When I open the file with TextEdit (I don't want (truly, I am not able) to use vim), it is seen as "locked", even if I modify the permissions of the file via the "Get Info" window.

How can I modify the hosts file with TextEdit?

  • 4
    I found nano to be a more approachable terminal-based text editor than vim for simple task like this. – Édouard Mar 8 '14 at 12:58

In one line, from Terminal:

sudo -b "/Applications/Textedit.app/Contents/MacOS/TextEdit" /etc/hosts

Make your changes, save and close.

  • 3
    I'm on Mountain Lion and this doesn't work for me unfortunately. Whenever I try to change something I get an error "You don't own the file hosts and don't have permission to write to it". – Saaru Lindestøkke May 31 '15 at 19:37
sudo nano /private/etc/hosts

to edit the hosts file within Terminal, Control-O to save, then hit enter

  • This is correct and should be used instead of opening with TextEdit (since that hasn't worked since OS X Lion rolled out). – CodeBiker Nov 17 '20 at 18:10
  1. Open TextEdit as sudo

    sudo -b /Applications/TextEdit.app/Contents/MacOS/TextEdit
  2. Open /etc/hosts in this new TextEdit instance using any of the following methods:

    • Append the path to the end of the previous command
    • Use File → Open
    • Drag the file to the sudo'd TextEdit on the Dock

Alternatively, you can edit in Terminal using nano:

SUDO_EDITOR=nano sudo -e /etc/hosts

Using sudo -e ensures that temporary files etc. are handled in the proper way and you don't run into permission issues with them. nano is a simple console-based editor which is quite user-friendly.


You could try TextWrangler for this sort of thing; much more capable than TextEdit, and if you use the direct install from BareBones Software instead of the App Store version, it will happily open locked files. When you try, it asks permission, reminding you that you are not a member of the required group, but password entry will allow you to open and edit the file. Plus, it has optional command line additions (also not built in to App Store version) that will allow you to use TextWrangler by entering edit (name of file) to open things directly from Terminal. Open File dialog has a handy "show invisibles" option to help you open and edit hidden or dot-prefixed files too. It's a free app so no risk in trying.

  • 2
    Update for posterity: TextWrangler is now being deprecated, so BBEdit instead (TextWrangler was a "light" version of BBEdit, current unlicensed versions of BBEdit will have the same functionality as TextWrangler after the demo period expires. Switching to BBEdit even retains your old TextWrangler preferences - which is a nice touch. – dr.nixon Apr 3 '17 at 17:49

If you like simple, you can research vim tool which installed on MacOS: sudo vi /etc/hosts


I'm using macOS Big Sur and this is what worked for me:

sudo vi /etc/hosts

When I tried to modify the file using:

sudo open /etc/hosts

I got this error message

You don’t own the file “hosts” and don’t have permission to write to it. You can duplicate this document and edit the duplicate. Only the duplicate will include your changes. [Cancel] [Duplicate]

  • Not sure how this adds to the list of answers already given. – nohillside Dec 30 '20 at 10:34

I am in HighSierra, and I remember well from Lion and later until including HighSierra that you select "Hosts" and open it with Textedit without any ado.

  • What you posted really doesn't answer the question that was asked and I'd encourage you to reread the OP! – user3439894 Jan 3 '19 at 18:56
  • FWIW I opened the hosts file in TextEdit under macOS High Sierra and as soon as I started to type in it, I got... "You don’t own the file “hosts” and don’t have permission to write to it. You can duplicate this document and edit the duplicate. Only the duplicate will include your changes. [Cancel] [Duplicate]" The hosts file belongs to the root user and while anyone can easily open the hosts file in TextEdit, one cannot just edit it unless opened as root, as suggested in the accepted answer, although that too may have issues all these years later. – user3439894 Jan 3 '19 at 18:56

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