Challenge Failed for Domain in Certbot Apache - How to fix it ?

The Challenge failed for domain error is a common one that can occur when you are trying to obtain a Let's Encrypt certificate for your Apache web server.

In this guide by IbmiMedia, you will learn how to troubleshoot the Challenge failed for domain error in Certbot Apache.

Nature of the "Challenge failed for domain" Error in Certbot Apache

When trying to generate a TLS certificate using Certbot and the Apache plugin, you may encounter the error "Challenge failed for domain example.com". This error occurs when Certbot cannot prove control over the domain name to the Certificate Authority (CA).

Certbot tries to prove control by creating a temporary file in the .well-known directory of your web server. However, if this directory is not accessible due to Apache configuration issues, the challenge will fail.

Main causes for this issue 

This error can be caused by a number of factors, including:

  • A typo in your domain name.
  • Incorrect DNS settings.
  • A firewall blocking the challenge request.

Steps to troubleshoot and fix Challenge Failed for Domain in Certbot Apache error

Here are some steps to troubleshoot and fix this error:

1. Check the Apache Configuration

First, check that you have enabled the .well-known directory in your Apache configuration. 

You need something like this:

<VirtualHost *:443>
# Other settings 
Alias /.well-known/ /path/to/letsencrypt/
<Directory /path/to/letsencrypt/>
   Options None
   AllowOverride None
   ForceType text/plain
   Require all granted

The .well-known alias must point to a real directory on your server. Certbot will need write access to this path to complete the challenge.

After making any Apache config changes, restart the Apache service for them to take effect:

$ sudo systemctl restart apache2

Or if you are just reloading the config:

$ sudo systemctl reload apache2

2. Check your DNS settings

Your DNS settings are responsible for telling the internet where to find your website. If your DNS settings are incorrect, then Certbot will not be able to reach your website and the Challenge failed for domain error will occur.

To check your DNS settings, you will need to log in to your domain registrar's control panel. Once you are logged in, you should find a section for DNS settings.

In the DNS settings, you will need to make sure that there is an A record for your domain name. The A record should point to the IP address of your web server.

In the instance of DNS-01 challenges, it is possible for the DNS changes not to be applied across all of the DNS servers. This may result in the Let’s Encrypt server failing to locate the specified TXT record. 

To ascertain the issue has been rectified, we must ensure the expected TXT record has been created and distributed among all of the DNS servers.

3. Check your firewall

If you are using a firewall, then you may need to configure it to allow the challenge request from Certbot. The challenge request is a small HTTP request that Certbot sends to your web server. 

If your firewall is blocking this request, then you will get the Challenge failed for domain error.

We can solve this issue by altering the firewall policies or network settings so that the challenge files on port 80 (HTTP) or port 443 (HTTPS) can be accessed.

4. Server downtime

Ensure that the web server is operational and able to be accessed in order to prevent a potential error message, since the issue can also arise when it is down or has faults when issuing  or renewing SSL certificates.

5. Rerun Certbot

Once you have checked your domain name, DNS settings, and firewall, you can try running Certbot again. To do this, open a terminal window and run the following command:

$ certbot certonly --apache

This command will re-run Certbot and attempt to obtain a certificate for your domain name. If the error is resolved, then you will be able to see the certificate in your web server's configuration file.

6. Run Certbot with the -d option

Try running Certbot with the -d option to specify your domain name.

7. Add the --debug option

Try running Certbot in debug mode by adding the --debug option. This will give you more information about the error that is occurring.

In addition, if the Apache plugin fails to operate correctly, we could evaluate the standalone plugin or the DNS plugin for Certbot as potential options.


In this guide, we have covered the steps on how to fix the Challenge failed for domain error in Certbot Apache. We have also provided some troubleshooting tips that you can try if you are still getting the error after following these steps.

Here are some additional resources that you may find helpful:

We hope this guide has been helpful and Thank you for reading !