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Testing your website before pointing your domain at our servers
Posted Monday April 14th 2014 / Category Web Hosting General

Many users opt to test their websites before modifying the name servers on their domain to point to our servers.

This allows you to develop the website, whilst the old one runs elsewhere. There are two options for such testing, one designed for novice users, and another designed for advanced users.

Using the VIPControl temporary URL viewer

This is the easiest method for testing your website. It does not however, support .htaccess functions. If you wish to use .htaccess functions, please refer to the other methods detailed below.

  1. Login to your VIPControl.
  2. Click the Manage my Hosting button on your VIPControl dashboard.
  3. Click the blue cog button under “actions” on the relevant hosting service and then select Temporary URL from the options.
  4. Enable the feature, and browse to the URL provided.

Please Note: This will NOT work fully for WordPress sites and you will need to use the below method to properly test your site while it’s not live.

Modifying your computer’s Hosts file

This method involves making a small adjustment to your computer’s Hosts file.

Doing this will essentially trick your computer into loading data for a requested site from the server IP address you provide in the hosts file rather than looking up where the domain points to on the internet from it’s nameservers.

Depending on your operating system, the location of your hosts file may vary which we will go into below.

CAUTION: You may not be able to access this file on a public or office computer as it will be locked down. As such this will not be an available option from such a device.

We recommend not using this on a system not owned by yourself.

Windows 7, 10:

You can find the hosts file under C:\Windows\system32\drivers\etc\hosts

To get here quickly from the desktop press your windows key and type in “run” and press enter, this should present something like the below in the bottom left of your screen:

In the box provided enter  the following:

C:\Windows\system32\drivers\etc\

and press OK to open the folder containing your hosts file.

You then just need to right click on “hosts” and select “open with”, On the prompt that opens up you should select “Notepad” and then OK.

(If you receive an admin confirmation pop-up, press OK)

It should look something like the below once opened:

At the very bottom of the document below the lines starting with hashes (#) you need to enter the IP address of the server you want your site to load from then the domain name for your site after one space like below:

Once this is added you just need to save this document by selecting File > Save, then close it.

Finally close off the host file and open a fresh browser of your choice to test your site, It will now load from the IP address you specified in the host file on this device only, all others will still load from the nameservers that are set on the domain.

Linux and MacOS X:

You can find the hosts file under /etc/hosts

The easiest way to edit this will be with Finder, So open a new Finder window.

  • Select Applications from the left sidebar
  • Double click on Utilities from the list given in the right side.
  • Double click Terminal to open it

Type in the following:

sudo nano /etc/hosts

on the prompt and hit enter.

This will request the devices administrator password to continue.  Once the correct password is supplied it will display something like the below:

In this file we just need to add 2 lines, One for your root domain and one for www. Just to cover any type of configuration your site may be using. It should be set as follows:

IP Address> “domain.name”
IP Address> “www.domain.name”

Once complete press “CTRL + O” to commit the changes then “CTRL + X” to exit back to terminal.

When you exit it will return you to the terminal prompt, you will need to run the following command to flush your system network cache to make sure it recognises the changes we just made.

Type in:

sudo killall -HUP mDNSResponder

and then hit enter,

Again, This will request the devices administrator password to continue.

Finally close off the terminal and open a fresh browser of your choice to test your site, It will now load from the IP address you specified in the host file on this device only, all others will still load from the nameservers that are set on the domain.

Can’t find the answers you're looking for? Check out these other methods of support!