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Xenu’s Link Sleuth – Find 404 Broken Links on Any Website

As a web designer and administrator, there are certain routine “housekeeping” tasks that you have to perform with your server. These tasks can include data backup, traffic analysis, and server log audits. But there is one job that website administrators often fail to do, link checking. In this era of Web 2.0 and blogs where content has evolved from static and unchanging to dynamic and volatile, it is very important to make sure that your anchor tags (<a>) are intact.

Not only is link validation an important monthly routine task, it is a crucial, mission-critical operation when moving web servers or changing domain names. When I moved this website from http://freeware.art-app.com to http://www.freewarereview.info, it was literally hell in cyberspace. Even with my carefully hand-crafted .htaccess 301 redirects, my readership dropped and my server logs were filled with 404 error messages.

link_xenu.gifThat’s when Xenu came to my rescue. Not to be confused with crazy Tom Cruise and Scientology, Xenu Link Sleuth is a god-send (no pun intended) program that automates the link checking task. Basically, you feed it the URL of your web site’s homepage and it will visit every link on your site. Then, Xenu generates a report of the links that returned an HTTP error code like 404 (page does not exist). Not only does Link Sleuth check anchor tags, it will check any HTML element with a “src” or “href” attribute like images, frames, plug-ins, backgrounds, style sheets, scripts, and Java applets.



Xenu is one of the fastest link checkers available. This is because it is small (a mere 537 KB) and it uses a multi-threading technique. Link Sleuth retrieves several pages at the same time. By default, the max number of connections set in Xenu is 30, which is plenty. But die-hard users may want to up it up a notch to 100. However, a higher connection ceiling may result in failed connections and timeouts. Some servers only allow for a certain number of concurrent connections. By the same token, some Internet service providers and operating systems also have a limit on the number of outgoing connections. These limits can very well poison your report since they will return unnecessary errors. To be on the safe side, start from the default 30 connections and slowly move up.


Comment if you have any other suggestions to discover broken links!

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