Troubleshooting the 403 Forbidden Error When Saving a Website Locally

Apr 2, 2024 ยท 4 min read

Have you ever tried to save or download a website only to be greeted by the cryptic "403 Forbidden" error message? This frustrating error essentially means you don't have permission to access or save the site's files on your own computer.

Let's break down exactly what's happening and some possible solutions to overcome this roadblock.

What Triggers the 403 Error?

A 403 error occurs when the web server hosting the site actively blocks your request to access or save files from that domain. Some common reasons this protection kicks in:

  • The site has disabled directory browsing: Most sites don't want you directly accessing files other than the homepage. So if you try to save down an entire site, the 403 stops you.
  • Hotlink protection: To save bandwidth, sites block other domains from directly linking to their assets like images or PDFs. This can inadvertently block local saves too.
  • Security plugins: WordPress sites for example may use a security plugin that blocks suspicious requests, like trying to save down too many files at once.
  • Essentially the server doesn't want you trying to help yourself to its files without permission.

    Solutions and Workarounds

    Now that you know what causes 403 errors during website saves, what can you actually do about it? Here are some tips to try:

    Check for a Legal Download Link

    Some websites provide an official means to download certain assets or datasets by request. Check the site's footer links for a "Downloads" page or contact the site owners about getting temporary access. If it's purely informational content you want, see if an RSS feed or API access is available.

    Use a Web Scraper

    Web scraping tools can often maneuver around directory browsing blocks and hotlink protections to save down web content programmatically., Octoparse, or browser extensions like HTTrack are good options here with free tiers.

    // Example Python scraper code
    import requests
    from bs4 import BeautifulSoup
    url = ''
    r = requests.get(url)
    soup = BeautifulSoup(r.text, 'html.parser')
    with open('example.html', 'w') as f:

    The scraper makes requests through the front door, parses the HTML programmatically, then writes files representing what it fetched.

    Use Developer Tools to Save Assets

    Your browser's developer tools have an option to override site protections and directly save down CSS, JavaScript, and image files. Here's how:

    1. Right click and Inspect Element on the site.
    2. Go to the Network tab in the tools panel.
    3. Refresh the page to see asset requests appear.
    4. Right click each request and select "Save As" to get the file.

    This takes more manual effort but nabs you the actual assets in play on the page.

    Mirror the Site Through a Proxy Service

    Browser extensions like Kintell or services like ArchiveBox can do an entire mirror of a site while ignoring save restrictions. These work by proxying requests through their own servers instead of hitting the sites directly from your computer.

    The proxies fetch and assemble site copies on the fly every time you ask. The archives aren't permanent but can be saved down locally.

    When All Else Fails...

    If you absolutely must have permanent access to an entire site that refuses saves no matter what, truly the only option left is to contact the owner directly to request an exception or license access to their content.

    Most well-configured sites have locked down saves intentionally to protect copyrights or prevent content scraping. Workarounds like proxies provide temporary access but likely violate Terms of Service if done systematically without permission.

    I aimed to provide a practical overview of common 403 error causes, smart workarounds, code examples, and even browser tools to handle website save issues. Let me know if any part needs more detail! Getting past "Forbidden" can be frustrating but solvable in most cases with the right approach.

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    <!doctype html>
        <title>Example Domain</title>
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        <meta http-equiv="Content-type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />
        <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1" />


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