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Broken links

Sometimes people will have the problem of numerous broken links on their blog. When you click a link you’ll get a ‘not-found‘ error page, or a 404 error page.

This is almost always the result of a problem with your permalink structure. You should be able to get them working again by going in your WordPress admin area to “Settings” => “Permalinks” and setting them to ‘plain’ and saving.  Now if you do want to use a custom permalink structure (like say “/%postname%/”), but that wasn’t working, then it usually indicates a server issue.  That’s because there has to be some complicated server-side stuff to make the “pretty permalinks” work. WordPress tries to do this work for you after you change your permalinks setting, but sometimes a server can’t make the necessary changes and you have to do it yourself.

To do this, go back to “Settings” > “Permalinks” and change them back again to how you want them to appear.  After you save your changes, scroll to the bottom of your page and you should see a big message from WordPress.  It tells you exactly what code you need to add to a special file called your .htaccess file.

To find and edit your .htaccess file, follow these instructions:

1. Using an FTP program, figure out what the root directory of your blog is.  If your blog is something like: www.mysite.com/blog then your blog’s root directory is a folder on your web host called “blog” probably inside a folder called “public_html” or “www” or “httpdocs“.  If your blog is your whole website (like: www.myblog.com), then your root directory is “public_html” or “www” or “httpdocs”.

2. Once you’ve found your blog’s root directory, look for a file called “.htaccess“.  These are often times hidden (the fact that it starts with a “.” means it is a system file, and thus usually hidden).  Most FTP clients or web-based file managers have an option to turn on that is something like: “show hidden files”.  Try to find that and turn it on; once it is on, look for the .htaccess file.

3. If you can find it, just edit it and save. you might need to download it to your computer and edit with TextEdit (Mac) or WordPad (PC).  Don’t open it with Microsoft Word, that will ruin it.  If you are having trouble downloading it and opening it, try changing it’s name via FTP before you download it.  Change it to “htaccess.txt” then download, edit, upload, and then rename it exactly “.htaccess”. That can help because your computer doesn’t like you messing around with files that start with “.” or you can edit it through the built-in code editor in your web-based file manager.

4. If you can’t find one, that’s ok, you probably don’t have one.  In that case, using TextEdit (Mac) or WordPad (PC) create a new file and add in the code, then save it “htaccess.txt”. After saving, upload it into the root directory of your blog (see step 1) and then don’t forget to rename it “.htaccess”

5. .htaccess files are powerful little buggers, so if you somehow hose your whole blog, the first thing to do to fix it is delete your .htaccess file that you created — that will usually fix things if they have gone terribly wrong.

If you’ve edited your .htaccess file and your pretty permalinks still don’t work, then you may need to contact your web host for support, or jump on the WordPress support forums: http://wordpress.org/support.

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