Previewing Websites Without DNS

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Previewing Websites without DNS

Previewing your website before updating your domain’s nameservers allows you to stage and test your setup without redirecting viewers from your live site running on your old host. This is done with an entry to your local system’s hosts file.

A hosts file is used to map specific hostnames to IP addresses, and takes precedence over name resolution provided by DNS queries. By manually specifying an IP/hostname pair, web traffic sent to the given domain is directed to the given IP address, regardless of the domain’s actual A records. If these terms are unfamiliar, see our DNS guide for more information.

Find Your Linode’s IP Address

  1. Log in to the Linode Manager.
  2. Click the Linodes tab.
  3. Select your Linode.
  4. Click the Remote Access tab. The webpage shown below appears.

    Select a data center.

  5. Copy the addresses in the Public IPs section. In this example, the Linode’s IPv4 address is 96.126.108.183 and its IPv6 address is 2600:3c03::f03c:91ff:fedf:d693.

Edit Your Hosts File

You will need root access on Linux and macOS to edit the system’s hosts file, or administrative privileges for Windows.

Windows

  1. Navigate to C:\Windows\System32\Drivers\etc in Windows Explorer.

    The path to the hosts file in Windows.

  2. Open the hosts file. Unless you’ve opened it before and created a file type association, Windows will ask you what program to open it in. Any text editor will work. WordPad is included in Windows by default, and was selected in the image below.

    Windows asks what program to open the file in.

  3. Add the IPv4 or IPv6 address of your Linode, depending on which you’ll be testing with (if not both), followed by the domain you want to test. For example:

    203.0.113.4    example.com
    2001:DB8::/3    example.com
    

Mac OS X and Linux

  1. Open /etc/hosts in your preferred text editor.

  2. Add the IPv4 or IPv6 address of your Linode, depending on which you’ll be testing with (if not both), followed by the domain you want to test. For example:

    203.0.113.4    example.com
    2001:DB8::/3    example.com
    

Flush the System’s DNS Cache

Windows

  1. Click the Start Menu.
  2. Type Command Prompt.
  3. Right click on the menu entry and choose Run as Administrator. Run the command:

    ipconfig /flushdns
    

macOS / OS X

See Reset the DNS cache in OS X on support.apple.com.

Linux with systemd

sudo systemctl restart network.service

Testing

Navigate to your domain in a web browser:

Our specified domain directed to our Linode.

Once testing is complete or you no longer need the redirect, you should comment out the new line in your hosts file by adding a # in front of it, or delete the line entirely.

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This guide is published under a CC BY-ND 4.0 license.