Thursday Tech Tip: Custom Hosts file

Well, I realized last Saturday that I never did a tech tip last week, so here’s an extra long one for today. If you don’t know what a hosts file is, then you probably don’t have a custom one and I highly recommend that you read on. You also need to check out mvps.org.

A hosts file is like an personal address book. Whenever you type a website name into your browser (like www.thestonecrew.com) your computer checks your hosts file to find the IP address (a bunch of numbers) of that site, so it knows where to go. If the address isn’t there, it consults a DNS server (kind of like a large phone book for website names and IP addresses). Usually your computer ends up sending a query to the DNS server because you don’t typically put anything in your hosts file. A custom hosts file, when properly set up, can stop requests to IP address that are annoying (ads) or malicious (hijackers).

Are you lost? There’s a great explanation here.

Basically, a custom hosts file is a great thing to have because it adds a layer of protection to your computer by blocking annoying and malicious websites and ads. For example, the hosts file that I use from myps.org blocks the adds on myspace.com.

So here’s what you need to do:

  1. Go to www.mvps.org/winhelp2002/hosts.htm and read about what a hosts file is and what it does.
  2. Download the hosts file here (this file is located at the above link).
  3. Unzip the file (in Windows XP you will “extract” the file)
  4. Double click on the .bat file.
  5. You should almost immediately see a blue screen that says something to the effect of “press any key to continue”. Press any key. Congratulations, you’ve installed your custom hosts file (if you want, you can delete the zip file and the extracted files).

We’re not done yet! Now that you’ve done this, your hosts file will be large and can slow your computer down a bit. According to www.mvps.org:

Editors Note: in most cases a large HOSTS file (over 135 kb) tends to slow down the machine. This only occurs in W2000/XP/Vista. Windows 98 and ME are not affected.

To resolve this issue (manually) open the “Services Editor

  • Start | Run (type) “services.msc” (no quotes)
  • Scroll down to “DNS Client“, Right-click and select: Properties
  • Click the drop-down arrow for “Startup type
  • Select: Manual, or Disabled (recommended) click Apply/Ok and restart.

Don’t worry if this seems a bit “techy”. It is, but it’s well worth it.

MVPS constantly updates there hosts file, so you’ll want to register for their email updates (it’s free). They’ll send you an email about once a month with links to the updated .zip file.

One more thing, this is all related to XP, and NOT Vista. If you use Vista, check out this page for detailed instructions.

Author: erik

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1 Comment

  1. I read your blogs everyday…everday except Thursday that is. Tech Time is killing me!

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