The Hosts file is more of a legacy of early IP networks and was never really designed for large-scale blocking of unwanted sites. IE-Spyad, SpywareBlaster and Peer Guardian are better alternatives for blacklisting outbound connections.
Hosts File FAQS: http://www.mvps.org/winhelp2002/hostsfaq.htm
How to Use a Hosts File:http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/tutorials/hosts-files-explained/http://castlecops.com/article-5660-nested-0-0.htmlhttp://www.mvps.org/winhelp2002/hosts.htm
Editor's Note posted at mvps.org: In most cases a large HOSTS file (over 135 kb) tends to slow down the machine. This only occurs in W2000 and XP. Windows 98 and ME are not affected.
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• Custom Hosts files available for download:
Mike's Ad Blocking Hosts file: http://everythingisnt.com/NoAdHOSTS.exe
MVPS HOSTS File zipped version: http://www.mvps.org/winhelp2002/hosts.zip
MVPS HOSTS File text version: http://www.mvps.org/winhelp2002/hosts.txt
• Free tools:
HostsMan HOSTS file manager [WIN 9x/ME/NT/2K/XP]
An application to manage your Windows HOSTS file. It is mainly intended to block specific domains (mostly advertising servers) by redirecting them to localhost, but can also be used to add any other domain/Ip combination that you want to be included in the HOSTS file. In addition to the editing features, HostsMan can prevent other programs from writing to the HOSTS, import and merge Hosts files, resolve IP addresses and mark potential hijack entries.
Download Hostsman from: http://www.snapfiles.com/get/hostsman.html
HOSTER [WIN 9x/ME/NT/2K/XP]
A tool to view the hosts file, set it to read, restore, backup and general edit and repair.
Download the Hoster from: http://www.funkytoad.com/download/hoster.zip