How to Check For Broken Links On Your Site Using Xenu Link Sleuth

Checking for broken links using WordPress plugins can lead to intensive use of server resources and impact site performance. Plugins like Broken Link Checker are restricted on certain webhosts because of the performance issues they can introduce to a site. Thankfully, there are free programs available that off-load the process of checking links from the web server to a local machine. Xenu Link Sleuth is one such program. Released in 2010, Xenu Link Sleuth is compatible with Microsoft Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP/Vista/7.

Xenu Link Sleuth Broken URLs

After installing the program to your machine, type in the URL you want to check. Link verification is performed on normal links, images, frames, plug-ins, backgrounds, local image maps, style sheets, scripts and java applets. It displays a continuously updated list of URLs which you can sort by different criteria. Reports can be generated at any time. Since the majority of processing takes place on the machine performing the report, it’s quicker and doesn’t need a database to store the results. Another advantage is that unlike online services, you’re not limited to a maximum number of URLs that can be checked.

Xenu Check URL

When I generated a report for WPTavern.com, Xenu used between 29-30 threads and checked over 10,000 urls. Green colored text signals no errors while red indicates a problem. In my case, it usually meant the image was not found. Since a report can be made up of thousands of links, Xenu Link Sleuth provides the ability to only view broken ones.

Xenu Link Sleuth Status Text
Green Is Good. Red Is Bad

Although Xenu Link Sleuth does not work natively on the Mac, a program called Integrity for Mac OS X Mavericks is available. Integrity was recently updated to include support for Mavericks and retina displays.

Good Practice or Waste Of Time?

By using Xenu Link Sleuth, I was able to see hundreds of broken links of the thousands that make up the WPTavern archive. I feel conflicted on whether I should fix them or not. Links breaking are part of the natural life cycle of the web. Part of me wants to make sure each link that exists on the domain works correctly. The other part feels that by changing the URL, I would be altering history. Should I only concern myself with links up to a certain time period? How often do you check for broken links on your site? What programs or services do you use to perform the task?

16 Comments


  1. I was just about to download and check my sites for broken links….. then I read your final paragraph “Good Practice or Waste Of Time?”

    And now I’m trying to decide which it is.

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  2. lol. I think I’ve decided that it’s cool to see all of the broken links within the deep parts of the archive but I don’t have the time or will to fix them all. Besides, if I go back and edit links from a few years ago, it may also change the context of the content written during that time period.

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    1. Thanks Jeffro – that makes me feel a little less lazy.
      I’ve made a decision… I won’t check.

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      1. It’s interesting to see links that were once reputable WordPress sites end up being something completely different.

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      2. I won’t even ask what “…something completely different.” means!

        I’m jumping between this post and the GoDaddy managed hosting post.

        Those managed hosting prices are tempting…

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  3. I use Screaming Frog, another great tool. I like to keep things maintained for my users, but can see how could get out of control on a site like wptavern.

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    1. lol if you’re on Mac, there is a free equivalent I mentioned called Integrity.

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      1. Woops, bitten by that part looking like a caption and me skimming.

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  4. Hey, I need this tool for a client. I’m going to try it on a site. I’ll let you know if I like it.

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    1. I tried the Broken Link plugin and it did the trick. I didn’t need Xenu.

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  5. Tried Xenu and found it somewhat wanting. It seems you need to parse through a lot of dreck. Out of 1473 bad links only *3* were deemed true ‘bad links’. one was for a Jetpack icon, one was for an RSS feed and one was for a link that had only been partially read by Xenu.

    @Lisa League: Thanks for the tip to Screaming Frog. Looks promising.

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  6. Thanks for sharing Xenu and Integrity. Agree about the time wastage but good to generate a report for clients :)

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