Domain name resolution

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:

  • — a caching DNS stub resolver, described in systemd-resolved
  • — provides local hostname resolution without having to edit /etc/hosts
  • — provides hostname resolution for the names of local systemd-machined(8) containers

Resolve a domain name using NSS

NSS databases can be queried with . 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#localhost is resolved over the network.

Glibc resolver

The glibc resolver reads 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.

Overwriting of /etc/resolv.conf

Network managers tend to overwrite , for specifics see the corresponding section:

To prevent programs from overwriting , it is also possible to write-protect it by setting the immutable file attribute:

# chattr +i /etc/resolv.conf

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 .

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. You can fix that by setting the following option in :

Local domain names

To be able to use the hostname of local machine names without the fully qualified domain name, add a line to 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.

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 , 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

Unless a DNS server is specified, drill will use the nameservers defined in .

Resolver performance

The Glibc resolver does not cache queries. To implement local caching, use systemd-resolved or set up a local caching DNS server and use it as the name server by setting and as the name servers in or in if using openresolv.

Privacy and security

The DNS protocol is unencrypted and does not account for confidentiality, integrity or authentication, so if you use an untrusted network or a malicious ISP, your DNS queries can be eavesdropped and the responses manipulated. Furthermore, DNS servers can conduct DNS hijacking.

You need to trust your DNS server to treat your queries confidentially. DNS servers are provided by ISPs and third-parties. Alternatively you can run your own recursive name server, which however takes more effort. If you use a DHCP client in untrusted networks, be sure to set static name servers to avoid using and being subject to arbitrary DNS servers. To secure your communication with a remote DNS server you can use an encrypted protocol, like DNS over TLS (RFC 7858), DNS over HTTPS (RFC 8484), or DNSCrypt, provided that both the upstream server and your resolver support the protocol. An alternative can be a dedicated software to encrypt and decrypt the communication, such as stunnel. To verify that responses are actually from authoritative name servers, you can validate DNSSEC, provided that both the upstream server(s) and your resolver support it.

Application-level DNS

Be aware that some client software, such as major web browsers, are starting to implement DNS over HTTPS. While the encryption of queries may often be seen as a bonus, it also means the software sidetracks queries around the system resolver configuration.

Firefox provides configuration options to enable or disable DNS over HTTPS and select a DNS server.

Chromium will examine the user's system resolver and enable DNS over HTTPS if the system resolver addresses are known to also provide DNS over HTTPS. See this blog post for more information and how DNS over HTTPS can be disabled.

Mozilla has proposed universally disabling application-level DNS if the system resolver cannot resolve the domain . Currently, this is only implemented in Firefox.

Oblivious DNS

Oblivious DNS is a system which addresses a number of DNS privacy concerns. See Cloudflare's article for more information.

Third-party DNS services

There are various third-party DNS services available, some of which also have dedicated software:

  • dingo A DNS client for Google DNS over HTTPS || dingo-gitAUR

You can use dnsperftest to test the performance of the most popular DNS resolvers from your location. provides global benchmarks between providers.

DNS servers

DNS servers can be authoritative and recursive. If they are neither, they are called stub resolvers and simply forward all queries to another recursive name server. Stub resolvers are typically used to introduce DNS caching on the local host or network. Note that the same can also be achieved with a fully-fledged name server. This section compares the available DNS servers, for a more detailed comparison, refer to Wikipedia:Comparison of DNS server software.

NamePackageCapabilitiesresolvconfSupported protocols
over TLS
over HTTPS
CoreDNS or coredns-binAUR????????
Deadwood (MaraDNS recursor)
dnsmasq Partial2
Knot Resolver
pdnsd pdnsd
PowerDNS Recursor
SmartDNS smartdns?
systemd-resolved systemd
Unbound Partial3
  1. BIND can serve both DNS over TLS and DNS over HTTPS (see tls{} and listen-on), but cannot yet forward queries to a DNS over TLS/DNS over HTTPS upstream. The dig tool can make queries over DNS over TLS and DNS over HTTPS (using and options), though without any certificate checks.
  2. From Wikipedia: dnsmasq has limited authoritative support, intended for internal network use rather than public Internet use.
  3. The Redis backend can be used to provide a persistent cache for Unbound.

Authoritative-only servers

gdnsd gdnsd
Knot DNS
MaraDNS ?
PowerDNS powerdns

Conditional forwarding

It is possible to use specific DNS resolvers when querying specific domain names. This is particularly useful when connecting to a VPN, so that queries to the VPN network are resolved by the VPN's DNS, while queries to the internet will still be resolved by your standard DNS resolver. It can also be used on local networks.

To implement it, you need to use a local resolver because glibc does not support it.

In a dynamic environment (laptops and to some extents desktops), you need to configure your resolver based on the network(s) you are connected to. The best way to do that is to use openresolv because it supports multiple subscribers. Some network managers support it, either through openresolv, or by configuring the resolver directly. NetworkManager supports conditional forwarding without openresolv.

See also

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