www.cryer.co.uk
Brian Cryer's Web Resources

Link Checkers

Page Contents

Introduction

At its simplest, a link checker checks all the links on a page or on a website to confirm that there are no broken links. A broken link is one which does not point to a valid web page. Broken links can also be referred to as dead links. This is an example of a broken link: I'm a broken link.

Broken links can arise for a number of reasons. On a poorly managed site, broken links might arise simply because the link is defined incorrectly. A common mistake is to link to a local file (e.g. the html <a href="file://c$/MyWebs/about.htm" ...) instead of a link to a file on the website (e.g. the html <a href="http://www.cryer.co.uk/about.htm" ...) - the first is a link to a local file whereas the second is a valid link to a page on a website. Possibly the most common source of broken links is when a link is to a page on another site and subsequently the other site does a redesign and moves or deletes the page that you are linking to - then you have a broken link. Broken links are frustrating to visitors and therefore any conscientious webmaster should strive to catch them.

Whilst for an individual page it might be feasible to check every link my hand, this would be very time consuming and would be impractical for most websites. The obvious solution is to employ link checking tools, to check all the links automatically.

This review compares a number of link checking tools against a standard set of criteria so you can consider which ones are most likely to be suitable.

At a glance comparison

The following table provides an "at-a-glance" comparison of link checker tools (click on the tools for a more detailed review):

Link Checkers Program type Scope Images In-Page Links Check locally JavaScript
Links
email reports Type
SortSite Exe Site Yes Yes Yes Yes No Commercial, 30 day trial
DeepTrawl Exe Site Yes Yes Yes No No Commercial, 30 day trial
A1 Website Analyzer Exe Site Yes No Yes No No Commercial, 30 day trial 
Link Checker Pro Exe Site Yes No Yes No No Commercial, 30 day trial
WebLight  Exe  Site Yes  No Yes  No No Commercial, 30 day trial 
Xenu's Link Sleuth Exe Site Yes No Yes No No Free
Screaming Frog SEO spider Exe Site Yes No Yes No No Free with limits, commercial.
CheckErr Recommended On-line Site Yes No No No Yes Free, up to 2000 urls.
LinkTiger Recommended On-line Site Yes No No No Yes Commercial, 15 day trial. 
REL Link Checker Lite Exe Site No No No No No Free
404 error page N/A Site No No No Yes No Free
Google Webmaster Tools N/A Site No No No No No Free
1-hit.com Bad Link Checker On-line Page Yes No No Yes No Free
W3C Link Checker On-line Page No Yes No No No Free
Indiabook.com Free Link Checker On-line Page Yes No No No No Free
LinkChecker by 2bone On-line Page No No No No No Free
Link Checkers Program type Scope Images In-Page Links Check locally JavaScript
Links
email reports Type

where:-

Program type
Indicates whether the link checker must be downloaded and run ("Exe") or whether it can be run by connecting to a website ("on-line").
Scope
Whether the link checker checks an individual page ('page') or an entire web site ('site').
Images
Whether the link checker checks for missing images. A missing image is an image that simply isn't there. Typically these will appear in a browser as a box like this: "Intentionally missing image" (quotes added)
Check locally
Whether the link checker can examine a website which is resident locally on disk, or whether the web site must be on the web to be checked.
In-Page Links
Whether the link checker checks links on a page to bookmarks within that same page. This is an example of a local link: "<a href="#Top">Top</a>" and this is an example of a broken local link "<a href="#Broken">Broken</a>". One significant difference between a broken link and a broken in-page link is that the user won't see an error if an in-page link is broken - clicking on the link just won't do anything. In-page links are also known as "local links" and "fragments".
JavaScript Links
Whether the link checker checks links generated using JavaScript. For example:
<script type="text/javascript">
document.write('<a href="broken_' + 'script.htm">broken JavaScript link</a>');
</script>
which shows as:.
email reports
Whether the link checker can generate a periodic report notifying you of any broken links. This can be valuable because it means you can be notified of new broken links without needing to run a new check yourself.
Type
Whether the link checker is free (or free with certain limitations, such as for private use only) or commercial meaning that you will need to purchase it. Commercial link checkers normally provide a functioning demo or a trail period. Where the trial period is known it is included in the table.

Link Checkers

A1 Website Analyzer

A1 Website Analyzer is a website and link analysis tool which can show you broken links, file sizes, response codes, download times and similar of all pages in a website.

If configured to do so, it can also HTML and CSS validate (using either W3C or Tidy), spell check and perform custom search for text/patterns throughout entire website.

For people focusing on SEO, it can calculate an indication of the relative importance of each page based on the internal linking structure of the site. (This is useful if you want to ensure your website links your important website areas and pages the most.) In their online help this is referred to as "link juice".

Version reviewed: 3.1.7
Program type: Installable executable.
Download from: www.microsystools.com/products/website-analyzer/
Scope: Site
Check locally: Yes
However you can't use the built in W3C HTML validator if checking files locally, because it uses the on-line W3C HTML validator. So trying to check will take a long time but produce no results. The built in validator still gives some useful information even when off-line.
In page links: No
JavaScript links: No There is an option to search for links in JavaScript, but this did not find the broken links in our test case.
Images: Yes
Type: Commercial, 30 day trial evaluation period.
Can limit scope: Yes
Catches redirections: Yes
email reports: No
Problems:
  1. A1 Website Analyzer is a comprehensive tool which gives a great deal of information. On the positive side if you are looking for something extra then this probably gives it to you. On the down side this does come at the expense of a complicated user interface. So you should work on the assumption that you will need to look at the on-line help in order to get the best out of it.
  2. A1 Website Analyzer lists broken links (and redirections), but you need to filter the output if you want a simple list of a site's broken links.
  3. Very slow if the W3C validator is being used (the default is not to use it). However this does allow you to list all the pages on a site by the number of validator errors, which is useful if you are working to improve your site.

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CheckErr.org

CheckErr is an online link checker. It is more than a link checker because it also checks other factors which can affect the SEO of the site.

CheckErr provides a free service for websites, and whilst this free service is limited to 2000 urls this should be more than adequate for most websites. According to their website they plan to introduce a paid service, which presumably will allow for more urls but at the time of review no details had been published.

You need to create an account in order to use their service. This is free. Part of the registration process requires you to enter the site you wish to have checked - you can add additional sites once you have created your account and logged in. It will take CheckErr a number of minutes to check your site, so if you log in straight away after creating your account then the results for your site may not yet be available.

Interestingly CheckErr will always find at least one 404/broken-link - but this is intentional even if your site has no broken links. This is because it checks that your site correctly indicates missing pages.

Version reviewed: Online.
Last reviewed December 2013.
Program type: On-line link checker.
Run from: http://checkerr.org
Scope: Site
Check locally: No Page must be publicly accessible on the internet to be checked.
In page links: No
JavaScript links: No
Images: Yes
Type: Free up to 2000 pages.
Can limit scope: No
Catches redirections: Yes
email reports: Yes
Problems: checkerr works with (almost) any web brower EXCEPT Internet Explorer. Considering that Internet Explorer is still one of the most widely used browers, this is an annoyance. But provided you use FireFox, Chrome, Safari, Opera or one of the other supported browsers then the site works well.

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DeepTrawl

A full review of DeepTrawl is pending. The following information has been provided by the developers of DeepTrawl:

Version reviewed: Not applicable, full review pending.
Program type: Executable.
Download from: www.deeptrawl.com/download.htm
Scope: Site
Check locally: Yes
In page links: Yes
JavaScript links: No
Images: Yes
Type: Commercial, 30 day trial.
Can limit scope: Yes
Catches redirections: No
email reports: No
Problems: A full review is scheduled on this product. Please check back later.

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Google Webmaster Tools

Google Webmaster Tools is not a link checker, but it does show some of the errors that Google's web-bot has found when trawling your site - and that is the reason why it is included here in this review of link checkers. Google's web-bot is the search engine's robot which automatically trawls the web (and your website) indexing your pages so it can return them in response to searches. During this process it may encounter errors when requesting pages from your website.

You can only use Google Webmaster Tools if you are the webmaster for a site, or if you have the approval of the webmaster. It cannot be used to show information about someone else's website (without their permission). To use it your site must be available on the internet.

You need to register to use the service. As part of this process (which is free) you will need to place an empty file on your website as a means of proving that you are the webmaster for the site.

Once registered, you can view stats for your site, and the errors page will show up to ten errors from your site together with the time they were recorded. Typically these errors will be broken links. It does not tell you where these links came from, so you have to work that out for yourself. An advantage of using Google Webmaster Tools for this purpose is that it shows errors that might adversely affect your search engine ranking.

Version reviewed: First reviewed December 2010.
Last updated February 2012.
Program type: On line. Reports on last ten errors on your site as encountered by google-bot. These may be days old.
Run from: Go to http://www.google.com/webmasters to register or login.
Scope: Site
Check locally: No Site must be publicly accessible on the internet.
In page links: No
JavaScript links: No
Images: No
Type: Free
Can limit scope: Not applicable. No control over which pages errors are reported for.
Catches redirections: No
email reports: No
Problems: It must be appreciated the Google sitemaps are not a link checker. The fact that they provide help in this area is coincidental.
  1. Not updated regularly. So, its worth visiting once or twice a week.
  2. No control over which pages the errors are reported for.
  3. No indication of whether an error is caused by a broken link on your site or a broken link from some other site - although with a bit of effort you can work this out.

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Indiabook.com Free Link Checker

Web site offering a simple one page check. A nice feature is that it lists each link found.

Version reviewed: Not applicable. Last reviewed on May-2011.
Program type: On-line link checker, must be connected to the internet.
Run from: www.indiabook.com/webmaster/link.html
Scope: Page
Check locally: No Page must be publicly accessible on the internet to be checked.
In page links: No The report it generates lists in-page links, with a simple "OK" or "BAD" indicator next to them. However all the in-page links are shown as OK even the missing ones.
JavaScript links: No
Images: Yes The report it generates lists images, again with an "OK" or "BAD" indicator next to them.
Type: Free
Can limit scope: Not applicable. Single page only.
Catches redirections: No
email reports: No
Problems:
  1. Be sure to include the "http://" when checking a page, otherwise it will fail to check anything.
  2. It does not check in-page links, i.e. links to bookmarks in the page, just whether the page exists.

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Link Checker Pro

Link Checker Pro is an essential utility for anybody wishing to check internal and external links within their Internet site. Link Checker Pro has many customisable settings and allows reports of link data to be saved in HTML format that may be easily viewed in any Internet browser.

Extract from the link-checker-pro website:-

"Link Checker Pro is the leading solution for website analysis and the detection of broken and other problem links. Link Checker Pro combines powerful features and an easy to use interface and is robust enough to deal with corporate websites containing 100,000 links or more."

Version reviewed: 3.1.33
Program type: Executable, must be run locally.
Download from: www.link-checker-pro.com
Scope: Site
Check locally: Yes - but it is not apparent how to make it check a single page.
In page links: No
JavaScript links: No
Images: Yes
Type: Commercial.
Trial period: There is a free 30 day demo available for download from their website.
Can limit scope:  
Catches redirections:  
email reports: No
Problems:
  1. When testing at one point it came up with a message box saying "This page has an unspecified potential security flaw. Would you like to continue?"
  2. Does not catch all pop-ups generated by the pages it is scanning.
  3. When testing at one point it came up with a message box saying "An action cannot be completed because a component (HTTPCheck) is not responding."
  4. Can be fussy about URLs, for example it would check "http://www.postgrad_resources.btinternet.co.uk" but not "www.postgrad_resources.btinternet.co.uk".

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LinkChecker by 2bone

Free online link checker. Well presented and simple interface.

Version reviewed: Not applicable. Last reviewed on 15th December 2010.
Program type: On-line link checker, must be connected to the internet.
Run from: www.2bone.com/links/linkchecker.shtml
Scope: Page
Check locally: No Page must be publicly accessible on the internet to be checked.
In page links: No
JavaScript links: No
Images: No
Type: Free.
Can limit scope: Not applicable. Single page only.
Catches redirections: No
email reports: No
Problems:
  1. When reviewed, it failed to pick up any of the broken links on this page. Presumably it will find simple broken links, but nothing more complex.

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LinkTiger

LinkTiger provides link checking as a service. Depending on the subscription level LinkTiger will check the links on your site daily or weekly, emailing you a report on the number of broken links found. A link in this report lets you view the detail of the current status of your website, including which pages have bad links and which links are broken.

A very useful feature of LinkTiger is that it emails you. This means that you do not need to remember to check the links on your site as LinkTiger does it for you, letting you know when problems are found. If you want to be informed when there are problems and do not want to have to remember to periodically run a link check yourself then LinkTiger is an excellent choice.

Version reviewed: XL. Which is up to 5000 links checked daily.
Program type: On-line link checker, must be connected to the internet.
Run from: www.linktiger.com
Unlike other link checkers reviewed here, LinkTiger does its checking regularly in the background emailing you (daily or weekly) to tell you what problems it has found.
Scope: Site
Check locally: No Page must be publicly accessible on the internet to be checked.
In page links: No
JavaScript links: No
Images: Yes 
Type: Commercial. 15 day free trial available.
Can limit scope: Yes although the options are limited as the scope is limited by specifying one or more domain names.
Catches redirections: No
email reports: Yes
Problems: Since LinkTiger periodically checks your site, the situation can arise where the number of broken links it reports in the email is different to that the number it reports online. This is not an issue or a problem, it just reflects that LinkTiger is on the case.

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REL Link Checker Lite

The REL Link Checker Lite web site provides a very accurate and succinct description:

"REL Link Checker Lite is a free easy-to-use link checker tool to help you maintain the accuracy of links on your web site. The program will help you easily locate broken links and links containing syntactic errors."

The Lite version has a limit of up to 1000 links, which should be adequate for small web sites. If you need to check more links then you will need to use their commercial offering "Web Link Validator". It has a smart looking interface and is relatively straight forward to master.

Version reviewed: 1.0
Program type: Executable, must be run locally.
Download from: www.relsoftware.com
Scope: Site
Check locally: No
In page links: No
JavaScript links: No
Images: No
Type: Free
Can limit scope: Yes - Can set to scan the entire site or just for those pages within a specified path.
Catches redirections:
email reports: No
Problems:
  1. If the site has a general handler for missing pages (i.e. a 404 error page) then this link checker fails to detect that the link is broken - it just regards it as pointing to the 404 error page.

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Screaming Frog SEO Spider

The Screaming Frog SEO spider is first and foremost a tool for analysing (and improving) search engine optimisation (SEO) features of a website. So as well as collecting on link errors on a website it also reports on many other factors which can affect the SEO rankings of a site.

The free version of the Screaming Frog SEO Spider has a limit of a maximum of 500 pages. So if your site has more pages then this then you will need to upgrade to the paid version - be aware that the paid version requires an annual license fee.

It should be appreciated that the Screaming Frog SEO spider is first and foremost a spider tool aimed to giving information which may be useful for SEO purposes. This does include broken link information, but that is not its primary objective. To get a list of broken links requires that you first scan your site using the Screaming Frog SEO spider, then look at the response codes - each 404 response code represents a broken link.

Where the tool lets itself down is that using it to find broken links is not very intuitive, although it is effective once you know your way around the tool. To see your broken links:

  1. Once your site has been scanned look you will need to look on both the "Internal" and "External" tabs. The "Internal" tab shows links from one page to another on your website, the "External" tab shows links from your pages to other sites.
  2. Sort these by Status code - specifically 404 as these represent page not found. 301 might ("Moved permanently") might also be worth investigating.
  3. Highlight each line in turn and on the bottom of the window look at the "In Links", this will show you where those broken links came from on your site.
Version reviewed: Version 1.90
Program type: Executable.
It is available for Windows, Mac and Ubuntu (Linux).
Download from: www.screamingfrog.co.uk/seo-spider
Scope: Site.
Check locally: The site must be accessible via the web or served via a local web-server. It cannot be used to check local static html files in the file system unless these are accessible via a web-server.
In page links: No It does pick up in-page links, but does not check that their target is valid.
JavaScript links: No
Images: Yes Missing images are listed with missing pages (once you sort by response code), but as with pages the tool does not help you identify which of your pages are using those missing images.
Type: Commercial and free. 500 page limit on free version.
Can limit scope: Yes
  1. The tool spiders the domain/sub-domain you specify and treats other sub-domains as external links.
  2. If started with a folder then any pages which are not in or below the same folder are treated as external links.
  3. The spider obeys directives in the robots.txt file.
Catches redirections: Yes These are identified by response status code.
email reports: No
Notes:
  1. To see broken links you need to look at the "Status Code" on the list of external pages.

    200 - Indicates the page was found (no problems)
    301 - Page moved, so worth checking that you are linking to the right place.
    0 - Connection refused, either indicates that the server refused to allow the bot to connect or that perhaps the site has gone away. 

  2. If you are using Screaming Frog SEO tool as a tool to assist you in SEO (and more than just a link checker) then be aware that it gives information about your site but it does not provide recommendations on ways to improve your site.

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SortSite

Version reviewed: 2.02
Program type: Executable
Download from: www.powermapper.com/download
Scope: Site.
Check locally: Yes
In page links: Yes
JavaScript links: Yes
Images: Yes
Type: Commercial, 30 day trial.
Can limit scope: Yes, depth limit and via wildcards e.g. http://www.site.com/keepout
Catches redirections: Yes follows redirections but does not report them.
email reports: No
Notes:
  1. also checks links in CSS (missing background images, @import statements etc) and Flash.
  2. in addition to checking links it also checks for - server configuration issues like mis-configured mime types - accessibility (WCAG 1.0 and Section 508) - whole site HTML/XHTML validation - browser compatibility issues - Google/Yahoo/MSN search engine guideline violations - and a bunch of other stuff.

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W3C Link Checker

The W3C Link Checker is an on-line checker that is only available on-line. It cannot be downloaded, but must be run from the W3C web site. It is a "no-frills" link checker, but does a good job.

Version reviewed: 3.6.2.3
Program type: On-line link checker, must be connected to the internet.
Run from: http://validator.w3.org/checklink
Scope: Site. The default setting is just to check a single page, but ticking the option "check linked documents recursively" will allow it to check multiple pages.
Check locally: No - pages must be published and available online before they can be checked.
In page links: Yes - it refers to these as "broken fragments".
JavaScript links: No
Images: No
Type: Free
Can limit scope:
  • You can limit the depth to which it scans.
Catches redirections: Yes
email reports: No
Problems:
  1. Incorrectly displays  a link <a href="www.mysite.com"> when scanning www.mysite.com as "www.mysite.com/www.mysite.com", but this is only cosmetic because it does check the correct link.
  2. It fails to treat a link to '#Top' as correct (top-of-page), and flags this up as a "broken fragment"

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WebLight

WebLight checks both links on a site and flags up issues with the mark-up on pages.

Version reviewed: 5.0.18
Program type: Executable, must be run locally.
Available for Windows, Mac and Linux.
Download from: www.illumit.com/weblight
Scope: Site
Check locally: Yes
In page links: No
JavaScript links: No
Images: Yes
Type: Commercial, 30 day trial.
Can limit scope: Yes The scope can be limited using rules like those found in robots.txt.
Catches redirections: Yes Follows and reports redirections.
email reports: No
Notes::
  1. Also checks links in Atom and RSS News Feeds, CSS and Sitemaps.
  2. In addition to checking links it validates HTML.XHMLT, Atom and RSS News Feeds, CSS and Sitemaps.

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Xenu's Link Sleuth

Xenu's Link Sleuth is a very popular link checker because it checks all the pages on a site and is free. The interface is simple but straight forward. When working it shows both broken and non-broken links, highlighting broken links in red so they are easy to spot. The final report it generates shows you which pages on the site contain the broken link.

Version reviewed: 1.2e
Program type: Executable, must be run locally.
Download from: http://home.snafu.de/tilman/xenulink.html
Scope: Site
Check locally: Yes
In page links: No
JavaScript links: No It will find links which appear as simple text within JavaScript, but does not find links which are constructed by JavaScript. 
Images: Yes
Type: Free
Can limit scope:
  • You can specify not to check URLs that have a given start. This allows you to exclude parts of your website.
  • You can also specify how deep you want it to go into a web site.
Catches redirections: Yes The default setting is not to flag these as errors.
email reports: No
Problems:
  1. When checking part of a website you need to specify the full page URL, for example it fails to find "www.cryer.co.uk/brian" but will succeed if given "www.cryer.co.uk/brian/index.htm".

It therefore reports some links as broken when they are not.

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1-hit.com Bad Link Checker

A very nice single page link checker. It generates a lengthy, but very clear, report showing all the links on a page and which of those are ok and which are broken. This report includes JavaScript and style sheet files that the page might use as well as any image files referenced. All in all, a very impressive page checker.

Version reviewed: Not applicable. Last reviewed on 15th December 2010.
Program type: On-line link checker, must be connected to the internet.
Available at: www.1-hit.com/all-in-one/tool.broken-link-finder.htm
Scope: Page. Will only check a single page.
Check locally: No Page must be publicly accessible on the internet in order to be checked.
In page links: Yes
JavaScript links: Yes It might find links which appear as simple text within JavaScript but this has not been confirmed.
Images: Yes
Type: Free
Can limit scope: Not applicable. Single page only.
Catches redirections: Yes
email reports: No
Problems:
  1. Incorrectly reports local links (i.e. links to different parts of the same page) as broken when they are not.

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404 error page

A 404 error page is a page displayed to a surfer when a page does not exist. It is not a link checker, but can be used to catch bad links after a surfer has stumbled across one. It could therefore be classified as a passive link checker - finding broken links after the event.

A webmaster can produce a custom 404 error page (for an example see www.cryer.co.uk/resources/javascript/html3.htm) and provided it is possible to track where the visitor came from then this tracking information shows the pages on which the broken links are located - either on the local website or another site. This is a passive link checking option because it relies on surfers finding the broken links, but it has the advantage of being able to catch broken links on other people's web sites. 

Version reviewed: Not applicable.
Program type: Not applicable.
Download from: Not applicable.
Scope: Site
Check locally: No
In page links: No
JavaScript links: Yes - but only after a surfer has clicked on the link.
Images: No - missing images do not generate 404 errors.
Type: Free
Can limit scope: Not applicable
Catches redirections: Not applicable
email reports: No
Problems:
  1. This method finds broken links only after a visitor has tried the link.
  2. It can only be employed by the webmaster of a site.
  3. It is not always obvious from the page which link is the broken one.
  4. Requires a 404 error page.
  5. Requires that the 404 error page can be tracked and the referring page logged.
  6. Logs must be regularly reviewed to catch broken links.
Unique features: Allows you (the webmaster) to identify broken links on other people's web sites that point to yours.

An alternative approach is to examine the server's error log, if that is accessible.

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If you know of any other link checker tools that you would like to see listed on this page or wish to report any errors on this page then please e-mail: feedback@cryer.co.uk.