Scott Watermasysk

Still Learning to Code

Modifying Your Vista Hosts File in Just Six Steps

I guess some bad things can happen if a hosts file is changed without the user’s knoweledge. However, the number of steps required to do this on Windows Vista is a little over the top and cost me some valuable time this morning.

Before we go through the Vista steps, lets take a look at how you did this in previous versions of Windows and OS X.

Windows XP and Windows 2003

  1. Navigate to Windows > System32 > Drivers > etc
  2. Open the file (with no extension) hosts
  3. Make your changes and save the file.


  1. Navigate to /etc
  2. Open hosts (no extension) in your favorite editor (TextMate for me)
  3. Make your changes and save the file.
  4. OS X will then ask you for an administrator password before saving the file

Widows Vista

  1. Navigate to Windows > System32 > Drivers > etc
  2. Make a copy of this file and paste it some where else since you are no longer allowed to directly edit the file (I am guessing you could do a save as in step 3 as well)
  3. Open the file, make your changes, and save the file.
  4. Make a copy of your updated file and paste it over the original which brings up the new Vista copy dialog
    Vista Copy and Paste dialog
  5. Next, you are warned that you need to be an administrator to make this change.
    Vista administrator confirmation dialog
  6. Finally, you get to the UAC screen which again requires the same confirmation as the previous step.
    Vista UAC dialog

There are three steps in Windows XP and Window 2003 and a fourth in OS X. In an effort to add the fourth (security) step to Vista, they have added an additional 3 steps (4 if you count the fact you may need to restart your browser to see the changes).

We are not talking about a lot of extra work here, but IMO, this is complication for complication sake. Why not just show the UAC message when I try to save the file? Why show a dialog before UAC which essentially tells me the warns me about same thing UAC is warning me about?

I spent way too much time trying to get this to work early this morning, so hopefully this little rant helps someone else out in the future and is a reminder to everyone who designs software to remember even if they are simple steps, less is always better.