Have you ever tried to look up a website or web page only to discover that it’s been deleted? In this article we’re going to learn how to view deleted web pages and websites.
It makes it pretty difficult to background check someone, or otherwise perform general internet research, when the source is gone. Not to mention if you are trying to find something you yourself wrote in the past.
The good news is that this is not hard to remedy IF you know what you’re doing. Because just like they say about Vegas, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, so too, what happens on the Internet stays on the Internet. (Of course, the popular adage about Vegas implies that whatever one does in Vegas will not come back to haunt them later. Whereas, regarding the internet, the opposite is true.)
What goes on the internet stays on the internet
Most people don’t realize that almost everything they ever post on the internet is recorded somewhere. Of course, that means you should be extremely careful about what you post for your own safety. But that’s a digression. Right now we’re going to focus on finding content that was published on the Internet once upon a time and then deleted or changed.
Just for fun, we’ll use Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 23 year old website as an example.
This is how his website looks now:
Trust me, I haven’t been saving that screenshot of Arnold’s website since 1996, I snapped it just a minute ago using The Wayback Machine.
There are two steps that you will need to take in order to find content that has been deleted from the Internet. The first thing you will need to know is the link address, also known as the URL. And the next thing you will need to know is how to use The Wayback Machine, also known as the Internet Archive. The Way Back Machine can show you multiple archived versions of web pages from long ago.
You’re going to love this. Let’s get started.
Step 1: Find the original link address of a deleted web page
On the surface, being able to find the correct link address to a desired web page seems like an easy task. And that may be the case if you do happen to know the exact web address. For example, if you are looking for an entire website that has gone offline, all you have to know is the original name of the website.
But it’s not so simple when all you have is an embedded link to work with. For instance, if you’re reading an article that links to a source, and the source article has disappeared. In such a case, what you have to do is right-click on the link and press “Copy link address” like so:
At this point, you should have the link address that you will need to use in the next step. Which brings us to…
Step 2: Introducing the Way Back Machine and How to View Deleted Web Pages
Now I’m going to introduce you to one of my favorite tools on the internet, The Wayback Machine, aka Archive.org. According to its About page, archive.org is “a 501(c)(3) non-profit…building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form…Our mission is to provide Universal Access to All Knowledge.” In other words, they are archiving the whole entire internet. Their goal is to document everything that ever happens on the internet, forever and ever. So far, they claim to have recorded 279 billion web pages. That means that per every person in the world, there are over 36 web pages stored in the Wayback Machine.
What is this useful for? Here are just some of the benefits:
- It can help you find information about people who could pose a threat to you or someone you know.
- If something you publish online gets deleted for whatever reason, it will most likely be archived and saved in The Wayback Machine for posterity.
- It can record evidence to be used in a court of law (disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, and this isn’t legal advice).
- In the “Open Library” section you can find books that are out-of-print or otherwise hard to find. And you can even borrow some really great books. I, for example, am a big fan of Dave Barry. Check out at all the great Dave Barry books you can borrow from the archive for free.
- You can read about lots of other cool stuff they have here.
How to find an archived copy of a deleted web page
Now back to our main point, which is how to find an archived copy of a deleted web page. Go to the Archive.org search page here and in the search field enter the link address that you are trying to find its archived copy. For the purposes of this tutorial, we’ll use Arnold’s website address. Below is a screenshot of how that will look.
Note that where it says http://schwarzenegger.com in the screenshot is where you will put in the link address of whatever web page you want to find. You will also notice from the screenshot that there are two fields you can use. Both work, but the bottom one gives more advanced search options which you do not need at this stage.
How to view deleted web pages in The Way Back Machine
Now that you’ve looked up the web page you should see a page like this.
Here you can see a display of all of the times The Wayback Machine archived a new version of the page. This gives you a number of options for how to view the deleted web page.
As you can see, about dozens of versions of Arnold’s website have been recorded over the years. It can be fun to check out the different versions and see how the website has evolved over the years along with Arnold’s career.
In order to see the old versions, first you need to click on the particular year you want to investigate, which will take you to a calendar display.
This time, let’s click on the year 2005, just for fun. And then scroll down to access all of the dates that there are archives from. Looks like Arnold’s website was archived almost every day in 2005.
The calendar displays the days when an archive version was saved with a blue, green or yellow highlight. Click on whichever day you want to see.
I clicked on August 2005 and got this:
Just for fun – examples of things you can do with the WayBack Machine
Just for fun, here are some examples of how Arnold’s website has changed over the years.
What to do if you can’t find the page you are looking for in The Wayback Machine.
If you can’t find what you are looking for using The Wayback Machine, then there could still be hope. If the website you are trying to view was taken down recently, it might still appear in the cache of a search engine. To find out, check the ViewCached Tool.
If you still need help to view a deleted web page, please feel free to reach out.
That’s it for now. If this tutorial helps you, please leave a comment and tell us what you did with it.