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In computing, a host file, stored on the computer's filesystem, is used to look up the Internet Protocol address of a device connected to a computer network. The host file describes a many-to-one mapping of device names to IP addresses. When accessing a device by name, the networking system will attempt to locate the name within the host file if it exists. Typically, this is used as a first means of locating the address of a system, before accessing the Internet domain name system. The reason for this is that the host file is stored on the computer itself and does not require any network access to be used, whereas DNS requires access to an external system, which is typically slower.
The host file itself may be located in different filesystem paths depending on the operating system.