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Open it with Notepad or any other plain-text editor.
If it contains one or more entries for "google.com" and/or "www.google.com", then it's been hacked. For example:
This would point your requests for google.com back to your own machine, and since you're not running a server for google.com, it would of course time out.
Either way it would be an excellent idea to scan your PC now and periodically for malware using Ad-Aware, SpyBot Search & Destroy, Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool, and any other free scanners from reputable sources that you can find. Also, set your IE Internet Zone to a higher security level to disable ActiveX by default, or use a safer browser for everyday use, such as Firefox or Opera, reserving IE for trusted sites and testing only.
The now-intermittent nature of the problem does point to a fault outside the machine, though. I'd suspect that one or more of your ISP's DNS servers (or perhaps those of an up-stream provider) got corrupted or poisoned. In that case, all you can do is check your local hosts file, flush your local DNS cache ("ipconfig /flushdns" on a PC), restart your browser, and if that doesn't help, then just wait for your ISP to sort things.
I did, on your recommendation, check the hosts file and it looks normal.
# Host Database
# localhost is used to configure the loopback interface
# when the system is booting. Do not change this entry.
There are a few other sites that seem to be giving me jip also. Rather irritating. Looks like I'll just have to sit it out.
There is a space. It got lost somewhere between the copy and the paste. ;)
All seems to be working OK now (touch wood). I cleared local DNS also (which is something I didn't even know about , so I've learned something), and the intermittent issues have cleared up also. At one point I couldn't even get Apple or Yahoo, but other sites worked fine, including Microsoft.
I'm sorry I posted this in the Google thread, but at first it was only Google that appeared unobtainable. I didn't think to try some of the other 'big boys'.
I'm just wondering if my ISPs IP addresses could have gone onto a spam blacklist temporarilly and now been talken off after sorting out whatever he problem was? It just seemed strange that this only affected some of the bigger sites.
Thanks for the responses.