How to Resolve Error 403 When Downloading a File Using `urllib`

What will you learn?

In this tutorial, you will discover how to troubleshoot and fix the common “Error 403” that arises when attempting to download a file from a website using Python’s urllib library. By understanding the causes behind this error and implementing specific solutions, you will be equipped to handle such challenges effectively.

Introduction to the Problem and Solution

Encountering an “Error 403” while utilizing urllib to download files signals that the server is denying access. This denial can stem from permission restrictions or server configurations. To overcome this obstacle, adjustments in request headers or authentication handling may be necessary.

Sometimes, websites mandate user-agent details in the header of requests. By furnishing this information, we can emulate a web browser’s behavior and potentially circumvent the error barrier.


import urllib.request

url = ''
req = urllib.request.Request(url, headers={'User-Agent': 'Mozilla/5.0'})
response = urllib.request.urlopen(req)
with open('', 'wb') as f:

# Copyright PHD


The following steps outline the process: – Importing the urllib.request module for HTTP requests. – Defining the URL for file retrieval. – Creating a request object with customized headers containing user-agent data. – Utilizing urlopen() method to execute a GET request. – Writing the response content (file) into a local file named ‘’.

    1. How do I handle authentication errors? If required, you can manage authentication errors by including credentials in your request headers.

    2. Can I configure proxy settings with urllib? Yes, you can establish proxy handling by incorporating modules like socks alongside urllib.

    3. What if permission is still denied post all attempts? Ensure proper permissions on both client-side and server-side are granted for accessing resources.

    4. Is there an alternative library besides urllib? Certainly, consider leveraging libraries like Requests which offer enhanced features and simplicity compared to basic urllib functions.

    5. Will this solution universally resolve Error 403 issues on all websites? While addressing common scenarios causing Error 403 during downloads, certain websites may necessitate distinct approaches based on their configurations.


To tackle “Error 403” occurrences during file downloads, it is crucial to comprehend potential triggers such as permission constraints or absent headers. Through tailored request modifications as exemplified above, overcoming these hurdles becomes feasible when retrieving desired website files using Python’s native libraries like urlib.

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