Using the Windows Hosts File for Security and Privacy

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Employing the Windows Hosts file to prevent a PC from connecting to undesirable web addresses is a very old practice that is still being used by some as a security measure or to block ads and cookies. Experienced PC users will be familiar with the Hosts file but, if it is a new concept to you, you can read about how this simple text file works at this link. You should also look at what Gizmo wrote about the file in his newsletter ten years ago.

The Hosts file has its drawbacks and is not for everyone. Personally, I have experimented with using Hosts files in the past but have always ended up abandoning their use. Nonetheless, it is frequently mentioned as a security or privacy measure and it is worthwhile to know what it is. An application of the Hosts file to block Google ads is described by Gizmo here.

If you are familiar with the Hosts file and are interested in using one, a good source is this link.The link provides an up-to-date Hosts file with a collection of undesirable web addresses that it blocks. There is also useful information about how Host files work. Because antivirus programs often regard a change to the Hosts file as a malware attack, there are specific instructions on how to install the augmented Hosts file in various versions of Windows.

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs several websites with Windows how-to's, guides, and tutorials, including a site for learning about Windows and the Internet and another with Windows 7 tips.

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Comments

I've been downloading host file updates from http://winhelp2002.mvps.org/hosts.htm for MANY years!

It works with both my IE and Firefox browsers.
And doesn't slow either one down noticeably.

Since I started using it, I NEVER find myself losing control of my browser to some nefarious website. It also blocks a LOT of questionable pop-up advertising and cookie tracking.

It has caused a problem with several websites I visit often.
I simply would comment (#) those website lines in the file, and all is good! :->

The only drawback is that every time I download a new host file version, I have to apply those website exceptions. To help with that, I copy those lines to the top of the new file so I remember which ones to reapply. That's a small price to pay to keep control of my web surfing!

I tried using HOSTMAN a while back. It stuffed 150,000 entries into the HOSTS file. That many entries filled up the memory on my old XP PCs and slowed them to a crawl.

Be careful storing all the sites you want to avoid in the HOSTS file.