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How to View the Site before the DNS Has Propagated

Until a domain name is registered and fully propagated, users can view their websites using either a browser addon or by editing their hosts file directly on their computer.

Important Notes:
  • HostGator does not endorse nor provide direct support to the browser addons or websites discussed below. These are only provided to you as options for viewing your website while your DNS is propagating.
  • It is also important to note that these third-party extensions and websites use their own interface to display how your websites would look like. They may or may not completely show all the features of your websites. Your website will work in full capacity once your DNS records have fully propagated.

Option 1 - Website Preview via Browser Extensions


Option 2 - Website Preview via Proxy Websites


Option 3 - Website Preview via the Hosts File

Editing your hosts file is a temporary measure to preview your site as it will load from your HostGator server. This lets you make changes on a server other than the one loaded by your domain when visitors access your page.

When finished, you will want to undo the changes you have made to your hosts file.

Note:

HostGator recommends changing your hosts file for development. It provides a stable environment for editing a website to work correctly with your domain. Other methods can cause configuration issues after development is complete.

Editing Your Hosts File

To change the host your domain loads from, you need to know the correct IP for your server. HostGator servers will require you to use the IP address displayed in your cPanel.

You can view your Site IP by accessing your cPanel and looking within the General Information section in your right-hand sidebar:

HostGator Cpanel Site IP


Editing System Files

Lastly, you may change the host your local computer loads your website from by directly editing your system's hosts file. This method will be easier if you are an experienced user of the operating system on your local PC.

All operating systems will have a hosts file like our example:

127.0.0.1 localhost
123.45.67.89 www.example.com
#98.76.54.32 www.another-example.com

Add the second line in this example to your hosts file, with the following edits:

  1. Replace 123.45.67.89 with the IP address from your cPanel.
  2. Replace www.example.com with your actual domain name.

You may deactivate a line to undo this change by prefacing it with a # (as in the third line above). This will cause the line to be ignored.

Note: Remember to undo the changes you make after you're done viewing your site, as any of these changes will prevent your domain from loading the correct DNS.

Click the links below to expand specific instructions for how to make this change your desired operating system:

Windows 8 and Windows 10
  1. Select the Start key and locate Notepad. (If you do not see it on your current Start page, begin typing Notepad and a search box will appear on the right side of the screen with a list of programs under it. Notepad should be at the top of this list.
  2. Right-click on Notepad. You will see options appear on the bottom portion of the Start Page.
  3. Select Run as administrator.
    Note: Performing this action may cause Windows User Account Control to prompt you with a warning, or if you are logged in as another user, a request for the Administrator password. This step is necessary to modify system files such as the hosts file.
  4. Click File in the menu bar at the top of Notepad and select Open.
  5. Click the drop-down box in the lower right-hand corner that is set to Text Documents (*.txt) and select All Files (*.*)
  6. Browse to C:\Windows\System32\Drivers\etc and open the hosts file.
  7. Make the needed changes, as shown above, and close Notepad.
  8. Save when prompted.

Windows 7 or Vista
  1. Browse to Start > All Programs > Accessories.
  2. Right-click Notepad, and select Run as administrator.
  3. Click Continue on the UAC prompt.
  4. Click File > Open.
  5. Browse to C:\Windows\System32\Drivers\etc.
  6. Change the file filter drop-down box from Text Documents (*.txt) to All Files (*.*).
  7. Select hosts, and click Open.
  8. Make the needed changes, as shown above, and close Notepad.
  9. Save when prompted.

Windows XP and Earlier
Note: Before reading these instructions, consider watching the video tutorial.
  1. Browse to Start > Find > Files and Folders.
  2. Select the hosts file in your Windows directory (or WINNT\system32\drivers\etc).
  3. Verify that the file is not read-only by right-clicking it, and choosing Properties.
  4. Open the file for editing with Notepad.
  5. There should already be an entry for localhost. Earlier versions of Windows have different formats for hosts file entries. Be sure to follow the same format as you find in your file when inserting the HostGator IP and the domain name:
On Windows 98 and Windows 95, the order may be hostname, IP address.

On Windows 2000 and Windows ME, the order is IP address, hostname.
  1. Make the needed changes and close Notepad.
  2. Save when prompted.

You may also need to reboot for the change to take effect. The next time you visit your domain, your browser will try to find the domain at the corresponding IP instead of looking up the IP through DNS.

Follow the instructions below to edit your hosts file if you are running Mac OS X.

  1. Open the Terminal application. Start by typing Terminal on the Spotlight or by going to Applications > Utilities > Terminal.
  2. Open the hosts file by typing in the Terminal that you have just opened:
      sudo nano /private/etc/hosts  
    Note: Some versions of Mac OS X will lock permissions on the hosts file (the file is marked as immutable). In the event this happens, use the following command instead: sudo chflags nouchg /private/etc/hosts
  3. Type your user password when prompted.
  4. The hosts file contains some comments (lines starting with the # symbol), as well as some default hostname mappings (e.g., 127.0.0.1 localhost). Simply append your new mappings underneath the default ones. You can navigate the file using the arrow keys.

    123.45.67.89 domain.com www.domain.com
     
    • Replace 123.45.67.89 with the server IP that HostGator provided you in your cPanel.
    • Replace domain.com with your actual domain name.
    • Additional domains, subdomains or addon domains (such as www.domain.com) can be added at the end of the line, separated by spaces.
  5. When done editing the hosts file, press Control-o to save the file.
  6. Press Enter on the filename prompt, and Control-x to exit the editor.

On Unix-based systems, you can find the hosts file at /etc/hosts. Most distributions of Unix will have terminal located in the same location.

To open the terminal:

  1. Go to Menu.
  2. Select Applications.
  3. Choose Accessories.
  4. Select Terminal.
  5. Open the hosts file by typing in the Terminal that you have just opened:
    sudo nano /etc/hosts
  6. Type your user password when prompted.
  7. The hosts file contains some comments (lines starting with the # symbol), as well as some default hostname mappings (e.g., 127.0.0.1 localhost). Simply append your new mappings underneath the default ones. You can navigate the file using the arrow keys.

    123.45.67.89 domain.com www.domain.com
     
    • Replace 123.45.67.89 with the server IP that HostGator provided you in your cPanel.
    • Replace domain.com with your actual domain name.
    • Additional domains, subdomains or addon domains (such as www.domain.com) can be added at the end of the line, separated by spaces.
  8. When done editing the hosts file, press Control-o to save the file.
  9. Press Enter on the filename prompt, and Control-x to exit the editor.

DNS Flush

Once you have modified your hosts file, it is recommended that you flush your DNS so that the new changes can be implemented more swiftly. DNS flushing must be done using the command line. Depending on your computer's OS, there will be different commands.

For more information on Flush DNS, please see the following related article: