If you’re running an Nginx web server, you may encounter the dreaded “404 Not Found” error from time to time. This error occurs when the server can’t find the requested resource. It can be caused by various factors, including misconfiguration, incorrect file paths, or issues with the server itself.

Fortunately, there are several ways to diagnose and resolve this issue. In this blog post, we’ll explore some common causes of the 404 error and how to fix them.

What is Nginx 404 Not Found Error?

The “404 Not Found” error is an HTTP status code that indicates the requested resource couldn’t be found on the server. In the context of Nginx, this error typically occurs when a client requests a file or page that doesn’t exist or isn’t properly configured in the Nginx server block or configuration file. It can also happen if the root directory for a virtual server block is set incorrectly or if a particular file or directory doesn’t have the necessary permissions for the Nginx process to access it.

To resolve this error, you need to identify the root cause. This can involve checking the Nginx error logs, verifying file paths and permissions, and ensuring that the server block or configuration is correct. It may also involve checking the web application’s code or configuration if the issue is related to dynamic content.

Overall, the 404 Not Found error is a standard HTTP response code that indicates the server can’t find the requested resource, and it’s up to the website’s administrators to diagnose and resolve the issue.

What Causes 404 Not Found Error in Nginx?

The 404 Not Found error is one of the most common HTTP status codes. It occurs when a server receives a request for a resource (usually a web page), but the server is unable to locate the resource at the requested URL. In the context of Nginx, there are several common reasons why a 404 Not Found error may occur:

  • File or Directory Not Found: This is the most straightforward reason. The file or directory that the browser is trying to access does not exist in the specified location. This could be due to a mistyped URL or because the file or directory was moved or deleted.
  • Incorrect Server Block Configuration: Nginx uses server blocks (also known as virtual hosts) to define different configurations for different domains or applications. If the server block for your site is misconfigured, Nginx may not be able to locate the requested resource. This could be due to an incorrect root directive, misconfigured location blocks, or other issues in the server block configuration.
  • Incorrect File Permissions: Even if the file or directory exists, Nginx may still return a 404 error if it does not have the correct permissions. Make sure that the file or directory has the correct permissions (usually 644 for files and 755 for directories) and is owned by the correct user.
  • Incorrect Proxy Pass Configuration: If you are using Nginx as a reverse proxy, a misconfigured proxy_pass directive can result in a 404 error. Make sure that the proxy_pass directive is pointing to the correct backend server and that the backend server is responding correctly.
  • Incorrect Rewrite Rules: If you are using Nginx rewrite rules, a misconfigured rule can result in a 404 error. Make sure that your rewrite rules are correct and that they are not inadvertently causing Nginx to return a 404 error.
  • Incorrect Location Block Configuration: Nginx uses location blocks to define how to handle different types of requests. If your Nginx configuration has incorrectly configured location blocks, Nginx may return a 404 error for certain requests. Make sure that your location blocks are set up correctly and that they are not inadvertently causing Nginx to return a 404 error.
  • Missing Default Document: If Nginx is configured to serve a default document (e.g., index.html) and that document is missing or incorrectly named, Nginx may return a 404 error. Make sure that your default documents are present and correctly named.
  • Missing or Incorrect Custom Error Page: If you have configured Nginx to serve a custom error page for 404 errors and that page is missing or incorrectly configured, Nginx may return a 404 error. Make sure that your custom error pages are present and correctly configured.
  • Missing or Incorrect MIME Type Configuration: If Nginx is configured to serve a certain MIME type for a specific file extension and that MIME type is missing or incorrectly configured, Nginx may return a 404 error. Make sure that your MIME type configuration is correct.
  • Missing or Incorrect Virtual Host Configuration: If Nginx is configured to serve a certain domain and that domain is missing or incorrectly configured, Nginx may return a 404 error. Make sure that your virtual host configuration is correct.

Impact of the Error 404 Not Found Nginx

The “404 Not Found” error in Nginx can have several impacts, depending on the context and the website’s configuration. Some of the key impacts include:

  • Negative User Experience: Users who encounter a 404 error while browsing a website may feel frustrated or confused, especially if they expected to find a specific page or file. This can lead to a negative perception of the website and may discourage users from returning.
  • SEO Impact: Frequent 404 errors can negatively impact a website’s search engine ranking. Search engines may interpret multiple 404 errors as an indication of poor site maintenance or a low-quality user experience. This can result in lower search engine visibility and reduced organic traffic.
  • Missed Opportunities for Engagement: If a user encounters a 404 error while trying to access specific content, it may prevent them from completing a desired action, such as making a purchase or submitting a contact form. This can result in missed opportunities for engagement and conversions.
  • Resource Consumption: When a 404 error occurs, the server still has to process the request and generate an error page, which consumes server resources. In cases of high traffic or frequent errors, this can impact server performance and increase resource usage.
  • Analytics and Monitoring: Frequent 404 errors can clutter website analytics and monitoring tools, making it more difficult for administrators to identify and address other issues.
  • Security Concerns: In some cases, 404 errors can be used by malicious actors to probe for vulnerabilities or determine the structure of a website. This can potentially lead to security risks if not properly addressed.

How to Fix Nginx 404 Not Found Error?

Check the URL

Start by confirming that the URL you’re trying to access is correct and matches the file path on the server. A small typo in the URL could lead to a 404 error.

Check Nginx Error Logs

The next step in resolving any Nginx error is to check the error logs. These logs can provide valuable information about the cause of the error. By default, the error log is located at /var/log/nginx/error.log on Ubuntu. Look for any errors or warnings related to the 404 error and use them to diagnose the issue.

Verify File Paths

Make sure that the file paths in your Nginx configuration match the actual file paths on the server. You can use the ls command to list the contents of a directory. If the file is missing or the URL is incorrect, you’ll get a 404 error.

Check File Permissions

If the file you’re trying to access doesn’t have the correct permissions, Nginx won’t be able to serve it. Make sure the file has the correct permissions set and is owned by the correct user. You can use the ls -l to view permissions. Correct the permissions using chmod if needed.

Check Nginx Configuration

Review the Nginx configuration file (/etc/nginx/nginx.conf) and the server block configuration files (usually located in /etc/nginx/sites-available). Look for any misconfigured root directives or missing location blocks that may be causing the 404 error.

Check Rewrite Rules

If you’re using Nginx rewrite rules, make sure they’re correct. Incorrect rewrite rules can result in a 404 error.

Verify Proxy Pass

If you’re using Nginx as a reverse proxy, make sure your proxy_pass directive is correct. It should point to the correct backend server.

Restart Nginx

After making any changes to the Nginx configuration, restart the Nginx service using sudo systemctl restart nginx to apply the changes.

Clear Browser Cache

Sometimes a 404 error can be caused by a cached version of the page. Try clearing your browser cache and refreshing the page to see if that resolves the issue.

Best Practices for Preventing the 404 Not Found Error Nginx

Preventing 404 Not Found errors in Nginx involves a combination of proper configuration, monitoring, and proactive measures. Below are some best practices to help reduce the likelihood of encountering 404 errors on your Nginx server:

  • Regularly Monitor Nginx Error Logs: The Nginx error logs (usually located at /var/log/nginx/error.log) can provide valuable insights into the cause of 404 errors. Regularly monitor these logs to identify and address any recurring issues.
  • Ensure Correct File and Directory Permissions: Make sure that the files and directories served by Nginx have the correct permissions set. Typically, files should have permissions of 644 and directories should have permissions of 755.
  • Verify Server Block Configurations: Double-check the configuration of your Nginx server blocks (found in /etc/nginx/sites-available or /etc/nginx/conf.d). Ensure that the root directive points to the correct root directory for each website, and that the location blocks are set up correctly.
  • Use Absolute URLs in Configuration Files: When configuring server blocks and proxy_pass directives, always use absolute URLs rather than relative ones. This ensures that Nginx can correctly locate the resources.
  • Implement Proper Redirects: If you’ve renamed or moved a resource on your server, use proper redirects (301 or 302 HTTP status codes) to inform clients and search engines of the new location. This helps prevent 404 errors from outdated or invalid links.
  • Use Location Blocks Wisely: Use location blocks in your Nginx configuration to handle different types of requests (e.g., static files, dynamic content). Be careful not to overlap location blocks, as this can cause Nginx to serve the wrong content or return 404 errors.
  • Check for Typos and Misconfigurations: Double-check your Nginx configuration files for typos and syntax errors. Even a small mistake can lead to a 404 error.
  • Utilize Nginx Health Checks: Nginx supports health checks (via the ngx_http_healthcheck_module) that can help you detect issues before they cause 404 errors. Configure health checks to monitor key resources and take corrective action if needed.
  • Regularly Test Your Configuration: Periodically test your Nginx configuration using tools like nginx -t to catch any issues before they impact production.
  • Implement 404 Error Handling: Customize your 404 error page to provide helpful information to users and encourage them to continue browsing your site. You can do this by configuring the error_page directive in your Nginx configuration.
  • Use Monitoring and Alerting Tools: Implement monitoring and alerting solutions (such as Prometheus, Grafana, or Nagios) to notify you of any 404 errors or other issues in real-time.


The Nginx 404 Not Found error can be frustrating, but it’s usually easy to resolve with a little bit of troubleshooting. By checking your Nginx error logs, verifying file paths and permissions, and ensuring your Nginx configuration is correct, you can quickly diagnose and fix the issue.

If none of the above steps resolve the 404 error, you may need to seek further assistance. Consider hiring a professional sysadmin or developer to help diagnose and fix the issue.

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