A 503 Service Unavailable Error happens when a web server is temporarily unable to handle a request that’s been made of it. Almost always, the error is on the website itself and there’s nothing you can do about it but try again later. Still, there are a few quick things you can try on your end.

What is a 503 Service Unavailable Error?

A 503 Service Unavailable Error indicates that a web server is temporarily unable to handle a request. That could be the web server you’re trying to access directly, or another server that web server is in turn trying to access. It’s called a 503 error because that’s the HTTP status code that the web server uses to define that kind of error. The error can occur for a number of reasons, but the two most common reasons are that the server is overwhelmed with requests or is having maintenance performed on it.

The 503 error is different from a 500 Internal Server Error. The 500 error occurs when something is preventing the server from handling your request, while the 503 Error actually means that the server is fine—it’s able to process your request and is returning the 503 error by design.

Just like with other errors like this, website designers can customize how a 503 error looks. So, you might see different looking 503 pages on different websites. Websites might also use slightly different names for this error. For example, you might see things like:

  • Http/1.1 Service Unavailable
  • 503 Error
  • 503 Service Temporarily Available
  • 503 Service Unavailable
  • Service Unavailable – DNS Failure
  • HTTP Error 503
  • HTTP 503
  • Error 503 Service Unavailable

An important thing to remember is that the 503 error is a server-side error. That means the problem exists with the website you’re trying to access, and not with your computer. That’s both good and bad news. It’s good news because there’s nothing wrong with your computer, and it’s bad news because there’s usually nothing you can do to solve the problem from your end.

Nonetheless, here are few quick things you can try.

Refresh the page

As we mentioned, a 503 error indicates a temporary problem, and sometimes that problem is very temporary. A site might be getting overwhelmed with traffic, for example. So, refreshing the page is always worth a shot. Most browsers use the F5 key to refresh, and also provide a Refresh button somewhere on the address bar. It doesn’t fix the problem very often, but it takes just a second to try.

refresh-the-page

Warning: Be sure to pay extra attention if the error occurs while you’re making a payment. Refreshing the page might get you charged twice, so keep an eye out for that.

Check If the Site Is Down For Other People

Whenever you fail to reach a site (for whatever reason), you can also check if it’s just you that’s having a problem connecting, or if other people are having the same trouble. There are lots of tools out there for this, but our favorites are isitdownrightnow.com and downforeveryoneorjustme.com. Both work pretty much the same. Plug in the URL you want to check, and you’ll get a result like this.

If you get a report saying the site is down for everyone, there’s not much you can do but try again later. If the report shows that the site is up, then the problem might be on your end. It’s very rare this is the case with a 503 error, but it is possible, and you can try some of the things we describe in the next couple of sections.

Restart Your Devices

So, you’ve used a site checking tool and determined that the site is just down for you. And, you’ve tested another browser and are having the same problem. This tells you the problem is likely something on your end, but it’s not your browser.

It is possible that there are some strange, temporary issues with your computer or your networking equipment (Wi-Fi, router, modem, etc.). A simple restart of your computer and your networking devices might help fix the problem.

Another possibility is that the error is caused by a DNS issue but on a DNS server rather than your computer. In that case, you can try switching DNS servers and seeing whether the problem gets resolved.

Contact the Website

Another option is to contact the website owner directly. Look up their contact information on the website and contact them about the page in question. If there is no contact form, you can try and reach the website on their social media.

Image Credit: Micha/Shutterstock