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Investigate the 'HTTP 403 (Forbidden)' messages in OWA

If your OWA users are receiving the "HTTP 403 (Forbidden)" error, several things could be the culprit. Here's one slightly less common cause of this particular error message.

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E-mail administrators must be prepared to troubleshoot the problems that users face on a daily basis. See if you can identify the following problem and solution. Here's the scenario: Your Outlook Web Access (OWA) users complain that they've received the following error message:

HTTP 403 (Forbidden)
You are not authorized to view this page

First, you examine permissions and authentication, but they both look OK. Then you investigate connectivity, but it also appears to be fine. Do you know anything else that could cause this particular error message?

Before you start pulling out your hair, there's one slightly less common cause of the HTTP 403 error that you should consider. If directory browsing is turned off in the Exchange HTTP virtual directory, you'll see the symptoms listed above. Follow these steps to check it out:

  1. Open the Exchange System Manager, and navigate to the OWA server.
  2. Expand Protocols, expand HTTP, and then expand Exchange Virtual Server.
  3. Right-click Exchange, and then select Properties.
  4. Click the Access tab, and make sure the Directory Browsing check box is selected. If it isn't, select the box, and then click OK.

Directory Browsing is turned on by default, so if the check box wasn't selected, someone must have turned it off. Make sure that you follow up on this issue by having a little talk with your fellow administrators.

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