React-router urls don’t work when refreshing or writing manually

React-router urls don’t work when refreshing or writing manually

I’m using React-router and it works fine while I’m clicking on link buttons, but when I refresh my webpage it does not load what I want.
For instance, I am in localhost/joblist and everything is fine because I arrived here pressing a link. But If I refresh the webpage I get:
Cannot GET /joblist

By default, it didn’t work like this. Initially I had my URL as localhost/#/ and localhost/#/joblist and they worked perfectly fine. But I don’t like this kind of URL, so trying to erase that #, I wrote:, Router.HistoryLocation, function (Handler) {
React.render(, document.body);

This problem does not happen with localhost/, this one always returns what I want.
EDIT: This app is single-page, so /joblist doesn’t need to ask anything to any server.
EDIT2: My entire router.
var routes = (

);, Router.HistoryLocation, function (Handler) {
React.render(, document.body);


Solution 1:

Looking at the comments on the accepted answer and the generic nature of this question (‘don’t work’), I thought this might be a good place for some general explanations about the issues involved here. So this answer is intended as background info / elaboration on the specific use case of the OP. Please bear with me.

Server-side vs Client-side

The first big thing to understand about this is that there are now 2 places where the URL is interpreted, whereas there used to be only 1 in ‘the old days’. In the past, when life was simple, some user sent a request for to the server, which inspected the path part of the URL, determined the user was requesting the about page and then sent back that page.

With client-side routing, which is what React-Router provides, things are less simple. At first, the client does not have any JS code loaded yet. So the very first request will always be to the server. That will then return a page that contains the needed script tags to load React and React Router etc. Only when those scripts have loaded does phase 2 start. In phase 2, when the user clicks on the ‘About us’ navigation link for example, the URL is changed locally only to (made possible by the History API), but no request to the server is made. Instead, React Router does its thing on the client side, determines which React view to render and renders it. Assuming your about page does not need to make any REST calls, it’s done already. You have transitioned from Home to About Us without any server request having fired.

So basically when you click a link, some Javascript runs that manipulates the URL in the address bar, without causing a page refresh, which in turn causes React Router to perform a page transition on the client side.

But now consider what happens if you copy-paste the URL in the address bar and e-mail it to a friend. Your friend has not loaded your website yet. In other words, she is still in phase 1. No React Router is running on her machine yet. So her browser will make a server request to

And this is where your trouble starts. Until now, you could get away with just placing a static HTML at the webroot of your server. But that would give 404 errors for all other URLs when requested from the server. Those same URLs work fine on the client side, because there React Router is doing the routing for you, but they fail on the server side unless you make your server understand them.

Combining server- and client-side routing

If you want the URL to work on both the server- and the client-side, you need to set up routes for it on both the server- and the client side. Makes sense right?

And this is where your choices begin. Solutions range from bypassing the problem altogether, via a catch-all route that returns the bootstrap HTML, to the full-on isomorphic approach where both the server and the client run the same JS code.


Bypassing the problem altogether: Hash History

With Hash History instead of Browser History, your URL for the about page would look something like this:
The part after the hash (#) symbol is not sent to the server. So the server only sees and sends the index page as expected. React-Router will pick up the #/about part and show the correct page.


  • ‘ugly’ URLs
  • Server-side rendering is not possible with this approach. As far as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is concerned, your website consists of a single page with hardly any content on it.



With this approach you do use Browser History, but just set up a catch-all on the server that sends /* to index.html, effectively giving you much the same situation as with Hash History. You do have clean URLs however and you could improve upon this scheme later without having to invalidate all your user’s favorites.


  • More complex to set up
  • Still no good SEO



In the hybrid approach you expand upon the catch-all scenario by adding specific scripts for specific routes. You could make some simple PHP scripts to return the most important pages of your site with content included, so Googlebot can at least see what’s on your page.


  • Even more complex to set up
  • Only good SEO for those routes you give the special treatment
  • Duplicating code for rendering content on server and client



What if we use Node JS as our server so we can run the same JS code on both ends? Now, we have all our routes defined in a single react-router config and we don’t need to duplicate our rendering code. This is ‘the holy grail’ so to speak. The server sends the exact same markup as we would end up with if the page transition had happened on the client. This solution is optimal in terms of SEO.


  • Server must (be able to) run JS. I’ve experimented with Java i.c.w. Nashorn but it’s not working for me. In practice it mostly means you must use a Node JS based server.
  • Many tricky environmental issues (using window on server-side etc)
  • Steep learning curve


Which should I use?

Choose the one that you can get away with. Personally I think the catch-all is simple enough to set up, so that would be my minimum. This setup allows you to improve on things over time. If you are already using Node JS as your server platform, I’d definitely investigate doing an isomorphic app. Yes it’s tough at first, but once you get the hang of it it’s actually a very elegant solution to the problem.

So basically, for me, that would be the deciding factor. If my server runs on Node JS, I’d go isomorphic; otherwise I would go for the Catch-all solution and just expand on it (Hybrid solution) as time progresses and SEO requirements demand it.

If you’d like to learn more on isomorphic (also called ‘universal’) rendering with React, there are some good tutorials on the subject:

Also, to get you started, I recommend looking at some starter kits. Pick one that matches your choices for the technology stack (remember, React is just the V in MVC, you need more stuff to build a full app). Start with looking at the one published by Facebook itself:

Or pick one of the many by the community. There is a nice site now that tries to index all of them:

I started with these:

Currently I am using a home-brew version of universal rendering that was inspired by the two starter kits above, but they are out of date now.

Good luck with your quest!

Solution 2:

The answers here are all extremely helpful, what worked for me was configuring my Webpack server to expect the routes.

  devServer: {
    historyApiFallback: true,
    contentBase: './',
    hot: true

The historyApiFallback is what fixed this issue for me. Now routing works correctly and I can refresh the page or type in the URL directly. No need to worry about work arounds on your node server. This answer obviously only works if you’re using webpack.

EDIT: see my answer here for a more detailed reason why this is necessary:

Solution 3:

For React Router V4 Users:

If you try to solve this problem by Hash History technique mentioned in other answers, note that

<Router history={hashHistory} >

does not work in V4, please use HashRouter instead:

import { HashRouter } from 'react-router-dom'



Solution 4:

You can change your htaccess and insert this:

RewriteBase /
RewriteRule ^index\.html$ - [L]
 RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
 RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /index.html [L]

I am using react: "^15.3.2", react-router: "^3.0.0", history: "^4.3.0",

Solution 5:

The router can be called in two different ways, depending on whether the navigation occurs on the client or on the server. You have it configured for client-side operation. The key parameter is the second one to the run method, the location.

When you use the React Router Link component, it blocks browser navigation and calls transitionTo to do a client-side navigation. You are using HistoryLocation, so it uses the HTML5 history API to complete the illusion of navigation by simulating the new URL in the address bar. If you’re using older browsers, this won’t work. You would need to use the HashLocation component.

When you hit refresh, you bypass all of the React and React Router code. The server gets the request for /joblist and it must return something. On the server you need to pass the path that was requested to the run method in order for it to render the correct view. You can use the same route map, but you’ll probably need a different call to As Charles points out, you can use URL rewriting to handle this. Another option is to use a node.js server to handle all requests and pass the path value as the location argument.

In express, for example, it might look like this:

var app = express();

app.get('*', function (req, res) { // This wildcard method handles all requests, req.path, function (Handler, state) {
        var element = React.createElement(Handler);
        var html = React.renderToString(element);
        res.render('main', { content: html });

Note that the request path is being passed to run. To do this, you’ll need to have a server-side view engine that you can pass the rendered HTML to. There are a number of other considerations using renderToString and in running React on the server. Once the page is rendered on the server, when your app loads in the client, it will render again, updating the server-side rendered HTML as needed.

Solution 6:

In your index.html head, add the following:

<base href="/">
<!-- This must come before the css and javascripts -->

Then when running with webpack dev server use this command.

webpack-dev-server --mode development --hot --inline --content-base=dist --history-api-fallback

--history-api-fallback is the important part