The hosts text file contains a database of domain names and their corresponding ip. The contents of the file are controlled by the user. A request to this file has higher priority than a request to DNS servers.

By writing the domain and ip in this file, your browser will look for the domain on this ip.
Thus you can, for example, set up a site on a new hosting without redirecting the domain itself, or while the domain is not yet purchased.

The file has a different location on different operating systems:

Operating systemLocationExample
Windows 95, 98, Me%windir%\c:\windows\hosts
Windows 2000, XP, Vista, 7%SystemRoot%\system32\drivers\etc\
(может быть переопределено в реестре)
Mac OS X/private/etc/hosts

Example content: localhost

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