400 Bad Request Error: What it is & How to Fix it (2021)

The 400 Bad Request Error is an HTTP response status code that indicates that the server was unable to process the request sent by the client due to invalid syntax. As with the dozens of potential HTTP response codes, receiving a 400 Bad Request Error while accessing your own application can be both frustrating and challenging to fix. Such HTTP response codes represent the complex relationship between the client, a web application, a web server, and often multiple third-party web services, so determining the cause of a particular status code can be a difficult, even within a controlled development environment.

Throughout this article we’ll examine the 400 Bad Request Error by digging into whether the root cause is on the local client or remote server. We’ll also go over a few tips and tricks to help you diagnose and debug your own application if it’s reporting a 400 Bad Request Error for some reason. Lastly, we’ll explore a handful of the most common content management systems (CMSs) that are in use today and provide you with some insight into potential problem areas within these systems that might cause an unexpected 400 Bad Request Error, so let’s get to it!

Server- or Client-Side?
All HTTP response status codes that are in the 4xx category are considered client error responses. These types of messages contrast with errors in the 5xx category, such as the 504 Gateway Timeout Error we looked at last week, which are considered server error responses. With that in mind, the appearance of a 4xx error doesn’t necessarily mean the issue has something to do with the client, where the client is the web browser or device being used to access the application. Oftentimes, if you’re trying to diagnose an issue with your own application, you can immediately ignore most client-side code and components, such as HTML, cascading style sheets (CSS), client-side JavaScript, and so forth. This doesn’t apply solely to web sites, either. Many smart phone apps that have a modern looking user interface are actually powered by a normal web application behind the scenes; one that is simply hidden from the user.

On the other hand, since a 400 Bad Request Error indicates that the request sent by the client was invalid for one reason or another, it’s entirely possible the issue steps from the client. Your client may be trying to send a file that’s too big, the request could be malformed in some way, the request HTTP headers could be invalid, and so forth. We’ll explore some of these scenarios (and potential solutions) down below, but be aware that, even though the 400 Bad Request Error is considered a client error response, it doesn’t inherently mean we can rule out either the client nor the server as the root of the problem. In these scenarios, the server is still the network object that is producing the 400 Bad Request Error, and returning it as the HTTP response code to the client, but it could be that the client is causing the issue in some way.

Start With a Thorough Application Backup
It’s always better to be safer rather than sorry. This is particularly true when making modifications to your own website or application. As such, it is critical that you perform a full backup of your application, database, and so forth, before attempting any fixes or changes to the system. Even better, if you have the capability, create a complete copy of the application onto a secondary staging server that isn’t “live,” or isn’t otherwise active and available to the public. This will give you a clean testing ground with which to test all potential fixes to resolve the issue, without threatening the security or sanctity of your live application.

Diagnosing a 400 Bad Request Error
A 400 Bad Request Error indicates that the server (remote computer) is unable (or refuses) to process the request sent by the client (web browser), due to an issue that is perceived by the server to be a client problem. There are a wide variety of scenarios in which a 400 Bad Request Error could appear in an application, but below are some of the most likely causes:

The client may be accidentally (or intentionally) sending deceptive request routing information. Some web applications/web servers look for custom HTTP headers to process requests and verify the client isn’t attempting anything malicious. If an expected custom HTTP header is missing or invalid, a 400 Bad Request Error is a likely result.
The client may be uploading a file that is too large. Most web servers or applications have an explicit file size limit that prevents files that are too big from being uploaded and clogging up bandwidth and other resources in the server. In many cases, the server will produce a 400 Bad Request Error when a file is too large (and, thus, the request cannot be completed).
The client is accessing an invalid URL. If the client is sending a request to an invalid URL — particularly one that is malformed via improper characters — this could result in a 400 Bad Request Error.
The client is using an invalid or expired local cookie. Again, this could be malicious or accidental, but it’s possible that a local cookie in the web browser is identifying you via a session cookie. If this particular session token matches the session token from another request from a different client, the server/application may see this is a malicious act and produce a 400 Bad Request Error code.
Troubleshooting on the Client-Side
Since the 400 Bad Request Error is a client error response code, it’s best to start by troubleshooting any potential client-side issues that could be causing this error. Here are a handful of tips to try on the browser or device that is giving you problems.

Check the Requested URL
As mentioned, the most common cause of a 400 Bad Request Error is simply inputting an incorrect URL. Domain names (e.g. airbrake.io) are case-insensitive, meaning that this mixed case link to AirBrAKe.IO works just as well as the normal, lowercase version of airbrake.io. However, path, query, or fragment portions that appear after the domain name, are quite often case-sensitive, unless the application/server configuration is explicitly designed to pre-process all URLs as lowercase before execution.

Most importantly, check the URL for improper special characters that don’t belong. If the server received a malformed URL, it’s likely to produce a 400 Bad Request Error response.

Clear Relevant Cookies
As discussed above, one potential cause of a 400 Bad Request Error is an invalid or duplicate local cookie. HTTP cookies are tiny pieces of data stored on your local device, which are used by websites and applications as a mechanism to “remember” information about this particular browser and/or device. Most modern web apps take advantage of cookies to store user- or browser-specific data, identifying the client and allowing for future visits to be faster and easier.

However, a cookie that stores session information about your particular user account or device could be conflicting with another session token from another user, giving one (or both of you) a 400 Bad Request Error.

In most cases, you only need to concern yourself with cookies that are relevant to the website or application causing the problem. Cookies are stored based on the web application’s domain name, so you can explicitly remove only those cookies that match the website domain (e.g. airbrake.io), thereby keeping all other cookies intact. However, if you are unfamiliar with manually removing certain cookies, it’s much easier and safer to clear all cookies at once.

Clearing cookies can be accomplished in different ways, depending on the browser you’re using:

Google Chrome
Internet Explorer
Microsoft Edge
Mozilla Firefox
Safari
Upload a Smaller File
If you’re experiencing a 400 Bad Request Error while uploading a file of some sort, try testing with a different, much smaller file to see if this resolves the 400 Bad Request Error. This includes file “uploads” that don’t actually come from your local computer — even files sent from other computers are considered “uploads” from the perspective of the web server running your application.

Log Out and Log In
If the application you’re using has some form of user authentication, the last client-side step to try is to log out and then log back in. If you’ve recently cleared the browser cookies, this should usually log you out automatically the next time you try to load the page, so feel free to just try logging back at this point, to see if things are working once again. Similar to the local cookie issue, the application may be running into a problem with your previous session, which is just a string that the server sends to the client to identify that client during future requests. As with other data, the session token (or session string) is stored locally on your device in the cookies and is transferred by the client to the server during every request. If the server believes your session token is invalid or compromised you may get a 400 Bad Request Error as a result.

For most web applications, logging out and logging back in will force the local session token to be recreated.

Debugging Common Platforms
If you’re running common software packages on the server that is responding with the 400 Bad Request Error, you may want to start by looking into the stability and functionality of those platforms first. The most common content management systems — like WordPress, Joomla!, and Drupal — are all typically well-tested out of the box, but once you start making modifications to the underlying extensions or PHP code (the language in which nearly all modern content management systems are written in), it’s all too easy to cause an unforeseen issue that results in a 400 Bad Request Error.

Rollback Recent Upgrades
If you recently updated the content management system itself just before the 400 Bad Request Error appeared, you may want to consider rolling back to the previous version you had installed when things were working fine. Similarly, any extensions or modules that you may have recently upgraded can also cause server-side issues, so reverting to previous versions of those may also help. For assistance with this task, simply Google “downgrade [PLATFORM_NAME]” and follow along. In some cases, however, certain CMSs don’t really provide a version downgrade capability, which indicates that they consider the base application, along with each new version released, to be extremely stable and bug-free. This is typically the case for the more popular platforms, so don’t be afraid if you can’t find an easy way to revert the platform to an older version.

Uninstall New Extensions, Modules, or Plugins
Depending on the particular content management system your application is using, the exact name of these components will be different, but they serve the same purpose across every system: improving the capabilities and features of the platform beyond what it’s normally capable of out of the box. But be warned: such extensions can, more or less, take full control of the system and make virtually any changes, whether it be to the PHP code, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, or database. As such, it may be wise to uninstall any new extensions that may have been recently added. Again, Google the extension name for the official documentation and assistance with this process.

Check for Unexpected Database Changes
It’s worth noting that, even if you uninstall an extension through the CMS dashboard, this doesn’t guarantee that changes made by the extension have been fully reverted. This is particularly true for many WordPress extensions, which are given carte blanche within the application, including full access rights to the database. Unless the extension author explicitly codes such things in, there are scenarios where an extension may modify database records that don’t “belong” to the extension itself, but are instead created and managed by other extensions (or even the base CMS itself). In those scenarios, the extension may not know how to revert alterations to database records, so it will ignore such things during uninstallation. Diagnosing such problems can be tricky, but I’ve personally encountered such scenarios multiple times, so your best course of action, assuming you’re reasonably convinced an extension is the likely culprit for the 400 Bad Request Error, is to open the database and manually look through tables and records that were likely modified by the extension.

Above all, Google is your friend. Don’t be afraid to search for specific terms related to your issue, such as the name of your application’s CMS, along with the 400 Bad Request Error. Chances are you’ll find someone (or, perhaps, many someones) who have experienced this issue and have potentially been provided a solution.

Troubleshooting on the Server-Side
If you aren’t running a CMS application — or even if you are, but you’re confident the 400 Bad Request Error isn’t related to that — here are some additional tips to help you troubleshoot what might be causing the issue on the server-side of things.

Check for Invalid HTTP Headers
This may be tricky for non-developer types, but it’s possible that the 400 Bad Request Error you’re seeing from your own application is a result of missing or invalid custom HTTP headers that your server/web application expects. In such cases, you may be able to analyze the HTTP headers that are sent on the server side and determine if they are invalid or unexpected in some way.

Look Through the Logs
Nearly every web application will keep some form of server-side logs. Application logs are typically the history of what the application did, such as which pages were requested, which servers it connected to, which database results it provides, and so forth. Server logs are related to the actual hardware that is running the application, and will often provide details about the health and status of all connected services, or even just the server itself. Google “logs [PLATFORM_NAME]” if you’re using a CMS, or “logs [PROGRAMMING_LANGUAGE]” and “logs [OPERATING_SYSTEM]” if you’re running a custom application, to get more information on finding the logs in question.

Debug Your Application Code or Scripts
If all else fails, it may be that a problem in some custom code within your application is causing the issue. Try to diagnose where the issue may be coming from through manually debugging your application, along with parsing through application and server logs. Ideally, make a copy of the entire application to a local development machine and perform a step-by-step debug process, which will allow you to recreate the exact scenario in which the 400 Bad Request Error occurred and view the application code at the moment something goes wrong.

No matter the cause — and even if you managed to fix it this time — the appearance of an issue like the 400 Bad Request Error within your own application is a good indication you may want to implement an error management tool, which will help you automatically detect errors and report them to you at the very moment they occur. Airbrake’s error monitoring software provides real-time error monitoring and automatic exception reporting for all your development projects. Airbrake’s state of the art web dashboard ensures you receive round-the-clock status updates on your application’s health and error rates. No matter what you’re working on, Airbrake easily integrates with all the most popular languages and frameworks. Plus, Airbrake makes it easy to customize exception parameters, while giving you complete control of the active error filter system, so you only gather the errors that matter most.

Check out Airbrake’s error monitoring software today and see for yourself why so many of the world’s best engineering teams use Airbrake to revolutionize their exception handling practices!

The client-server interaction is happening continuously. You click on a link to access a resource, and the server responds. The server, in order to inform you whether your request has been successfully completed, it displays an HTTP status code.

For example, if your request to access a file was successful, you’ll get a 200 OK status code. If you want to route users to a new location, you’ll use a 301 Moved Permanently status code.

However, sometimes, certain server-side and client-side issues prevent the client from accessing a resource.

The server-side errors are known as 5xx status codes. The most common errors in this cluster are the 502 Bad Gateway error, 503 Service Unavailable error, and the 504 Gateway Timeout error.

The client errors are known as 4xx status codes. A 4xx status code means that something on the client-side of things is causing the issue.

In our previous posts, we talked about the 403 Forbidden error, 404 Not Found error, and the 410 Gone error.

In this post, we’ll explain the 400 Bad Request error and discuss its causes. And if you want to know how you can fix one, we’ll offer a few useful tips.
What Is a 400 Bad Request?
A 400 Bad Request error means that the request the client made is incorrect or corrupt, and the server can’t understand it.

The main thing to understand is that the 400 error is a client-side error. It indicates that the request the client submitted can’t be processed by the server.

In rare cases, it can be a problem with the server that’s causing the error.

What Is the Cause of a 400 Error?
There are several causes why a 400 Bad Request error might appear.The majority of them are due to an issue on the client-side of things.

The cause of a 400 error can be a wrongly written URL or a URL that contains unrecognizable characters.

If the URL is correct, then another cause of the error might be an invalid or expired cookie. For example, you can be presented with a 400 Bad Request error when you attempt to log into a site as admin but the cookie that’s handling your authentication data is corrupted.

There’s also the possibility of the server coming back with a 400 error if you try to upload a file that’s too large. If the server is programmed with a file size limit, then you might encounter a 400 error.

In rare cases, the reason why you see a 400 error might be due to specific problems with the server.

How Can a 400 Error Appear?
As with all other HTTP status codes,the 400 Bad Request error can appear on all browsers and all devices. You can see it on Safari on your macOS and Google Chrome on your Windows 10.

Here’s how 400 Bad Request looks on Google Chrome:

http error 400
It’s also not uncommon for a website to customize its 400 error page. We’ve seen sites doing this with their 404 error pages.

This is how the error appears on Google:

google 400 bad request error
Apart from custom-made 400 error pages, websites can also use different names for the error, including:

400 Bad Request

HTTP 400 Bad Request

HTTP Status 400 – Bad Request

400 Bad Request Error

HTTP Error 400

Bad Request: Error 400

HTTP Error 400 – Bad Request

How to Fix a 400 Bad Request?
When a browser returns a 400 status code, it’s always generic. You’re informed that there’s an HTTP 400 Bad request error on the site, but you’re not offered tips for how to fix it. When it comes to fixing the 400 Bad Request error, you’re all alone.

Luckily, we’ve put together a few tips for how you can fix the 400 Bad Request error as soon as it appears.

Check the URL
If you see a 400 error on your site, the first thing you want to do is check to see whether you typed the URL correctly.

Check whether the domain name and the specific webpage you want to access are written correctly and are separated with forward slashes. If the URL contains any special characters, ensure they’re correctly inserted.

If you’re certain that you typed the correct URL but are still seeing an HTTP 400 Bad Request error, then proceed with clearing your browser cache and cookies.

type the right url address
Clear Browser Cache and Cookies
Corrupted website files might cause a 400 error. This involves all types of files that a site needs in order to function properly such as JavaScript, HTML, and CSS.

To fix this issue,you need to clear your browser cache. This can be done by clicking on the three dots icon on the right-hand corner of the screen. Go to More Tools and access Clear Browsing Data. From there, check the Cached images and files box and click on the Clear data button to remove the browser cache.
If clearing your browser cache doesn’t fix the error, you should also remove your browser cookies. Corrupt and expired cookies can trigger a 400 Bad Request error.

To clear your cookies, go to the three dots icon on the right-hand corner and click on More Tools to open up the Clear browsing data window.

Check the Cookies and other site data box and choose All time for the time range option. Doing this will delete all website cookies.

However, if clearing your browser cache and cookies doesn’t help, the next thing you can do is to clear your DNS cache.

clear browsing data
Flush Your DNS
Corrupted or out-of-date DNS lookup data is another reason why you’re seeing an HTTP 400 Bad Request.

To fix it, you need to clear your DNS cache. DNS data is stored on the operating system of your device, and not on the browser. Depending on whether you’re using a Windows OS, macOS, or Linus, read this detailed guide on clearing DNS cache.
Check for File Size
As we’ve mentioned earlier, another cause for a 400 error is file size. If you’re trying to upload a file that’s too large that it exceeds the server file limit, you’ll get a 400 error.

To confirm that this is causing the issue, try to upload a file that’s smaller in size. If you succeed, then it means that the original file is too large. To reduce its size, consider using a tool for compressing large files.

Restart Your Computer and Other Equipment
If all of the options above fail, you can also try restarting your computer and other equipment such as routers and modems. Although this happens rarely, a temporary issue with your device or networking equipment may be causing the problem.
Get in Touch with Your Hosting Company
In rare cases, the cause for a 400 Bad Request error is due to issues with the server and not the client. To check if there’s an issue with the server, try loading the site from a different browser and device.

If you can’t access the site from a different browser and device, then it’s likely a server-side problem.

Get in touch with your hosting company to inform them of the issue. Let them know what browser and operating system you’re using. They might be able to offer tips for resolving the issue.

Final Word
The 400 Bad Request error is a client-side error that can appear on any operating system and browser. In many cases, the cause for the error is corrupted browser files and cookies, as well as wrongly inserted URL and large file size.

Anyone who possesses minimal technical knowledge can easily implement the solutions we outlined above, and hopefully, fix the error.

Only in rare cases, the cause for the issue is a server-side error. When this happens, it’s best to get in touch with the hosting company.

If you’re a website owner, knowing all types of HTTP status codes is critical. From 404 Not Found to 503 Service Unavailable, knowing what each error represents is crucial for the health of any online business. To help you, we’ve put together this comprehensive HTTP status code cheat sheet that you use to learn about the different types of status codes and their meaning.

And after you’re done with learning all about the HTTP status codes, make sure you invest in proper website maintenance services. Regular monitoring and maintenance will help keep your website error-free and its owner worry-free.

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