NOTE: If you need to make a hosts file modification in Windows, please see our Modifying Your Hosts File article instead.

Like many Unix-based and Unix-like operating systems, it is possible to change the hosts file on your Mac to manually set a domain to a certain server.

Changing this file will override any DNS settings you might receive from your ISP, so this is a good way to test a site before you have transferred the domain from your old host to us.

Modifying the hosts file in Mac OS X 10.2 and later is a pretty easy task, but it must be done as the “root” user in the terminal. This change will point ONLY your Mac to your site with us. It will not affect other computers' access to your site at your former host.

Steps to editng your hosts file

  1. Open the Mac's Terminal.
  2. You may either type Terminal on the Spotlight, or by going into Applications -> Utilities -> Terminal.

  3. Open the hosts file for editing.
  4. In the terminal window you just opened copy/paste the command string below, and press return.

    sudo nano /private/etc/hosts

    You'll be prompted to enter your Mac user's password. NOTE: you won't see the cursor move. This is normal, so press return when done.

  5. Edit the hosts file by adding these two lines to the bottom of the file.

    For example, it should look like:

    Make sure that there is a space between the IP and the URL! Otherwise, the rule will not work.

    Be sure to place with your actual domain name. If you're not sure which IP address to use, please contact our Support Department for further assistance.

  7. Save save your changes by pressing control-o on your keyboard then return to accept the filename. Exit the editor by pressing control-x. This takes you back to the terminal screen.
  8. You may need to flush your Mac's DNS cache, so copy/paste the below command string into terminal, and press return.
  9. dscacheutil -flushcache

    You may have to add sudo to this command, for example:
    sudo dscacheutil -flushcache

    This completes the hosts file modification, so you should now be able to see your site here with us using your domain in your browser's address bar.

    When testing is complete you may undo these changes by repeating the steps above but removing the information entered in step 3.

    If you are running a Windows based system, please  see our general hosts file article.

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n/a Points
2014-05-07 11:50 am

In step #4 when I press control-x nothing happens, so I cannot clear my cache per step 5.

11,156 Points
2014-05-07 11:54 am
Within the nano text editor, ctrl+x will indeed quit the exitor that is running inside the terminal window. Be sure that you are pressing ctrl+x and not command+x.
n/a Points
2014-06-10 10:30 am

I am stuck on step 4 as well. I pushed both control-x and control+x and it wont go back. So I'm not sure it saved. 

11,156 Points
2014-06-10 10:36 am
Ctrl+c will also kill the process as well.
n/a Points
2014-06-10 10:50 am

I tried the control (+/=) bottom and c. And still do nothing. I guess what should i be looking for because All i'm seeing is the host database. 

11,156 Points
2014-06-10 1:22 pm
Based on your reply, it sounds like you're trying to press 3 different buttons at one. To clarify, press the control and c buttons at the same time, and not any additional keys.
n/a Points
2014-09-24 11:37 pm

you are missing a step between contrl-o and control-x you need to hit enter

n/a Points
2014-11-20 7:40 pm
It would help if u added sudo in front of the dscacheutil -flushcache command for flushing the DNS since it wont work without sudo added to it. some people are new to linux commands so it would help if it is added.
13,552 Points
2015-02-19 2:38 pm
Hello Muhammad,

Thank you for your helpful suggestion. I have added this to the article as recommended.

We welcome any additional suggestions you may have.

Thank you,
n/a Points
2015-02-19 8:40 am

I followed instructions. but How can I see the website????  You did not explain it here.  Is it locahost/  Please advise.

13,552 Points
2015-02-19 2:26 pm
Hello Rachel,

Thank you for your question. After changing your hosts file, you will then navigate to your domain.

For example, if you create:

You will test by navigating to:

Be sure to replace with your actual domain name, and replace the with your actual shared IP address.

Thank you,
n/a Points
2015-03-04 8:45 pm
brilliant thanks for a well detailed easy to understand process for a newbie to this backend stuff much appreciated

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