Htaccess: Site error documents

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.htaccess: Introduction | Site error documents | Prevent Directory Listing | Redirect | Preventing hot linking |

.htaccess - Apache directory-level configuration file

Site error documents

Apache provides some bland error documents, but you are not restricted to using just these. You can provide your own and match them to your site's look.

What errors produce what

The following is a list of the Apache error numbers and what they relate to:

Successful Client Requests Client Request Errors Server Errors
201 Created 400 Bad Request 500 Internal Server Error
202 Accepted 401 Authorization Required 501 Not Implemented
203 Non-Authoritative Information 403 Forbidden 502 Bad Gateway
204 No Content 404 Not Found 503 Service Unavailable
205 Reset Content 405 Method Not Allowed 504 Gateway Timeout
206 Partial Content 406 Not Acceptable (encoding) 505 HTTP Version Not Supported
Client Request Redirected 407 Proxy Authentication Required  
300 Multiple Choices 408 Request Timed Out  
301 Moved Permanently 409 Conflicting Request  
302 Moved Temporarily 410 Gone  
303 See Other 411 Content Length Required  
304 Not Modified 412 Precondition Failed  
305 Use Proxy 413 Request Entity Too Long  
  414 Request URI Too Long  
  415 Unsupported Media Type  

Note: There is no need to create error pages for all the above. The following are worth considering: 401, 403, 404 and 500

How to create customised error documents

Create a new Directory in your root directory (www) and name it errors. This will contain all the custom error pages you wish to display. For example, not_found.html will be displayed when a page cannot be found on your web site.

Now open the root .htaccess file (the one in your root directory www) and add the following line:

ErrorDocument 404 /errors/not_found.html

Save the file. The command ErrorDocument 404 will forward a user to the <root>/errors/not_found.html file when ever Apache produces the error 404.

Note 1: The files and directory can be named anything you like.
Note 2: You can use a full URL (as oppose to a virtual path) to your error file; for example:

If you create error pages for the above, your .htaccess file will look similar to this when using virtual paths:

  • ErrorDocument 401 /errors/auth_required.html
  • ErrorDocument 403 /errors/forbidden.html
  • ErrorDocument 404 /errors/not_found.html
  • ErrorDocument 500 /errors/server_error.html

Or look like similar to this if when using full URL paths:

  • ErrorDocument 401
  • ErrorDocument 403
  • ErrorDocument 404
  • ErrorDocument 500


The following shows a little more detail. First create the error page to be displayed:

Comment Code
  1. Create a new directory in www named errors.
  2. In this directory create a file named not_found.html 
  3. Add the code shown on the right.
  4. Save the file.
 <title>Not found</title>
    <p>Example of a <b>not found</b> page</p>

Add the command to htaccess:

Comment Code
  1. Navigate to the root directory www.
  2. Open the .htaccess file.
  3. Add the command shown on the right last line.
  4. Save the file.
# This file provides security for the server, limiting access to the localhost only.
# Comment to deactivate.

Order Deny,Allow
Deny from all
Allow from
Allow from ::1

# To allow execution of cgi scripts in this directory, uncomment the next two lines. 

AddHandler cgi-script .pl .cgi
Options +ExecCGI

# To unlock your server, comment the next 4 lines.
# Defaults: Username = admin; Password = userver

#AuthName "Uniform Server - Secure Server Access"
#AuthType Basic
#AuthUserFile /htpasswd/www/.htpasswd
#Require valid-user

ErrorDocument 404 /errors/not_found.html


  1. (Re)start the server.
  2. In the browser address bar, type http:/localhost/fred.html or some other file that does not exist.
  3. Apache will generate the error code 404 and redirect to your not_found.html page

Experiment with the ErrorDocument command and create a few other pages.