Sometimes your antivirus will tell you that you have host hijacks or host file hijacks, but not elaborate on how to fix them. Some people charge way too much to fix them. Here’s how to fix host hijacks or host file hijacks for free.
A former classmate’s computer suddenly stopped letting him get to search engines. Aside from that, his computer appeared to be normal.
Fortunately he had some antivirus and antispyware software installed, so he was able to run it and get a relatively clean bill of health, but he still couldn’t use Google or Bing or Yahoo.
One of the pieces of software he ran mentioned a host hijack or hosts file hijack, but didn’t offer to clean it up without ponying up some serious bucks.
That was enough to tell me how to clean it up though. You don’t have to buy anything.
I just had him load c:\windows\system32\drivers\etc\hosts into Notepad, delete everything, and re-save the file. That’s the quick and dirty fix. Or maybe it’s the inelegant caveman fix. But it’s fine for step 1.
Step 2 involves a more proper fix. Next, visit Microsoft’s knowledge base at http://support.microsoft.com/kb/972034. Copy the text from the proper hosts file from that page into Notepad, and re-save.
The file for Windows XP and Server 2003 also works for Windows 2000 and NT4 if you’re still running those for some reason. But I hope you aren’t running any of those now.
After saving the file, I had him re-scan and make sure his system stayed clean. It did.
So there’s no reason at all to pay for software to clean up a hosts file hijack. It’s pretty much the simplest kind of malware there is to clean up.
It’s not uncommon for power users to tinker with their hosts files in a non-malicious way. The utility Hostsman is an example of such a tool.
I made a shortcut to open Hosts directly without having to wade through Windows Explorer:
I keep it on my desktop and add to it all the time to block offending advertising sites. I also keep a backup, hosts.bak, in case something goes wrong.