Virtually all websites have dead or broken links in the same way that all software has bugs. Mistakes happen, content changes, file names and locations change, and external links change. And until you've checked links for some period of time, and learned what breaks them, you're likely to repeat the classic mistakes on a regular basis. ;-)
Link checkers work much like a search engine spider. They "crawl" your website looking for internal and external links that are broken. Crawling is recursive, meaning that the spider builds a tree of links leading from page to page until all branches have been explored. Spidering continues until it reaches a defined termination point. For example, when all internal branches have been examined, or when all first level external links have also been examined. A good link checker also produces broken-link reports that enable you to determine where the broken link is located, and why the link is broken.
Note: Your server may be configured to block "robots" (search engine spiders) by using robots.txt of .htaccess files. If so, you won't be able to scan for broken links unless you can configure your link checker to lie to the server, or remove temporarily the blocks from the server. Some scanners, Xenu's Link Sleuth for example do not respect "no robots" file so they will work even though robots are "blocked".
Has all the features and does everything you'd expect a link checker to do.
Platforms/Download: Linux | Windows (Desktop) |
Version reviewed: 9.3
|Our Rating: 5/5
It is simple, small, fast and accurate to check websites for broken links.
Platforms/Download: Windows (Desktop) |
Version reviewed: 1.3.8
|Our Rating: 3.5/5
A Firefox extension to examine the HTTP status code and the page contents returned by each URL.
Platforms/Download: Web App |
Version reviewed: 0.9.9.7
|Our Rating: 2/5
Link checking is a natural fit for a cloud solution. An online service bypasses your ISP for the most part, and produces quicker results because it operates at Web speed.
Online Broken Link Checker has an advantage in presenting only definitely broken links, without a report on all the other categories, including non-broken links. For each bad hyperlink it finds you can open a page that contains the source of the page where the broken link is located, and highlights the actual HTML tag that contains the non-existent link.
The free version currently limits the number of links checked to 3000. Since it checks both external as well as internal links, that is not enough for all -- mine for example -- sites. There is a no-limit commercial version of this checker available that allows to validate sites of any size (even huge ones) without page limitations.
Online Website Link Checker and W3C Link Checker, as reported by OnlineDomainTools, are two excellent online link checkers. They ran very through and objective tests of these and many other link checkers. Comparing to both online and installed tools, Online Website Link Checker might just be the best link checking solution for most users, judging by their report.
Link Valet by Web Design Group spiders your website, like a search engine would, and provides a very nice broken link report. Broken links are listed by page location so it's easy to find and fix them. There is a recursion (depth of spidering) limit, but the report includes a list of pages that were not checked, so you can extend link checking deeper if you want.
I use Broken Link Checker for WordPress on my self-hosted blog. It checks for broken links automatically and reports them by email.
Google Webmaster Tools reports the errors that the Google spider finds when it crawls your website. You'll find the link errors (not found) under "Web crawl errors" in the "Overview" section of the "Dashboard". The beauty of the link error report is that the details page shows the page(s) that contain the broken link(s).
The FreeFind search engine crawls your website to power their free site search. When finished FreeFind provides a very complete spider report, which shows all the broken links. The page that contains a broken link is not listed though, so it often takes some sleuthing to figure out where broken links are located.
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