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How Do I Change My Hosts File?

What Is a Hosts File?

The hosts file allows you to set IP addresses for a domain on your local computer that may override the authoritative DNS. This will allow you to see what a domain will display if it is pointed to a different server. This article covers the following topics:


How to Recognize a Hosts File?

The hosts file is a plain text file, and is usually named hosts. A typical hosts file will have one or more lines referencing your local computer (as 'localhost') and will resemble this:

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

A hosts file can be edited to override your network settings and thus allow your local machine to view a website prior to the DNS changes propagating.

Why Change the Hosts File?

Changing 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.

This is very useful for development purposes, as you can work on your site on an alternate server using a hosts file while visitors may still visit and use your existing site.

HostGator recommends changing your hosts file for development. It provides the most stable development environment. Other methods can cause configuration issues after development is complete.

Editing Your Hosts File

To change the host your domain loads from, you will 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 IP by accessing your cPanel and looking within the Account Information section in your left hand sidebar:

Note: To view this section, your cPanel theme must be set to HG. You can change your cPanel theme by clicking the Change Style icon within cPanel.

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 and 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
  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 dropdown 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/host
  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 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: