Internal Server Error – 500

Would you like the good news first, or the bad news?

Error 500 message #1
A typical Error 500 message
Sometimes when you attempt to visit a website you may be presented with a fairly blank screen that just has some incomprehensible (and somewhat intimidating) text. This text comes in lots of variations that mention either or both of “error 500” and/or “internal server error”. Some examples are:

  • Error 500. Internal server error
  • HTTP 500 Internal Error

Gulp. You may feel further intimidated if the message adds text such as “Also, a 500 Internal Server Error error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.”

“OMG – what have I done? I think I’ve broken the internet.”

Well, the good news is that you haven’t done anything. It’s very unlikely to be anything to do with your computer or anything you did with it. In rather plainer English, there is some problem with the website that you are trying to visit and the website is, consequently, unable to display the web page that you requested. And if you see the further message about an “ErrorDocument” that just means that the website can’t show you a nicely written web page explaining the situation (probably because the website does not have such a nicely written web page).

In other words, when you see an error like this, it means that there’s something wrong with the website you are trying to visit. There’s nothing wrong with your internet connection or anything you have done.

Now the bad news. Since it’s not a problem at your end, there may be nothing you can do about it. Nevertheless, there are some things that you can try that might, just possibly, resolve the issue and show you the page:

  • Error 500 message #3Hit the F5 button. This is the key on the top row of the keyboard labelled F5 (natch). If your keyboard has been configured to use the “function” keys for something different then you may have to depress the key marked Fn and then hit the F5 key. This causes the web page to re-load. It’s just possible that the problem was very temporary and that this time you will succeed.
  • Navigate away from the page (ie go to another website) and then come back to the troublesome one again. First of all, this will convince you that it’s not your internet connection at fault as you will (presumably) be able to visit the site you are navigating away to. The second thing this will do is give you a second chance, just in case something very odd but very fleeting happened the first time you tried to connect.
  • Clear the browser’s cache and then try again. A “cache” is simply a collection of saved data. It may have an error in it. Clearing the cache may solve the problem. Most browsers clear their cache if you depress the control key (marked “Ctrl”) and then hit the F5 key. Click on the following link for a much more detailed set of instructions for clearing history and cache information.
  • Try accessing the web page from a different browser. I’ve mentioned in a previous blog that it’s a good idea to have two or more browsers installed for just this sort of eventuality. If you normally use Internet Explorer or Safari then I would definitely recommend installing Firefox as well.
  • If possible, check that the website address you typed in was accurate. This isn’t really feasible if the address is a couple of hundred characters long and full of weird characters like slashes, percentage signs and so on. In that case, you probably got the address from a link so go back to that link and try again.
  • If nothing helps then just leave it for a while and come back and try again. If the website is a major one – especially if it is an e-commerce site – then any error like this will probably be sorted out pretty quickly – especially if the problem is stopping the site from taking money.

Error 500 message #2
This message does, at least, attempt to be light-hearted. But it still doesn’t make it clear in plain English what’s happened.
If it’s a small site – maybe a personal or community site – then it might be worth sending an email to the website administrator. An email will usually get through if you send it to (where is, of course, the name of the site in question).

(Last updated 06/12/2023)