Finding yourself stuck in an endless redirect loop can be extremely frustrating. You try to access a website, only to be met with an error message like “Exceeded maxRedirects. Probably stuck in a redirect loop.”
No matter how many times you refresh or clear your browser, the same error appears again and again. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through the common causes of these problematic redirect chains and equip you with actionable solutions to break out of the cycle.
With some debugging techniques and configuration tweaks, you can usually quickly remedy redirect issues and regain access to tangled websites. Read on to pick up redirect troubleshooting skills that will save you headaches down the line.
Understanding Redirect Loops
A redirect loop occurs when page A redirects to page B, which then redirects back to page A, creating an endless loop that fails to resolve. This often stems from incorrect URL configurations or rewrite rules on a website.
Some common causes of redirect loops include:
- Improperly set up 301 redirects – For example, if an old URL was redirected to a new URL, which then redirects back to the old URL.
- Conflicting rewrite rules – Such as two rules that end up redirecting URLs to each other.
- Incorrect directory traversal validation – If a site allows ../ to traverse above web root directories, this can cause looping.
- Caching issues – Sometimes redirect loops are temporary and relate to invalid cached redirects.
Identifying the specific source of the loop is the first step toward fixing it.
Checking for Redirect Chains
When trying to diagnose a redirect loop error, it helps to map out the full redirect chain to pinpoint where it goes awry.
You can check redirect chains in a few ways:
- Browser developer tools: The network panel will display each individual redirect.
- Command line tools like curl: Curl reveals each redirect response code and URL.
- Online redirect checkers: Sites like RedirectDetective.com visualize redirect paths.
- Server log files: The error log may contain clues about failing redirects.
By analyzing the chain, you can often spot the problematic redirect causing the loop.
Fixing Cache-Related Redirect Loops
Sometimes redirect loops are temporary, caused by invalid redirects getting cached. Before investigating other causes, it’s worth clearing your browser cache and retesting.
Fix cache-related redirect loops by:
- Clearing your browser cache – In Chrome, go to Settings > Privacy & Security > Clear Browsing Data.
- Testing in incognito/private mode – This ignores cached redirects from normal browsing sessions.
- Checking other browsers – Try testing again in Firefox, Edge, etc to bypass Chrome’s cache.
- Clearing server-side caches – CDNs and cache modules may also require cache clearing.
If the page loads properly after cache clearing, the issue was likely cached redirects rather than a true server configuration mistake.
Checking for Incorrect URL Rewrites
On many content management and e-commerce platforms, custom URL rewrite rules power pretty URLs and redirects. If poorly configured, conflicting rules can easily create redirect loops.
Debug potential rewrite issues by:
- Temporarily disabling rewrite modules – This reveals if rules are redirecting URLs in circles.
- Reviewing rules for conflicts – Any recursion or chains should get flagged for removal.
- Testing URLs without rewrites – Use underlying non-rewritten URLs instead of pretty ones.
- Enabling rewrite logging – Detailed logs help diagnose rule regression errors.
With rewrite managers like URL Rewrite on IIS or mod_rewrite for Apache, be vigilant about testing changes before deploying live.
Adjusting 301 Redirects That Loop
301 redirects are commonly used to redirect old URLs to new destinations. If misconfigured, they can easily loop—for instance, if page A goes to page B which redirects back to page A.
To fix problematic 301s:
- Review redirect chains – Identify which URLs are creating the loop.
- Update the problematic 301 – Point it to the proper end destination URL rather than an intermediary hop.
- Use temporary 302 redirects – Changing endless 301s to temporary 302s can break the cycle.
- Specify “nofollow” on 301s – Adding a rel=”nofollow” stops search crawlers from indexing redirect chains.
Always double check old URLs only redirect once to the correct new URL to avoid endless looping issues.
Allowing Certain Redirect Exceptions
For sites utilizing URL blacklists or validation to prevent unauthorized access, it’s common to restrict redirects to other domains or paths. However overly strict blocking can also inadvertently cause redirect loops to legitimate URLs.
Resolve this by:
Adding exceptions for known safe domains – Create a whitelist for valid external redirects.
- Allowing redirects only within the same domain – Permit relative path redirects but not external domains.
- Temporarily disabling redirect validation – Remove blocking to test if it’s interfering with redirects.
Get the proper balance to tighten security without blocking legitimate URLs.
Preventing Future Redirect Errors
Once you fix the problematic redirects causing loops, implementing preventative measures will help avoid recurring issues:
- Enable expiration headers – Set caching policies so redirects eventually expire.
- Monitor site with redirection tools – Services like RedirectPath can detect problems early.
- Use temporary redirects when possible – 302s can’t get cached, avoiding stale redirect issues.
- Test major site changes locally – Thoroughly vet new redirects/rules before pushing live.
With vigilant monitoring and testing, endless redirect loops can be avoided for good.
Redirect errors can undoubtedly be frustrating, but nearly every redirect loop has solutions within reach. By methodically tracking down misconfigured URLs, cache policies, rewrite rules, or validation logic that loops redirects, you can systematically eliminate common culprits.
While unraveling tangled redirect chains takes time and testing, this guide equips you with an action plan tailored to escape even the most stubborn looping issues. The next time an “exceeded maxRedirects” error appears, you now have go-to techniques to diagnose the failure point and re-establish access with strategic redirects tweaks.
With vigilance and preventative measures, you can avoid losing site traffic and visibility due to pesky redirect fails.