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How To: Access Information From Offline/Unavailable Websites
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How To: Access Information From Offline/Unavailable Websites

by Mike MansellAugust 17, 2010

We’ve all been there. You’re looking up a set of directions, a tutorial, or some form of information on the Internet, only to find that the site that Google returns as a result is down. In many cases, finding another set of directions or another site with the same information is a simple task, but in some cases – especially those where the information you are trying to find is on a very specific topic – you’re out of luck. So what do you do when the server that you are trying to get information from becomes unavailable?

One of the things I do when I cannot access a site is immediately return to the search results and explore alternative results. But as my luck often has it, the most promising result is always off-line. In many cases, search engines such as Google will display a “cached” button directly underneath the search result. Clicking this button will (usually) bring you to an indexed copy of the page you are trying to view. However, cached versions usually lack the level of formating, layout, and imagery that the original version of the page had. In cases where the information you are looking up is solely text-based, the cached version should be sufficient. However, if the page has accompanying image or video content, you will surely find yourself out of luck.


It is important for one to realize how Google indexes its information. This being, once a site or a page is added to Google’s directory, it is still checked routinely to ensure that it has not been taken off-line. So the fact that you get that particular page as a result for your query means that the site was up in the not-too-distant past, and only recently has gone off-line. Because of this, you may simply opt to bookmark the result in hopes that checking back later will reveal that the site’s downage was only temporary.

Additionally, you can manually find the cached version of a website by searching Google for “cache:<url>”. So if you wanted to view the cached version of BestTechie, you’d simply search for “cache:www.besttechie.net”.

While Google only keeps cached versions of recently available information, the Internet Wayback Machine has a slightly different approach. This being, many of the websites archived on the Internet Wayback Machine are somewhat aged, and many have been off-line for years. In addition to this, the Wayback Machine has multiple versions of some websites, allowing the end-user to view the content of a site as it appeared at different times.

In some cases, you may simply find that there is indeed another copy of the information you are looking for on a different site, however you simply are not finding it. Using the “similar” button directly under the search result on most search engines will give you a list of sites and pages that should be able to provide you with the same information. In many cases, you may find mirrored versions of sites; exact replicas of the original content, but simply hosted on another site.

Last but not least, patience is your best bet when a site is down. As I said in the beginning of this article, the fact that a site is indexed in Google means that it only recently went down, and chances are that it will return soon.

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Mike Mansell

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