What Are DNS Records? Types & Lookup Tools Explained

What Are DNS Records? Types & Lookup Tools Explained

DNS records are instructions that live in Domain Name System (DNS) servers and provide information about a domain, including its associated IP addresses, mail servers, and other data.

This article delves into what are DNS records, which types are used, and details the best lookup tools to find DNS records for any domain.

Takeaways
  • DNS records serve as the internet’s address book, linking your domain name to the server IP, allowing you access to websites
  • There are many types of DNS records such as A DNS record, AAAA record, CNAME record, and more
  • DNS Record lookup tools can help you track DNS records used on a specific domain

What Are DNS Records?

DNS records are data entries that store essential information about a domain’s network configuration.

Each DNS record serves a specific purpose in translating human-readable domain names into the corresponding IP addresses or providing other vital information for internet communication.

In addition to IP addresses and mail server details, DNS records contain information about:

  • Alternative domain names or subdomains that point to the primary domain
  • Details about the domain administrator, such as their email address, providing a contact point for technical issues or inquiries
  • Security policies, domain ownership verification tokens, or settings for email authentication
  • Information about the locations (hostnames) and protocols (ports) for various internet services associated with the domain
  • Data for managing how traffic is distributed across different servers
  • Information that helps in directing internet traffic based on the geographic location of the user
  • Instructions on how long a record should be cached before it needs to be refreshed

Zone Files vs. DNS Records

DNS records and zone files are the same, though it’s worth noting that DNS records are contained inside zone files that hold all the DNS records for a particular domain. That way, DNS servers can easily manage and respond to DNS queries efficiently.

DNS Records List: Most Common Types of DNS Records

DNS records encompass various types, each tailored to a specific function. Some common DNS record types include:

  1. A Record

The primary purpose of an A Record is to map a domain name to an IP address. It essentially acts as a bridge between human-readable domain names and the corresponding numerical IP addresses.

This record type is important for web servers, email servers, and any other services that require IP address resolution.

When a user enters a domain name in their web browser, the A Record ensures that the request is directed to the correct server’s IP address, enabling successful communication.

  1. AAAA Record in DNS

The AAAA Record, also known as an IPv6 Address Record, serves a similar purpose as the A Record but is designed for the IPv6 protocol.

As IPv4 addresses become increasingly scarce, IPv6 is becoming more prevalent to accommodate the growing number of devices connected to the internet.

AAAA Records are used to map a domain name to an IPv6 address, allowing devices to communicate using the IPv6 protocol. This record type supports the transition to IPv6, ensuring that modern internet services can function seamlessly.

  1. CNAME Record

CNAME Records, or Canonical Name Records, are used to create aliases within the domain name system.

They point one domain or subdomain to another domain. This is particularly useful for creating subdomains or providing alternative names for resources like load balancers.

For example, you can use a CNAME Record to alias “blog.example.com” to “www.example.com,” making it easier for users to access the same content using different domain names.

CNAME Records are versatile and help streamline domain management.

  1. MX Records

MX Records (Mail Exchange Records) are crucial for handling email delivery. They specify the mail servers responsible for receiving email messages for a domain.

If you send an email to an address within a domain, your email server consults the domain’s MX Records to determine where to deliver the message.

MX records ensure that emails reach the correct mail servers and are subsequently routed to the intended recipients.

Properly configured MX Records are essential for reliable email communication.

  1. TXT Record

TXT or Text Records, store arbitrary text data associated with a domain. They have a wide range of applications, including domain verification, Sender Policy Framework (SPF) records, and various other purposes.

One common use of TXT Records is to authenticate email senders. SPF records, for instance, specify which servers are authorized to send email on behalf of a domain, helping prevent email spoofing and phishing attacks.

TXT Records can also provide additional information about a domain, aiding in domain management and security.

  1. NS Record

NS Records, or Name Server Records help with DNS delegation. They identify the authoritative name servers for a domain, indicating where to find DNS information for that domain.

When a DNS query is made for a domain, the NS Records point to the name servers that can provide authoritative answers.

NS Records are essential for dividing the DNS hierarchy and distributing the responsibility of managing domain information across different name servers.

  1. SOA Record

The SOA Record, or Start of Authority Record, is a fundamental element of a DNS zone. It designates the authoritative name server for the zone and includes essential parameters such as the refresh rate, retry rate, and time-to-live (TTL) values.

The SOA Record ensures the integrity and consistency of DNS data within the zone. It plays a crucial role in DNS zone management and helps prevent inconsistencies in DNS resolution.

  1. SRV Record

SRV Records, or Service Records specify the location of services associated with a domain. They include information about the service, protocol, port, and target domain or host.

SRV Records are particularly valuable for applications that require service discovery, such as SIP (Session Initiation Protocol), XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol), and LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol).

These records enable clients to locate and connect to the appropriate service instances within a domain, enhancing the functionality of various network services.

  1. PTR Record

PTR Records, or Pointer Records, serve a unique role in reverse DNS lookup. While most DNS records map domain names to IP addresses, PTR Records do the opposite, mapping IP addresses back to domain names.

They are commonly used in email servers and network troubleshooting to verify the authenticity of IP addresses and ensure that reverse DNS resolution is accurate.

PTR Records play a crucial role in email security and help prevent spam and fraudulent email activity by associating IP addresses with legitimate domain names.

Less Common DNS Record Examples

Record TypeDescription
AFSDB RecordSpecifies AFS (Andrew File System) database server locations for a distributed file system.
ALIAS RecordSimilar to CNAME, it maps one domain to another, coexisting with other records like MX, pointing to a hostname rather than an IP address.
APL RecordContains address range information, primarily used in IP Address-to-Location mapping.
CAA RecordSpecifies authorized certificate authorities (CAs) for issuing domain certificates, enhancing SSL/TLS security.
DNSKEY RecordHolds the public key for DNSSEC (DNS Security Extensions) authentication, crucial for verifying DNS data authenticity.
CDNSKEY RecordSimilar to DNSKEY, used in DNSSEC delegation, providing child zones with public keys for verifying DNSSEC signatures.
CERT RecordContains public key certificates for various purposes like email, SSL/TLS, and IPsec.
DCHID RecordUsed with DHCP for identifying hosts on a network.
DNAME RecordEnables domain redirection at the DNS level, aliasing an entire domain tree to another.
HINFO RecordProvides information about the CPU and operating system of a host.
HIP RecordPart of the Host Identity Protocol, used to securely associate hosts with cryptographic identities.
IPSECKEY RecordContains information for establishing IPsec (Internet Protocol Security) connections, including public keys and security parameters.
LOC RecordSpecifies geographical location information (latitude, longitude, altitude) for a host or a network resource.
NAPTR RecordUsed in various applications, including SIP for VoIP and ENUM for telephone number mapping.
NSEC RecordDNSSEC-related record indicating the non-existence of specific domain names in a zone, linking to the next record name in the zone.
RP RecordContains contact information for the administrator responsible for a domain.
SPF RecordSpecifies servers authorized to send email on behalf of a domain, reducing email spoofing and spam.
SSHFP RecordStores cryptographic fingerprints of SSH (Secure Shell) keys for secure server authentication.

DNS Records Lookup Tools

DNS lookup tools are specialized utilities designed to query and retrieve the DNS records of a specific domain.

These tools can help you find important information such as IP addresses, mail servers, and name servers associated with a domain, which is essential for troubleshooting, setting up domain configurations, and ensuring proper domain resolution on the internet.

Here are the 5 best DNS records lookup tools.

  1. MxToolbox

Final: What Are DNS Records? Types & Lookup Tools Explained

Image Source: MxToolbox (Screenshot)

MxToolbox provides instant DNS records lookup with direct queries to the domain’s authoritative name server. It is designed for prioritizing records and showing immediate changes.

  • Instant DNS records listing
  • Prioritization of DNS records
  • Direct query to authoritative name server for real-time results
  • Default returns IP address for domain names

Visit MXToolbox

  1. DNS Checker

Final: What Are DNS Records? Types & Lookup Tools Explained

Image Source: DNS Checker (Screenshot)

DNS Checker allows for checking specific DNS record types individually or all at once, catering to detailed and custom DNS queries. It focuses on ease of use and detailed information provision for various DNS records, including A records.

  • Check specific or all DNS records simultaneously
  • Provides detailed information for DNS records like A records
  • Useful for verifying domain to IPv4 address mappings

Visit DNS Checker

  1. Nslookup.io

Final: What Are DNS Records? Types & Lookup Tools Explained

Image Source: NsLookup.io (Screenshot)

nslookup.io is a user-friendly web-based DNS client that provides a comprehensive view of a website’s DNS records. It mirrors the functionality of traditional command-line tools with the accessibility of a browser.

  • Web-based DNS record querying
  • Displays comprehensive DNS records
  • Alternative to command-line tools like ‘dig’ and ‘nslookup’

Visit NsLookup.io

  1. DNS-Lookup

Final: What Are DNS Records? Types & Lookup Tools Explained

Image Source: DNS-Lookup (Screenshot)

DNS-Lookup is a tool for performing deep DNS record analysis, offering in-depth details about standard DNS record types. It is designed to find IP addresses and deliver extensive information on records such as A, MX, NS, SOA, and TXT.

  • Deep DNS lookup of any URL
  • In-depth details on common DNS record types
  • Designed to reveal extensive domain information

Visit DNS-Lookup

  1. Constellix

Final: What Are DNS Records? Types & Lookup Tools Explained

Image Source: Constellix (Screenshot)

Constellix provides a global DNS lookup service, showing details from various DNS server locations around the world. It is known for listing DNS records in priority order and for the option to select from a multitude of server locations.

  • Global DNS lookup from different server locations
  • Lists DNS records in priority order
  • Provides option to choose from 32 server locations

Visit Constellix

Final Word: Understanding Records in DNS

Understanding the various records in DNS is pivotal for domain management and troubleshooting. But, that’s not enough to get your website online.

If you need help hosting a website online for your business, take a look at our list of best website builders and choose from the list of best web hosting services.

Next Steps: What Now?

Learn More About DNS

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need DNS records?

Yes, DNS records are essential as they map your domain name to the IP address of your server, making it possible for users to access your website through a familiar domain name rather than a complex string of numbers.

Is it OK to delete DNS records?

It’s important to be cautious when deleting DNS records. If a record is no longer needed or is incorrect, it may be safe to delete. However, accidental deletion of necessary records can lead to website downtime or email delivery issues.

What is DNS in simple words?

DNS, or Domain Name System, is like the phonebook of the internet. It translates human-friendly domain names (like www.example.com) into IP addresses that computers use to identify each other on the network.

Sonja Vitas
Edited By:
Sonja Vitas
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