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Either We Can't Find That Page, Or...

You're seeing this page for one of two reasons: either the page you requested couldn't be located, or you wanted to see how to set up a custom 404 error page on an IIS webserver. If you got to this page by following a broken link, you can click here to return to the previous page. Or, if you really want to be helpful, you can contact the site administrator and tell us what page is missing.

If, on the other hand, you got here because you wanted some instructions on for customizing your server's response to "file not found" errors, read on.

The procedure for setting up custom error handling in IIS is pretty simple, but there are two tricks that are worth knowing. (It's pretty easy on Apache, too, but I'm just going to do the rundown on IIS, since that's what I'm using here.)

Begin by opening the IIS managment console. Expand the list of websites in the left-hand pane of the console, and right-click on the icon for the website you want to customize. Choose "Properties" from the popup menu, and click the "Custom Errors" tab in the configuration window. (There is a screenshot of the configuration window at the bottom of this page.) Highlight HTTP Error 404 in the list of errors and click the "Edit Properties..." button.

This will open the "Error Mapping Properties" window. In the "Message Type" dropdown, you should specify that you'll be using a URL. Enter the URL of your lovingly handcrafted error page in the URL field. If you enter only the filename of your error page, you'll get a somewhat cryptic error message: "The path is not a local absolute URL path." No problem: IIS just wants you to precede the filename with a forward slash, as shown below.

There is one more tip worth noting: you should be sure to use absolute paths for graphics and includes. The server can sometimes "lose track" of what directory it is in, and where the graphics are in relation to its current working directory. This happens if, for example, your error page is in the root folder of the website, and the page that wasn't found was in a subdirectory.

Like most tasks in the Windows world, it's pretty easy to create custom error pages. (Cynics will note that in the Windows world, it's also pretty easy to create the errors themselves.) It's worth taking the time to do this. Without custom error pages, visitors who come across broken links will think you're a lousy webmaster. With the custom error pages, they'll think you're a lousy webmaster with some damn fine 404 pages.

Below... the website properties configuration screen...