404 Error and 504 Error: When a Webpage Won’t Load

You’re browsing online. Everything is going smoothly. And then it isn’t: you get an error message and suddenly you’re outta luck opening the webpage. A 404 or 504 error stops you dead in your tracks. The fact is, these web-based errors aren’t likely to be your fault. It’s usually a result of an error on the back-end, that is, on the server that’s hosting the webpage.  That being said, it’s still frustrating.

In the case when the problem does have something to do with your system setup, you wanna know how to fix it. And in any situation, you want to know where the root of the problem is.  Use this article to learn about the 404 and 504 errors: what they are and why they happen.  And then learn how to troubleshoot the problems, getting to the heart of the matter and finding out how to tackle the errors without going crazy.


A 404 error can appear in many different ways. Some cheeky websites even make 404 errors into a sort of joke. But sarcastic error messages aside, you’re still up against an error.


Basically, you get a 404 error if the page you are looking for isn’t on the website’s server any more. You can get the error in two ways. One, you may have simply typed in the URL wrong and send your browser to a bad location. Two, the website you’re trying to work with may have deleted or moved the page you’re looking for without redirecting the old location to the new one.

Dealing with the 404 Error

If you encounter a 404 error, there are a few steps you can try to resolve the issue.

1 – Step one is to refresh the browser.  Sometimes the 404 error seems to show up of its own free will. Before taking more complicated steps, simply try refreshing the URL to double-check the issue.

2 – Your next step is to check the URL you’ve typed in. If it was a typo on your end causing the problem, a double-check and rework may fix everything. If you made a mistake, simply fix it and then press Enter.

3 – If that doesn’t work, move up the directory. If you’re looking for a specific webpage within a larger website, simply delete the sublevels from the URL until you find something you can work with.

For example, if you started with http://websiteexample.com/forums/example try taking it back to http://websiteexample.com/forums to see if you can find a working page to navigate from.

If this works, it means that you’ve landed on a page on the relative site, but not the page you were looking for.  At that point, see if there’s a link to the subject you’re after, or, better yet, see if there’s a search feature in the website itself.  It’s not uncommon for a site the change the URL of a given webpage, but neglect to set up a redirect.  If the main website is still up, a little digging can often yield the exact page you were seeking, or something near to it.

4 – Still no luck? Try searching for the page you’re looking for. If finessing the website URL isn’t working, take the next step by backing out of the site completely, and using a search engine to search for the page you’re looking for.

For example you can type in “forum” “example of” site:websiteexample.com. The search engine will look for the word “forum” and  the exact phrase “example of” within the site specified.  This method is especially helpful if the page you’re seeking has simply been moved to a different location on the website server.


5 – Clear your cache to ensure the problem isn’t on your end. Clearing out your cache essentially lets you start fresh with websites. It erases the short-term storage data that holds page specifics that help webpages load faster. Clearing the cache can erase things like saved passwords, but most people find this a minor inconvenience if it means getting the page to load.

To clear your cache go to the Settings or Options section of your browser and look for ways to clear cache or clear your browsing history.  You can also use the keyboard shortcut CTRL+F5.

6 – A last resort?  You can always try contacting the website in question. Look for the contact info on the website’s homepage.  Send a text, drop an email or even call.  Let the website admin know that the page isn’t working and simply ask where you can find it.


A 504 Error is slightly different than a 404. The 504 is a time-out error and will appear because website took too long to load.  Since website owners can customize the 504 error message, you may see something different on virtually every site, but the message is essentially the same each time.


Basically, the 504 error is caused when one server tries to talk to another one and the connection is lost – or times out – between the two. This means that the 504 error is almost never your particular issue to resolve, but there are a few things you can do on your end to try and fix things, or at least ensure that there is simply nothing you can do.

Dealing with a 504 Error

1 – Start by refreshing the URL for the site you’re working with. A 504 error may persist, or it may have been a temporary issue. You can test this easily by hitting F5 or hitting the refresh button on your browser. As before, you can also try a refresh that includes clearing the browser cache by hitting CTRL + F5

2 – If refreshing isn’t getting you the results you are hoping for, your next step is to restart your devices. Turn off your computer, your modem and router. Wait a minute and then start turning the devices back on from the outermost point. That means you’ll turn on the modem followed by the router and then your computer.

What’s the point of this? It refreshes your network connection settings.  As we said, a 504 error likely does not originate with you. Doing this procedure though lets you make absolutely sure.

3 – Contact the website in question. If you’re seeing 504 errors after refreshing and restarting everything on your end, the problem is almost certainly on the website side of things. Your next step would be to find a way to contact the site and let them know they have an issue. In most cases they are likely to be working on it already, but you may be the first to have discovered the issue.

Many websites and companies have social media accounts which makes it simple to contact the company f you can’t pull up any additional contact information from the website, which may very well be the case if the website isn’t working at all.

4 – Contact your Internet Provider. If the problem isn’t your computer and the company’s site is working for others, the issue may be with your Internet provider. This is the company that provides Internet connection, usually a phone company for DSL and a cable company for cable broadband.

Okay, we know. No one really wants to call their phone company or cable company, but if you need to get to that site and there’s no other explanation for why you can’t they may be able to help.

5 – If nothing else has worked, it may be that you simply have to wait. Give it a few minutes or a few hours and then check again. It may work beautifully. This may seem random, but what you’re doing is giving the server-side of things time to rectify the problems.

Lots of things can happen in the pipeline between a website server and your computer.  It’s not unreasonable to wait for one of those potentially disruptive element to be refreshed or removed.