When clicking on a link you expect your browser to show the requested website. But what if instead all you can see is black font on a white screen saying “Error 404 page not found” or alternatively “404 not found”.
What happened? Why are you not able to access the desired website? And what does the message “Page not found” even mean? Have you ever wondered, why this type of error is labeled with the number 404? Read below for answers to all of these questions and a solution on how to solve this problem.
Error 404 - where does the name come from?
Let’s begin with explaining the origins of Error 404. Where does the term Error 404 come from? There is a story behind the origin of the term Error 404 that belongs to the realm of mythical tales: Legend has it that Error 404 originated in the early stages of the world wide web. Responsible for the missing data was supposedly a server located in room 404 of CERN. CERN is the name of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, located near Meyrin in the canton of Geneva, Switzerland. The root of the world wide web is found here.
But the truth is: the error message 404 is just one of 27 different errors, which are defined as part of the HTTP status codes. Other known error messages which we are going to explain later on include 403 (Forbidden), 400 (Bad Request) and 410 (Gone).
What does Error 404 mean?
Error 404 is a dead or broken link to a non-existent website or file. Therefore this error message is also known as a deadlink. When you look up a web address that does not exist or one that tries to follow a faulty programmed link, you will receive an Error 404 message on your screen, such as “404 Not Found” or “Error 404 page not found”. This error message means that the requested website does not exist under the URL you just typed in. You can also compare this error message to conventional postal services: “Address unknown - return to sender” or compare it to communication via email. If you type in a wrong or non-existent email address you will get an automated mail saying “...Return to sender” back.
It is important to know that Error 404 does not pose a threat to your computer. This error message is just annoying, especially if you happen to come across it more than once. It is important to know that there is nothing wrong with your computer or the quality of your internet connection. Generally speaking the fault does not lie with you, but with the server that you sent a request to by clicking a link or typing in a certain URL. With the increase in computer viruses it is possible that you receive this error message after your computer has been infected by malware. This type of malicious software can force your computer to display error messages. Are you unsure whether you accidentally downloaded malware to your computer? Then do not hesitate and visit a TrustATec service partner near you. Our technicians offer quick and easy help.
Error 404 and the consequences
But what are the consequences of Error 404 and other broken links when they are not caused by malware? The problem with non-existent URLs is that the connected websites are not notified of the error and also cannot be notified.
If i.e. there was a link here, leading to website XY regarding a currently related topic, it could happen that this website is taken off tomorrow. Consequently, the link to website xy would lead nowhere, and anyone trying to follow the link will reach a page with the Error 404 message. This way the web is ‘polluted’ and anyone frequently encountering these error messages is just annoyed. This is especially problematic when it comes to search engines. Here you often find websites listed which have been gone for weeks or even months and no longer exist. This of course affects the quality of your search results.
Reasons for Error 404
What causes Error 404? The Error 404 is a dead link. Unfortunately there are many dead links as the internet is a decentralized network and therefore there is no superordinate control position. There are many different reasons how a link ends up dead or broken. The most common reasons are:
- The file or website the URL refers to has been moved, renamed, or deleted.
- The link on the original page is incorrect, for example as it is case-sensitive.
- The domain you are looking for has been reassigned, but the website has no content yet.
- The web server is not accessible, i.e. due to network problems.
- The domain name does not exist.
If one of these reasons above causes the error message, you can try reloading the page. Sometimes the server is momentarily overloaded and therefore displays the error. Reloading the page also helps if the page was simply not loaded correctly the first time, causing the error code to appear. Furthermore, you should check whether you have entered the web address correctly. An omitted or swapped letter is already sufficient to display error code 404.
However, it is also possible that the reason for the frequent appearance of an Error 404 is related to your computer. Reasons can be:
- A virus has damaged your device.
- Your computer or laptop is infected with malware and it has taken control of the internet browser.
- The Windows registry (central location for all configuration data) has been corrupted by a recent software installation or uninstallation.
- An external malware program has infected browser-related files.
Solutions for dealing with an Error 404
If an Error 404 is caused by your computer at home, you might be able to resolve the problem of “404 not found”. In case this doesn’t work you should consult a TrustATec service partner near you to solve the issue. But first you should use an antivirus scanner on your computer, for example the one by F-Secure, to detect any malware on your device. In case your computer has been infected by a virus, this malware could be responsible for the message “Error 404 page not found”.
You should also try to delete all your data garbage that piles up when you browse the web or work with your computer. These are for example temporarily stored files or folders you don’t need anymore. Never removing data trash from your device can lead to file conflicts, which in turn can be the cause for your error message. Furthermore, your computer’s performance is decreased by the data garbage. The “Error 404 page not found” could also be the result of outdated drivers. Therefore you should update these, making sure this is not the cause of the error.
Using the Windows system restore function, which has no effects on your personal documents, photos and other files, could also help to solve an Error 404. This feature allows you to go back to an earlier time when your device still worked properly and thereby reversing the Error 404. For this follow the steps below to use the system restore feature (available for Windows XP, Vista 7, 8 and 10) :
- Search for and go to “Reset this PC”.
- Click on “Get started”.
- Follow the given steps to select the point in time you would like your system to be restored to.
- Restore your computer.
Another option to solve an Error 404 is to install any outstanding Windows updates. You have tried all possible solutions and are still receiving the error message “Error 404 page not found”, even though you are sure that the website exists? Then consult a TrustATec partner near you and let our expert technicians solve your computer problems.
Error 404 and other types of error messages
Now that we have explained the error you are most likely to encounter online, “Error 404 page not found”, please find a list below showing some less common error messages that might surface. There are of course many more important error messages you should know about:
400: Bad Request - This error is caused by faulty programming of the web server. You could also encounter this error when using Android devices using Chrome on an activated data saver mode. A click on an article link only reveals the error message “400 Bad Request” in your browser. The data saver mode should be deactivated to avoid this error message.
401: Unauthorized - This error message pops up when a login has failed, for example because you typed in a wrong user ID or password. The desired HTTP-request cannot be processed and the respective login data has to be checked.
403: Forbidden - This error concerns your permission to access a certain website. The error message is displayed when you are trying to log onto a website but you are lacking the authorization to access certain files and folders.
410: Gone - This is an error similar to Error 404. The website you are trying to find existed previously, but was purposely deleted. Now the web server has been programmed to display the 410 Error. A big difference compared to Error 404 is that the website will be non-available permanently.