Search Tip #4:
Finding Broken Links

©2000 by Walt Howe<
(last revised 17 February 2006)
All too often, when you try to follow a link, you find the file you tried to connect to is not at that URL any more. Be aware of the possibility that if you cannot connect to the site at all, it may still be there, but the system is down at the moment. If that seems to be the case, try again later.

But if the site connects, giving you an error message, and you think the file is likely to still exist, there are a number of things you can do to track it down.

Example: http://www.fate.com/~murphy/blackcluod/jinx.htm

Here are some of the things you can try, starting with the easiest to do first:

  1. Scan the path and filename for anything that doesn't look right. Typos are common, and you may be able to spot and correct an error. In the example, try changing "blackcluod" to "blackcloud".

  2. If the file ends with an .htm extension, perhaps it was renamed with an .html extension instead. Add an L and see if it connects. In the example, make the filename jinx.html. Alternatively, if it ends with .html, try .htm instead.

  3. Perhaps the file was renamed, but is still where it was. If there is a filename, try eliminating it, as in the example:

    http://www.fate.com/~murphy/blackcloud/

    You may connect to a basic file such as index.html or you may see an index of the files in the directory. Either one may give you clues.

  4. Perhaps the path structure has been changed, but the file is still on the same site. To check this, try eliminating each element of the path from the right, one step at a time. In the example, try:

    http://www.fate.com/~murphy/

    If that fails, try removing the "~murphy" path, too.

  5. If you get down to the basic site address, but there is no sign of Murphy or jinx.html on the site, perhaps Murphy has moved his site to another provider. In the example, you can try a search for jinx.html using one of the major search engines.
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