Mastering the Ubuntu Hosts File


The hosts file is a critical component in any operating system, including Ubuntu, acting as the first point of reference in mapping hostnames to IP addresses before accessing external DNS servers. Editing the Ubuntu hosts file allows you to override DNS settings, block websites, or set up local development environments. This blog post will provide a comprehensive guide on understanding, locating, and modifying the Ubuntu hosts file, equipping you with the knowledge to tailor your system's internet interactions according to your needs.

Understanding the Hosts File in Ubuntu

The hosts file in Ubuntu, as in other operating systems, is a plain text file that maps hostnames (such as to IP addresses (such as This system-level file is used by the operating system to resolve hostnames before querying external DNS servers, making it a powerful tool for network configuration and management.

Locating the Hosts File

In Ubuntu, the hosts file is located at /etc/hosts. You can view its contents using any text editor or command-line tool like cat, less, or nano. For example, to view the hosts file, you could use:

cat  /etc/hosts

Editing the Hosts File

Modifying the hosts file requires superuser privileges. You can use a command-line text editor like nano or vi to edit it. Here’s how you can edit the hosts file using nano:

  1. Open the Terminal.
  2. Enter the following command:
sudo nano /etc/hosts
  1. Make your desired changes to the file.

Common Modifications

  • Blocking Websites: To block a website, add a new line to the hosts file with the IP address followed by the domain you wish to block. For example:
  • Local Development: For local web development, you might map domain names to your local machine ( for testing purposes.
  • Network Testing: Redirect traffic from a real domain to another IP address for testing or debugging network configurations.

Saving Changes and Flushing DNS Cache

After editing and saving your changes in the hosts file, the effects should be immediate. However, if you notice that your changes are not taking effect, you may need to flush your system's DNS cache. Ubuntu typically does not cache DNS queries, but applications like web browsers might. Restarting the networking service or the affected applications usually forces them to recognize the changes to the hosts file.

Tips for Managing the Hosts File

  • Backup Before Editing: Always make a backup of the hosts file before making changes. This precaution allows you to restore the original settings if necessary.
  • Document Your Changes: Commenting your changes within the hosts file helps you remember why changes were made, aiding future troubleshooting or modifications.
  • Use Hostnames Wisely: Be cautious when redirecting common hostnames, as it can affect your system's ability to access certain internet resources.


The Ubuntu hosts file is a powerful tool for managing how your system interacts with the internet. Whether you're blocking unwanted websites, setting up a local development environment, or configuring network tests, understanding how to edit the hosts file is an essential skill for Ubuntu users. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can take full control over your system's DNS resolution process, tailoring it to meet your specific needs.