press enter after "youtube", that video will load instead of starting a web search for "youtube."

    You can avoid this by editing the URL in the address bar to take you to the homepage. Or, you can clear out all the browser's history so it will forget which pages you've already visited.