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Tool reduces pain of checking for broken links

Checking for broken links is a royal pain in the neck. Here's a free application that does it well.

One of the most exasperating and time-consuming chores of maintaining any Web site, whether it's a corporate intranet or your company's public Web site, is checking for broken links. No one likes to do this, and if you've inherited someone else's Web site (and perhaps even their content management tools), it's even less thrilling.

Of all the third-party tools I've tried to help with problems like this, the one that most stands out for checking links is a free application called Xenu's Link Sleuth. This outwardly simple program is designed to do one thing: scour a Web site or a group of sites, amass a list of all the links on those sites and report back as to the functionality of each link. The program supports Secure Socket Layer (SSL), ftp and gopher links, and it can detect redirects. You can also set Xenu's Link Sleuth to re-check links that break due to transient network errors.

When you start the program, you can supply the name of a Web site or choose one you've scanned before, then set the scanning options, such as whether or not to check external links. You can add certain URLs so that they will be checked even if they are offsite, and restrict other URLs from being checked no matter what.

When the program finishes, you have the option of generating an HTML report that can be mailed or sent by ftp. The report includes all detected broken links, a site map that shows the arrangement of all scanned pages, a list of orphaned files and statistics (breakdown by file type, amount of space used, etc.). Press Ctrl-B while in the program and you'll get a list of only the broken links, along with the pages that are supposed to link to it.

Another option lets you choose how many threads or connections to run in parallel. If you have a fast connection, you can take advantage of this and cut down on the amount of time needed to scour a site. Bear in mind that some Web servers have anti-flooding measures and will not allow more than a certain number of connections (typically four) from a single host.

Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter. Check it out for the latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators -- and please share your thoughts as well!
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