Fix Broken Links
By Cliff Lamere June 7, 2016
(written for PCs)
A link which no longer works is called a broken link. Links will get broken if:
1) a whole website is deleted from the internet,
2) a website is moved to a new location
3) a webpage is deleted from a website
4) a webpage is renamed or moved to a new location in its website
What can you do if a link gets broken, but the contents of a certain webpage are very important to you? There are some things you can try in order to retrieve the information, even if the webpage or entire website have been deleted from the internet. The Wayback Machine or Internet Archive (archive.org) is a website which attempts to keep a history of most non-commercial websites. Periodically, it copies and preserves each website. As a result, copies of deleted webpages may still exist on the Wayback Machine (Internet Archive) which presently contains copies of 484 billion webpages. To find out if the one you want is one of them, the old address (URL) of the webpage must be known.
How to Copy the old Link's Address - Method 1
Copying a link (address) is a different process in each internet browser on a PC computer. The normal procedure of using Edit, then Copy does not work with a link that isn't completely visible. A different approach must be taken.
Firefox (my version 47) -- Right click on a link, then click on "Copy Link Location"
Chrome (created by Google, my version 50) -- Right click on a link, then click on "Copy Link Address"
Internet Explorer 11 -- Right click on a link, click on Properties, then highlight the address. Copy the address. Before copying, you must first highlight the address. Then, to copy it you must hold down the Ctrl key and strike the C key while the Ctrl key is still down.
Other versions or browsers may need slightly different approaches.
How to Copy the old Link's Address - Method 2
An alternate approach is to click on the link. If it is broken, an error message appears. In the address bar above it, the old link may be visible. If so, highlight and copy the address. Sometimes, however, the error message comes with a very different address that is related to the company providing the error message.
If you are not sure if it is the true link, return to the page where you clicked on the link. Put the cursor arrow on the link. In the three browsers discussed on this webpage, when the cursor is on a link, the address will appear temporarily near the bottom line of the screen (just above the task bar). Compare that with the address showing in the error message. If it is the same, you can highlight and copy it. If not, you will have to either use Method 1 above, or write it down and then type it out in a place of your choice. Then, it can be copied.
The Wayback Machine (Internet Archive)
Once the address is copied, I'd advise going to https://archive.org/ (or just archive.org if you are typing it into the address bar). That site will have both current and extinct webpages. Paste the copied link into the search box. To paste something, hold down the Ctrl key and strike the V key. Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V are the quick ways to do a Copy and Paste.
If an archived copy is available on The Wayback Machine, a bar graph appears across the top of the screen. It will show about 20 years of time. A vertical black line (bar) appears for each time the webpage was copied, sometimes more than once in a year. Click on a bar and a calendar below it will show dates that year when a copy of the webpage was made. Look in the calendar for a date with a bluish area around it. Clicking on it will show you what the Wayback Machine found that day.
Recent dates may show an error message. Clicking on an earlier bar or year will give you a better chance of finding the information you seek. Keep in mind, however, that the website owner may have revised a webpage since it was originally posted. So, I prefer to find a late version, if it doesn't take too much effort.
It is possible that after webpages were copied by the Wayback Machine, they have then become hidden at the request of their creators. In one such case with which I'm familiar, the address that it showed at that time had a ~ in it. Removing it made the webpage visible. I believe that the Wayback Machine will hide a webpage, but it may be a violation of its mission if it were to delete it.
Old Rootsweb webpages are a special case
When you click on a link that contains 'rootsweb.com', it automatically now becomes 'rootsweb.ancestry.com'. Try pasting the Rootsweb address into the Wayback Machine even though it contains the 'ancestry.' addition. If that doesn't work, then the 'ancestry.' should be removed from the address bar. It may not have been part of the address years ago when the information you seek was put online (when the Wayback Machine originally found it).
Finding the New Location of a Webpage That is Still on the Internet
Option 1: Go to the home page of a website and look for the missing webpage. The address of the home page is usually the part of the broken link that begins at the left and usually ends in .com or .org or .gov or .edu or .net or .us. Delete everything to the right of that. Click on the remainder. It is usually the address of a good starting point. If a site search engine is provided, your task will be easier.
Option 2: Use Google or another search engine to search for the webpage. Try various search terms, perhaps including the creator's name (if you know it and think it might appear on the webpage).
The following is valuable information, but may not be useful while trying to find missing webpages.
How to Find the Browser's Copy and Paste Commands
Recent versions of internet browsers have made it difficult to find the Copy and Paste commands. File, Edit, View, etc. no longer show up when you open the browser. To make them appear very temporarily, click somewhere on the browser (but not on a link that will take you elsewhere), then do the following:
Firefox (my version 47) -- strike the Alt key, then click on Edit
Chrome (by Google, my version 50) -- click on the three horizontal lines at the right end of the address window near the top of the screen
Internet Explorer 11 -- strike the Alt key, then click on Edit
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