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Checking Links Using XenuTM


Xenu's Link Sleuth TM is a freeware program which checks Web sites for broken links.

Please run Xenu

  • on your pages in integration while working on them
  • on staging after you have pushed pages up with the WUT tool
  • over your entire live site regularly, especially if you are linking to other sites. If your site contains many links, particularly to outside URL's, we recommend checking your site weekly. For sites which do not contain many links monthly checks should be adequate.

Download Xenu

First, download XenuTM from their website. It will come to you zipped up.

Unzip it to your C drive in the Programs folder. You may wish to place a shortcut to it on your desktop or in another location which is convenient to you.

Edit Xenu Preferences

Launch Xenu.

Click File > Check URL. Exclude Google from the link check by adding these URL's to the text box labeled 'Do not check any URL's beginning with this'. Xenu will remember this setting.

  • http://www.google.com
  • http://google.com
  • http://www.google.com/u/ucsf

Then click OK.

Check URL

Click 'OK'.

Now go to Options > Preferences. Change default options for the report; check only "Broken links, ordered by link", "Broken links, ordered by page" and "Redirected URLs" in the bottom set of checkboxes as shown below.

Edit Xenu Preferences

Click 'OK' to close this alert box.


Checking links:

Launch Xenu by browsing to it in your program, or by clicking on a shortcut which you may have put on your desktop or other location.

xenu icon

Go to File > Check URL (or Ctrl+N).

checks url


Copy and paste, or type in the URL to your site or the page you would like to check.

Note: Be sure that it is written like this: http://medschool.ucsf.edu/about/ (with the final "/") and not like this http://medschool.ucsf.edu/about (without the final "/") or else Xenu will check the entire medschool site.

Make sure "Check External Links" is checked.

Xenu will crawl your site. (Be patient, it may take a while.) When it is done, you will be presented with the following screen. Go ahead and click 'Yes'.

crawls your site

Reading the Xenu Report

You will be presented with a report which shows you entries in three categories

When you exit Xenu, it will ask you if you would like to save a copy of the report. Click 'No'.

Broken Links Ordered By Page

To begin, I suggest you select: "Broken links, ordered by page." This will give you a list of the broken links, and will tell you what page they are on.

In the "Broken Links Ordered by Page" section of the report, the page containing the broken link is listed first, followed by the URL's of the broken links.

Broken Links Ordered by Page

Generally, the errors you receive will fall into these categories:

  • Error 404 (Not Found)
  • 403 (Forbidden/Access Denied)
  • 12029 (No Connection)
    503 (Service Unavailable)
    12002 (Timeout) or
    12038 (SSL certificate common name incorrect)

    Error 404 (Not Found)

    You are primarily concerned with entries which contain Error Code: 404 (not found). Please see below for information on correcting broken links.

    Note: Links ending in .mso or in .xml were created by converting a Word document to HTML. These entries may be disregarded.

    Note: If you find listings related to Google, you will want to return to your Xenu preferences and exclude Google from the search as described above.

    Note: You may disregard any broken links containing vti_cnf (or similar).

    403 Forbidden/Access Denied

    The Web site, or file you requested requires special access permission, such as a password. You may disregard these broken links.

    12029 (No Connection), 503 (Service Unavailable), 12002 (Timeout), 12038 (SSL certificate common name incorrect)

    Do not be concerned with these listings. This simply means that when Xenu went to the URL to check the link, the server was unavailable or not responding or that their security certificate is incorrect. This should not affect your links.

Broken links, Ordered by Link

The broken link is listed first, followed by the URL's of the pages containing the links.

Broken Links, Ordered by Link

When you look at this listing, you may see that certain links are broken on several pages. This indicates that the file may be missing or in the wrong location. Once you have replaced the file, it should clear up all these broken links.

Redirected URL's

If you have listings in this section of the report, you will know that a URL which you are linking to has changed and that a redirect is in place, so that the user is automatically redirected to the new URL.

Generally, redirects are kept in place for only a limited period of time, meaning that the original URL will soon be invalid and the link will be broken. We recommend that you update these links when you discover them, rather than waiting until they are broken later.

Correcting Broken Links

Now that you know what pages contain broken links, open those pages in DreamWeaver. You may know at a glance where the broken link is located but on a page containing many links, this may not be immediately evident.

To find the location of the link on your page, copy the URL of the broken link, leaving off the part of it which says http://medschool.ucsf.edu. Do a search on the page, searching for the link in question.

Now that you have located where the broken link is located, your next step is to figure out why the link is broken.

Generally, a broken link occurs when

  • the file does not exist, or
  • the link is pointing to the wrong location.

Correct the link by ascertaining that the file exists and/or it is located in the correct location. Re-write the link. When in doubt, simply select the link and browse directly to where you know the file to be located rather than trying to figure out the mistake in the old link.

Broken links also occur when the URL of a website you are linking to has changed. Identify the correct URL and rewrite the link.

Note: Very commonly a link will be fine on integration but then be broken on staging or on production. Usually this occurs because you forgot to upload the file you are linking to.

Updated: September 27, 2007
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