It happens to every one of us who depend on the internet from time to time -- you have the URL of a web site, and when you try to go there, the page you wanted to see is gone! Whether a site goes down, or loses its registered domain name, or some other disaster happens, such as a site you write for suddenly deleting your articles without notice, never fear! There is a way to get those articles, pages, or even whole web sites back for free, and it takes only your browser and the URL. So even when someone changes their site, the web page as it existed before the change can still be found! This handy service is called the Wayback Machine, and the service it provides is invaluable for many people.

404 page
Credit: Public Domain

A 404 error is generated when your browser makes a request for a page that is missing from your site, such as a dead link. 

To start your trip into the past all you need to do is locate the URL of the page or web site you want to see. Then all you have to do is to go to The Internet Archive, and look at the center of the page. You will see a search box for the "Wayback Machine." The Wayback Machine has been saving a copy of the entire World Wide Web for many years, and so sites as they appeared at certain times will be stored there at the archive.org  web site indefinitely. (Yes, it's named for the cartoon Mr. Peabody's Wayback Machine.)

When you paste the URL of your desired deleted page into the search box, you will be presented with at least one, and sometimes several versions that have been stored. Click on the version you want, and you will be taken to a copy of the web page as it existed on that date. What's more, all the links from that page will work correctly, and you can navigate the entire web site just as it was on that date without any problems!

If for some reason that doesn't work, try the format: http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.yourwebsite.com/* which should return every page of your website that has been archived.

This service is free for anyone to use, and you do not even have to register there. The site accepts donations, so if you managed to retrieve a deleted money-making article, consider giving them a donation to keep the site running. After all, you never know when you will need this invaluable service again!

If this doesn't work, there is another tool available, called Warrick. Warrick will search the web for your deleted site, and email you all the pages it finds, again for free.