Documentation – How to check for broken links

Links “break.” Pages get deleted, websites change. There is a name for it: “link rot.”

So it is beneficial to regularly (once a month, maybe) check for broken links, and take remedial action. This page describes how you can check for broken links.

Installing the Xenu link checker

You need a program that “spiders” the complete website automatically by trying to follow all the links it finds. This program is the Xenu Link Sleuth. Don’t be put off by the name, or the references to Scientology, Microsoft, etc. It is a well-written, safe and popular program. Here’s how to get it and install it:

  1. Download it here:
  2. Scroll down until you see and click on . The program should be downloaded into your downloads folder.
  3. Find the file called XENU.ZIP. Click on it to see Setup.exe. Double click on Setup.exe. Follow the installation steps, using all the default values shown. An icon should have been added to your desktop ()
  4. Click on the desktop. You will see an empty window!
  5. Click Options, then Preferences…. You will see:
  6. Change the settings in the right column so that only Broken links, ordered by page and Broken local links are checked. The result should look like:
  7. Click
  8. Exit. The link checker is installed and ready to use.

Using the Xenu link checker

  1. Click on the desktop. You will see an empty window!
  2. Type ctrl-n
  3. Enter in the top field.
  4. Click . You will see the program following and checking all the links. This may take a few minutes. While the program is checking links, you will see a progress report in the bottom right corner of the Xenu window, resembling . Don’t be alarmed if the see the percentage down go up or down, as it discovers and follows more pages. When the checking is finished, you will see:
  5. Click . A report will appear in your browser. If there are any broken links, they will look something like this:

The first line shows the page on which the broken link is found. The second line shows the link that does not work, and the third line is the standard error message used with the Internet. This is usually 404, for a link that does not work. A complete list of possible error codes is found here:

If there are more than one broken link on the page, they will be listed next (in the example above, a second bad link is shown in the last two lines).

Fix the links, and run the link checker again.