Block Sites Hosts File – You may have heard of a computer’s hosts file. If not, you haven’t lost much. Literally, it is a file with “hosts” as the name. It does not have an extension that determines what type of file it is.
Therefore, the file itself is usually ineffective. However, when placed in a specific location inside your computer, it can be an effective tool for controlling access to the world outside the computer – the Internet. In this case, I will mention it
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If you are interested in a simple and effective way to block certain websites from a computer or are curious about what kind of magic this is, you are reading the right post.
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I’ll explain how the hosts file works, its location, and a quick way to edit it on your computer, be it Windows or Mac. If you’re a Linux user, chances are you don’t need help editing a random file.
Here is the hosts file on a Windows computer. Except for the last four bottom lines, the rest is the default content, which is as good as blank — all text following the hash (#) sign has no effect.
In programming, a comment is a way of explaining what a line of code does without affecting the code itself. The computer ignores the # symbol and the text that follows it on each line.
If the hosts file has a # at the beginning of each line, which is the default, it is as good as an empty file from the computer’s perspective.
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Effect. It’s there, but doesn’t do much more than have a brief description of what it is and how to use it.
In other words, you can delete the default hosts file, and nothing will happen. We don’t need it. And we can always rebuild it.
Before DNS servers existed – in the early days of inter-connected computers – the foundation of the Internet – the hosts file was the original way to bind a domain to an IP address.
A DNS server is like a public directory of the Internet. It directs you where you want to go.
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Whenever you access a website by its domain name, such as tech.com, the browser (Chrome, Firefox, Edge, etc.) first queries your DNS server.
For most homes, the Wi-Fi router has information about the DNS servers in use. Basically, it is an internet provider’s server.
This server then looks up the website’s domain name (aka web address or URL) and returns its IP address, which is mostly a string of random numbers, to the browser — every website lives on an IP address. The browser then follows that IP address to load the website.
This process is necessary because computers only understand numbers while humans are very bad at remembering them. This page appears on your screen now because such a process has worked.
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In many ways, a DNS server is similar to a once-common telephone directory service, where you only need to remember a person’s name and not their phone number.
Therefore, when you map a domain to a non-existent IP address or to the computer itself, you are effectively blocking the domain for users of the computer.
On localhost’s IP, the computer itself, and in effect, blocks the computer’s Facebook access. Specifically, when you go to facebook.com, you will get a message that the website does not exist or is unavailable.
This mapping takes effect system-wide and immediately, meaning it will affect all user accounts on the computer and you don’t even need to restart the computer.
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The way it works, every time you want to access a domain, such as enter it on a browser, the computer will check its hosts file for mappings, and if the domain is manually mapped, it will use that and now query won’t do. DNS server for the domain.
And you can manually map as many domains as you want — as long as you know what you’re doing and don’t abuse it.
Within the hosts file, each mapping entry (each domain) takes up one line. You can map multiple domains to a single IP. So use it
With that, let’s find out where this magnificent hosts file resides on your computer and how to edit it.
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In the rare case where Windows is installed on another drive instead of c:, change the drive letter accordingly.
Here is the location of the hosts file on a Windows computer. Note the address bar showing the path to the folder.
Now you can manage the file however you do with the file, including deleting, renaming, or copying it. By the way, if you move the hosts file to another location, it will have no effect.
It takes some work to open the hosts file for editing. Since it has no expansion, a normal double-click will not. Also, you need to open it with this
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To be able to make changes — otherwise the file is read-only and you can only view the contents.
But in general, you can open it the same way you would open any file using a text editor like Windows’ built-in Notepad application.
If you’re unfamiliar with the application or don’t know how to handle files in general, the quickest way to open a host for editing in Windows is to
Once done, save the file. (Use the Ctrl+S keyboard combo, or simply close the file and choose Save when prompted.)
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However, to test, make sure you go to a website page you haven’t visited recently to avoid local caching of content. Or clear browsing data first.
For Windows users, there is a simple free application that makes handling the hosts file a simple task, called HostsMan.
The application has a built-in hosts file editor and other tools for managing entries. It can also disable/enable the hosts file via a small icon in the notification area.
It’s generally not a good idea to use an app if it’s not necessary. But if you are interested in using the app, it can be downloaded through this link.
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By the way, the hosts file shares the same syntax across platforms. As a result, you can use the same file between Windows and macOS. Or you can copy the contents of a file between them.
As shown in the screenshot above, here are the steps to find the hosts file on Mac:
As in the Windows case above, you must use an admin-level account to be able to modify the hosts file on a Mac.
2. The hosts file will open in the nano app. Now you can use the arrow keys to move around and enter the required information.
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Before using the hosts file for blocking purposes, ask yourself why you only want to block the domain instead.
No matter what your answer is, this blocking mechanism applies when you want to control something that you don’t have (enough) control over. Examples:
A security measure, it is a control measure. Blocking a domain doesn’t make your computer more secure, it just prevents machines from accessing it.
By the way, if I know about the hosts file, which you do now, we have to assume that the bad guys know it too. Consequently, keep in mind that the file may be used for nefarious purposes, considering how easily it can be altered.
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Using a hosts file is the surest way to control the binding of a domain to an IP address in a computer, and it applies to everything. As a result, it is a straightforward and effective method of blocking certain websites from the machine, among other things.
Entering the hosts file one domain at a time can be time consuming. For this reason, there are many pre-made hosts files, where someone has prepared a long list of blocked domains, that are available for download.
However, be careful with these pre-packaged host files. They include hundreds of domains to block all kinds of things, including legitimate services. Not to mention that there may be malicious entries.
Many domains are interconnected, and blocking one prevents others from working properly. Blocking the wrong domain can cause important computer functions, such as auto-updates or security/integrity checks, to stop working.
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On top of that, a large hosts file can also adversely affect performance. It is a good idea to keep its size below a few hundred kilobytes. In general, you should use only those entries
It is a great tool when you use it properly for the right purpose. But it can also be a pain when you abuse it, or aren’t aware of it. It can cause a lot of unexpected connection problems — it’s like a phonebook that’s been deliberately altered.
It is a good practice to be aware of this file and use an empty (default) hosts file when troubleshooting your connection or connection-related problems. When in doubt, you can safely disable the file by renaming it, deleting it, or moving it away from the default location. Why do you want to know how to block websites? Maybe you want to keep your kids safe on the internet? Maybe you want to block
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