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Ensuring Website Security: How to Handle “Server Unable to read htaccess file, denying access to be safe” Error

Ensuring Website Security How to Handle “Server Unable to read htaccess file, denying access to be safe Error

Many website administrators have encountered the frustrating error message “Server unable to read htaccess file, denying access to be safe.” This occurs when the web server is unable to read the .htaccess file, which contains important configuration directives for controlling access and defining rewrite rules. 

In this article, we will examine the common causes of this error and provide troubleshooting steps to fix the issue, ensuring the proper functioning of the .htaccess file. By the end, you will know how to resolve this error message and restore full access and functionality to your website.

What is an htaccess file?

Before delving into the error itself, let’s understand what an htaccess file is. The “.htaccess” file is a configuration file used on web servers running the Apache web server software. It allows website administrators to configure and control various aspects of their website, including URL redirection, authentication, and more.

Why is the htaccess file important?

The htaccess file is crucial for website security and functionality. It serves as a powerful tool that allows website owners to implement various rules and directives to enhance their website’s performance and security. It’s like a behind-the-scenes manager who instructs the server on how to handle specific requests and operations. 

Understanding the “Server unable to read htaccess file, denying access to be safe” error

This error message typically occurs when the web server is unable to read the htaccess file. It’s important to note that, while this error can be frustrating, it actually serves as a security measure to prevent unauthorized access to your website when there is an issue with the configuration file.

In other words, the server’s response is to deny access to be safe. When it encounters a problem with the htaccess file, it assumes that there might be a security risk, and to protect your website and its users, it restricts access.

Causes of the htaccess error

Understanding the causes of this error is vital in resolving it effectively. Here are the common causes:

File Permissions

File permissions are a common culprit. If the htaccess file’s permissions are too restrictive, the server may be unable to read it. Ensure that the permissions are set to 644, allowing the owner to read and write, and others to read.

Syntax Errors

Syntax errors in the htaccess file can also trigger this error. The file’s code should follow a specific syntax, and even a small mistake can cause it to fail. Therefore, always double-check the code for any typos or errors.

File Existence

It may seem obvious, but sometimes the htaccess file is missing altogether. If the file is not present in the directory where it’s expected, the server will be unable to read it. In this case, you’ll need to create a new one.

Conflicting Plugins

Certain plugins or extensions can clash with the directives in the htaccess file. If you recently installed or updated a plugin and then encountered this error, there’s a good chance that the plugin is the cause. Temporarily disabling or deactivating the plugin can help identify the issue.

Server Configuration

In some cases, server settings can interfere with the htaccess file’s functioning. If the server is not configured to allow access files or has specific restrictions, it can lead to errors.

How to fix the “Server unable to read htaccess file” error

Now that we know the potential causes, let’s discuss how to fix this error step by step.

Step 1: Check file permissions

The first step is to ensure that the htaccess file has the correct permissions. As mentioned earlier, it should be set to 644, allowing the owner to read and write, while others can only read. You can adjust the file permissions using your server’s file manager or an FTP client.

Step 2: Check for syntax errors

Review the htaccess file’s code carefully. Look for any syntax errors, typos, or mistakes in the code. It’s a good practice to make a backup of the file before making any changes. If you identify any issues, correct them and save the file.

Step 3: Ensure the file exists

Double-check that the htaccess file is present in the directory where it should be. If it’s missing, you’ll need to create a new one. You can do this by creating a text file, naming it “.htaccess,” and adding the necessary directives.

Step 4: Disable any conflicting plugins

If you suspect that a plugin is causing the issue, you can temporarily disable or deactivate it to see if the error persists. Activate the plugins one by one to pinpoint the one that’s conflicting with the htaccess file. You may need to contact the plugin developer for support or find an alternative plugin if necessary.

Step 5: Review server configuration

If none of the above steps resolve the issue, reviewing your server’s configuration is worth reviewing. Some server settings may interfere with the htaccess file. In such cases, contacting your hosting provider or server administrator for assistance is a good idea.

Preventing future htaccess issues

To prevent future occurrences of this error, consider implementing the following best practices:

  • Regular Backups: Keep regular backups of your htaccess file. This way, you can quickly restore it if any issues arise.
  • Software Updates: Ensure that your server software, plugins, and website software are up to date. Updates often include bug fixes and security improvements.
  • Regular Maintenance: Periodically review and update your htaccess file. As your website evolves, so should your configuration.
  • Monitoring: Implement website monitoring tools to alert you to issues as they arise. Early detection can prevent larger problems.


In conclusion, the “Server unable to read htaccess file, denying access to be safe” error can be a source of frustration for website owners. However, by following the steps outlined in this article, you can effectively diagnose and fix the issue. 

Keeping your htaccess file in good shape is essential for the smooth functioning of your website. Remember that the htaccess file is a powerful tool that can enhance your website’s performance and security when used correctly.


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