The use of archived websites depends on the legal framework and the focus of the collection the web archive has made. Archived material can be made available online or at local workstations at the archival institution, which is dependent on the rights holders of the page contents. In the case of the German National Library (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, DNB), which has the statutory mandate for long-term storage of all media works published in Germany and must ensure that these data are available to the general public, provision in the DNB's reading rooms is allowed without the expressed consent of the rights holders.
Access to archived websites can be provided by implementation of special software or via a standard web browser. The following four access options are used in web archives:
1. Hierarchical listing
The archived websites are listed hierarchically, e.g. in an expandable tree structure. The hierarchical structure can be based on collection categories, projects or events. Links to the individual mirrorings are at the lowest level of the hierarchy.
Metadata units for each website mirroring are recorded and can be searched. Each unit contains a link to access the mirroring. The web archive can be integrated in the library catalog system.
3. URL search
Websites are identified by their respective URL which must be known to perform a URL search in a web archive. The search result is a list of all mirrorings from which the URL can be accessed. Access via URL search is used by the software Wayback Machine which is in use at the world's largest web archive, the Internet Archive.
4. Full-text search
A full-text index is created for all archived websites, which allows users to search the textual website content. The list of results contains all mirrorings that contain the search item and the respective links to the archived mirrorings.
These four access options may be combined, e.g. the results of a full-text search can be structured hierarchically or filtered by metadata.