Domain name resolution

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In general, a domain name represents an IP address and is associated to it in the Domain Name System (DNS). This article explains how to configure domain name resolution and resolve domain names.

Name Service Switch

The Name Service Switch (NSS) facility is part of the GNU C Library (glibc) and backs the getaddrinfo(3) API, used to resolve domain names. NSS allows system databases to be provided by separate services, whose search order can be configured by the administrator in nsswitch.conf(5). The database responsible for domain name resolution is the hosts database, for which glibc offers the following services:

Systemd provides three NSS services for hostname resolution:

Resolve a domain name using NSS

NSS databases can be queried with getent(1). A domain name can be resolved through NSS using:

$ getent hosts domain_name
Note: While most programs resolve domain names using NSS, some may read /etc/resolv.conf and/or /etc/hosts directly. See Network configuration#Local hostname resolution.

Glibc resolver

The glibc resolver reads /etc/resolv.conf for every resolution to determine the nameservers and options to use.

resolv.conf(5) lists nameservers together with some configuration options. Nameservers listed first are tried first, up to three nameservers may be listed. Lines starting with a number sign (#) are ignored.

Note: The glibc resolver does not cache queries. To improve query lookup time you can set up a caching resolver. See #Resolvers for more information.

Overwriting of /etc/resolv.conf

Network managers tend to overwrite /etc/resolv.conf, for specifics see the corresponding section:

To prevent programs from overwriting /etc/resolv.conf you can also write-protect it by setting the immutable file attribute:

# chattr +i /etc/resolv.conf
Tip: If you want multiple processes to write to /etc/resolv.conf, you can use resolvconf.

Limit lookup time

If you are confronted with a very long hostname lookup (may it be in pacman or while browsing), it often helps to define a small timeout after which an alternative nameserver is used. To do so, put the following in /etc/resolv.conf.

options timeout:1

Hostname lookup delayed with IPv6

If you experience a 5 second delay when resolving hostnames it might be due to a DNS-server/Firewall misbehaving and only giving one reply to a parallel A and AAAA request.[1] You can fix that by setting the following option in /etc/resolv.conf:

options single-request

Local domain names

If you want to be able to use the hostname of local machine names without the fully qualified domain names, then add a line to /etc/resolv.conf with the local domain such as:


That way you can refer to local hosts such as as simply mainmachine1 when using the ssh command, but the drill command still requires the fully qualified domain names in order to perform lookups.


Tango-view-fullscreen.pngThis article or section needs expansion.Tango-view-fullscreen.png

Reason: Fill in the unknowns. Mention dingo, maybe below table because it only works with one provider and therefore doesn't really fit into the table. (Discuss in Talk:Domain name resolution#)

The Glibc resolver provides only the most basic necessities, it does not cache queries nor provides any security features. If you require more functionality, use another resolver.

  • The drill or dig lookup utilities report the query time.
  • A router usually sets its own caching resolver as the network's DNS server thus providing DNS cache for the whole network.
  • If it takes too long to switch to the next DNS server you can try decreasing the timeout.

In the table below, the columns have the following meaning:

  • Cache: caches the DNS queries to improve lookup times of subsequent identical requests.
  • Recursor: can recursively query the domain name starting from the DNS root zone.
  • resolvconf compatibility: can acquire name servers and search domains, to use for forwarding requests, from software that sets them using resolvconf.
  • Validates DNSSEC: validates DNS query responses using DNSSEC.
  • DNS over TLS: supports forwarding using the DNS over TLS protocol.
  • DNS over HTTPS: supports forwarding using the DNS over HTTPS protocol.
Resolver Cache Recursor resolvconf compatibility Validates DNSSEC DNS over TLS DNS over HTTPS
glibc No No openresolv No No No
BIND Yes Yes openresolv subscriber Yes ? ?
dnscrypt-proxy1 Yes No No No No Yes
dnsmasq Yes No openresolv subscriber Yes No No
Knot Resolver Yes Yes No Yes Yes No
pdnsd Yes Yes openresolv subscriber No No No
powerdns-recursor Yes Yes No Yes ? ?
Rescached Yes No openresolv subscriber2 No No Limited3
Stubby No No No Yes Yes No
systemd-resolved Yes No systemd-resolvconf Yes Insecure4 No
Unbound Yes Yes openresolv subscriber Yes Yes No
  1. Implements a DNSCrypt protocol client.
  2. Can use the subscribers of dnsmasq, pdns and unbound.[2]
  3. Only forwards using DNS over HTTPS when Rescached itself is queried using DNS over HTTPS.[3]
  4. From resolved.conf(5): Note as the resolver is not capable of authenticating the server, it is vulnerable for "man-in-the-middle" attacks.[4] Also, the only supported mode is "opportunistic", which makes DNS-over-TLS vulnerable to "downgrade" attacks.


DNS is not encrypted, so you may want to use a resolver that supports an encrypted protocol, like DNS over TLS, DNS over HTTPS or DNSCrypt.

Most DNS servers keep a log of IP addresses and sites visited on a more or less temporary basis. The data collected can be used to perform various statistical studies. Personally-identifying information have value and can also be rented or sold to third parties. Alternative DNS services provides a list of popular services, check their privacy policy for information about how user data is handled.

Lookup utilities

To query specific DNS servers and DNS/DNSSEC records you can use dedicated DNS lookup utilities. These tools implement DNS themselves and do not use NSS.

  • ldns provides drill(1), which is a tool designed to retrieve information out of the DNS.

For example, to query a specific nameserver with drill for the TXT records of a domain:

$ drill @nameserver TXT domain

If you do not specify a DNS server drill uses the nameservers defined in /etc/resolv.conf.

See also