System Administrator Tool Review – Xenu Link Sleuth

One of the many tasks that system administrators deal with is managing one or more web sites. Over the course of a web site’s life it will be moved, reconfigured, or have its structure changed. These changes can easily break links and the nature of the web is that there isn’t a way to know a link is broken other than trying it. Not to mention any links to external pages that can break or decay over time, there isn’t a way to be notified that a page no longer exists.

Enter Xenu Link Sleuth which is a fast no-frills link checker for Windows generously provided for free by German programmer Tilman Hausherr. I find it to be extremely helpful to periodically run on the web sites that I manage to make sure that nothing has broken. It’s even more helpful to run after there have been some changes to the site, such as moving to a new host. 

When you run it you will be presented with the starting point dialog.


Here you enter the URL you want to check. Xenu will check all files from this root down, so you can only check a subset if your site if you wish. You can also exclude some URLs from the check and set other options (how many threads to run, types of links to check, and even e-mail yourself a report when it’s finished.)

That’s it, once you run it you’ll get a report back showing what’s broken, if anything. Here’s the report from the documentation for our new product PDQ Deploy.


The documentation contains some links to external resources, so I can know right away if any of them have broken and need to be repaired.  If you’ve never run a link checker against one of your web sites you might be surprised at how much is broken. It’s entropy at work, the system administrators ever-present friend.

I really like Xenu because it’s both very fast and very thorough. It’s got a very simple interface that doesn’t get in your way so you can see what’s important very quickly. The only thing that would be nice is if it had a command-line interface for running it as part of a script. But that’s a small gripe for such a great tool.