Guide to Using Xenu's Link Sleuth

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Xenu's Link Sleuth is a freeware program that is available for download at

Xenu's spidering software checks Web sites for broken links. Link verification is done on "normal" links, images, frames, plug-ins, backgrounds, local image maps, style sheets, scripts and java applets.

It is available for Microsoft Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP, but other operating systems are not supported.

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Instructions: Download and Unzip

Download the software by doubleclicking on the "download" link on the Xenu website. You may have to specify a directory where the downloaded and zipped file will be stored; usually c:\temp is the default set by the Windows system, but you can choose a different directory if you'd like.
  • Next you will have to UNZIP (decompress) the XENU.ZIP file. How you do this will depend on what software you have installed on your PC. You may already have WinZip or PKUNZIP or some other utility that will unzip the compressed zip file installed on your computer, or you may have to download and install one.

  • You may need to choose a directory where the Xenu program will be installed. You can accept the default directory path or browse to enter a different directory. You might want to create a root-level C:\xenu directory, or you might want to put the Xenu program in a new subdirectory of the main directory where you store your web files.

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    Using Xenu to Check a Web Site

    Doubleclick the Xenu.exe program icon to open Xenu's Link Sleuth, or type the path and the xenu.exe filename in the "Run" command found under the Windows "Start" button.

    A Xenu window will appear on your desktop. You can now use Xenu's Link Sleuth to check for broken links.

    1. Under the File menu, select Check URL. Or, click on the white 'page' icon located on the left end of the toolbar.
    2. A dialogue box called "Xenu's starting point" will appear.
    3. Enter the URL of the page you would like to check links on in the first box. You should enter the URL in the format (enter the correct URL and server information). If you'd like Xenu to check an entire website, you should enter the main or index page of the site.
    4. The Browse button will allow you to check a local HTML file by browsing to its location on your computer. You can check links before uploading your pages to the web server by using this function.
    5. The Check external links checkbox is selected by default; if you don't want Xenu to check external links (links to sites outside of your site) then deselect this box.
    6. You can set certain URLs as 'internal' in the next box.
    7. You can exclude URLs that you don't want checked in the next box.
    8. Click on the OK button to begin checking.
    Once you've checked a website, a small DOC icon will appear to the left of the File menu. This contains the list and color-coded status of all the links checked by Xenu.

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    Checking Multiple Sites

    It is easy to check several different sites using the Link Sleuth. Once Xenu has completed checking a URL you can enter another URL in the top box of the "Xenu's starting point" dialogue box.

    Even if you have an existing report and have not saved it yet, Xenu will create a new report for additional sites checked. You'll still be able to view the previous results too. By default, Xenu names these various reports XENU1, XENU2, etc.

    To access the different sites' (non-HTML) reports within the Xenu main window, you can either click on the DOC icon and select Minimize (the separate results reports will appear in small windows), or type Control+F6 to view the Next report in the full-size Xenu window.

    If you have checked several sites and have several different results reports, you may wish to save them with different file names to avoid confusion.

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    There are some options you can set in Xenu to get better results. These can be accessed from the "Xenu's starting point" dialogue box by clicking the More Options button, or from the Options menu on the main toolbar.
    1. Click on the Options menu on the main toolbar.
    2. Click on Preferences.
    3. You'll see a Parallel Threads slider. The default setting is 30. The author of the software suggests setting this slider at about 70 to get the best results, but depending on how much memory your computer has you may need to experiment to see what setting works the best with your particular machine.
    4. The default setting for Maximum Level is 999 -- in other words, Xenu will go down 999 levels to check links in a site. You can change this value to a lower number if you don't want Xenu to check items that are located deep within your directory structure.
    5. The Options panel also contains a series of checkboxes, all of which are selected by default. You can deselect any of the options that you don't want to use.
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    After you enter the URL for Xenu to check and click the OK button in the "Xenu's starting point" dialogue box, a rapid listing of the links being checked will appear within the Xenu main window.

    Xenu colors good links green, broken links red, and "excluded" types of links in brown. When the program has finished checking the links, it will inform you that "Link sleuth finished" and ask you if you want a report.

    HTML Report

    Click Yes if you'd like the HTML page report.

    Xenu's report format is an HTML page that will show you the root URL that was checked and will provide a summary of broken links.

    You'll need to have a browser window open to view the report; if a browser is not open, Xenu will attempt to open your default web browser to display the report.

    Non-HTML Report in the Xenu Main Window

    If you don't want to view the HTML version of the report within a browser window, click No in the dialog box that asks if you want a report.

    You can view the results in the main Xenu window. You should easily be able to see red broken links or any other problems that the Link Sleuth found by scrolling down the page.

    Under the View menu you can choose to "Show broken links only", which will help you to see any broken links more easily. (Note: if you have selected this option but do not have any broken links, nothing will be displayed in the window. Turn off the "show broken links" option to see all the links that were checked.)

    Locate the Referring Page

    Right-click the broken link and select "Properties" to see what pages in your site contain the link. The URLs for the referring pages will appear in the bottom window under "Pages Linking to this one."

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    Saving the Results

    You may want to save the results of Xenu's link check, particularly if there are many links that need to be updated on your site.

    To save the results of the link check to a file:

    1. Check a URL using Xenu.
    2. Click No when Xenu asks if you'd like a report.
    3. Under the File menu, select Save As. Or, select the small disk icon from the toolbar. Enter a filename and enter the location where you'd like to save the file on your computer's hard drive.
    4. Later, you can Open the file to view it again (either click on the small folder icon on the toolbar, or under the File menu select Open).
    5. When you're viewing the saved file at a later time, use Xenu to retry broken links. This is especially useful to find links that may have been only temporarily broken, or if you want to verify that links you have fixed are indeed working properly. Under the File menu select retry broken links to have Xenu revisit links that were broken in the initial check.
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    The Xenu FAQ

    The Frequently Asked Questions page for Xenu's Link Sleuth is located at

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    Effects on Hit Counters (and other things to keep in mind)

    Hit counters will be affected by using Xenu. Every time you use Xenu to check the links on your pages your counter will record a hit for each page where Xenu checks links, so be aware that your hit counter totals will be increased.

    Xenu's Link Sleuth also affects the IU webservers since it sends a lot of requests very quickly. This adds to the load on the server and could ultimately affect performance for all users. If you have a large site with many links that need to be checked, please consider running your link checks at an off-peak time (early in the morning or on a weekend).

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    Last Modified: 23 April 2001

    This document was originally written by a staff member (apparently, "Karen") of an academic institution, which decided not to keep this document. But I was allowed to keep the text as long as I remove the name of that institution. Thank you, whoever you are :-)