10 Linux nslookup Command Examples for DNS Lookup

by Lakshmanan Ganapathy on July 25, 2012

nslookup is a network administration tool for querying the Domain Name System (DNS) to obtain domain name or IP address mapping or any other specific DNS record.

It is also used to troubleshoot DNS related problems. This article provides few examples on using the nslookup command.

nslookup can operate on both “Interactive mode” and “Non-Interactive mode”. Interactive mode allows the user to query the DNS-Server about various host, and domains. Non-Interactive mode allows the user to query the information for a host or domain. In this article, all the commands explained are “Non-Interactive mode”.

1. nslookup – Simple Example

nslookup followed by the domain name will display the “A Record” ( IP Address ) of the domain.

$ nslookup redhat.com

Server:		192.168.19.2
Address:	192.168.19.2#53

Non-authoritative answer:
Name:	redhat.com
Address: 209.132.183.181

In the above output, server refers to the IP address of the DNS server. Then the below section provides the “A Record” ( IP Address ) of the domain “redhat.com”.

The default output of nslookup command is less cluttered than the default output of dig command. Some of you might be comfortable using dig command for DNS lookups.

2. Query the MX Record using -query=mx

MX ( Mail Exchange ) record maps a domain name to a list of mail exchange servers for that domain. The MX record tells that all the mails sent to “@redhat.com” should be routed to the Mail server in that domain.

$ nslookup -query=mx redhat.com
Server:		192.168.19.2
Address:	192.168.19.2#53

Non-authoritative answer:
redhat.com	mail exchanger = 10 mx2.redhat.com.
redhat.com	mail exchanger = 5 mx1.redhat.com.

Authoritative answers can be found from:
mx2.redhat.com	internet address = 66.187.233.33
mx1.redhat.com	internet address = 209.132.183.28

In the above example, we have 2 MX records for the domain “redhat.com”. The number ( 5, 10 ), associated with the MX records tells the preference of mail server. Lower the number, higher the preference. So when a mail is sent to “@redhat.com”, first preference will be “mx1.redhat.com”, then “mx2.redhat.com”.

Authoritative Answer vs Non-Authoritative Answer

You may also noticed the keyword “Authoritative Answer” and “Non-Authoritative Answer” in the above output.

Any answer that originates from the DNS Server which has the complete zone file information available for the domain is said to be authoritative answer.

In many cases, DNS servers will not have the complete zone file information available for a given domain. Instead, it maintains a cache file which has the results of all queries performed in the past for which it has gotten authoritative response. When a DNS query is given, it searches the cache file, and return the information available as “Non-Authoritative Answer”.

3. Query the NS Record using -query=ns

NS ( Name Server ) record maps a domain name to a list of DNS servers authoritative for that domain. It will output the name serves which are associated with the given domain.

nslookup -type=ns redhat.com
Server:		192.168.19.2
Address:	192.168.19.2#53

Non-authoritative answer:
redhat.com	nameserver = ns4.redhat.com.
redhat.com	nameserver = ns2.redhat.com.
redhat.com	nameserver = ns1.redhat.com.
redhat.com	nameserver = ns3.redhat.com.

Authoritative answers can be found from:
ns4.redhat.com	internet address = 209.132.188.218
ns2.redhat.com	internet address = 209.132.183.2
ns1.redhat.com	internet address = 209.132.186.218
ns3.redhat.com	internet address = 209.132.176.100

4. Query the SOA Record using -query=soa

SOA record ( start of authority ), provides the authoritative information about the domain, the e-mail address of the domain admin, the domain serial number, etc…

$ nslookup -type=soa redhat.com
Server:		192.168.19.2
Address:	192.168.19.2#53

Non-authoritative answer:
redhat.com
	origin = ns1.redhat.com
	mail addr = noc.redhat.com
	serial = 2012071601
	refresh = 300
	retry = 180
	expire = 604800
	minimum = 14400

Authoritative answers can be found from:
ns1.redhat.com	internet address = 209.132.186.218
  • mail addr – specifies the mail address of the domain admin ( noc@redhat.com )
  • serial – sort of revision numbering system. The standard convention is to use “YYYYMMYYNN” format. ( 2012-07-16. 01 will be incremented, if more than one edit has taken place on a same day )
  • refresh – specifies ( in seconds ), when the secondary DNS will poll the primary to see if the serial number has been increased. If increased, secondary will make a new request to copy the new zone file.
  • retry – specifies the interval to re-connect with the Primary DNS
  • expire – specifies the time that the secondary DNS will keep the cached zone file as valid
  • minimum – specifies the time that the secondary DNS should cache the zone file

5. View available DNS records using -query=any

We can also view all the available DNS records using -query=any option.

$ nslookup -type=any google.com
Server:		192.168.19.2
Address:	192.168.19.2#53

Non-authoritative answer:
Name:	google.com
Address: 173.194.35.7
Name:	google.com
Address: 173.194.35.8

google.com	nameserver = ns1.google.com.
google.com	nameserver = ns2.google.com.
google.com
	origin = ns1.google.com
	mail addr = dns-admin.google.com
	serial = 2012071701
	refresh = 7200
	retry = 1800
	expire = 1209600
	minimum = 300
google.com	mail exchanger = 20 alt1.aspmx.l.google.com.
google.com	mail exchanger = 30 alt2.aspmx.l.google.com.
google.com	mail exchanger = 40 alt3.aspmx.l.google.com.
google.com	mail exchanger = 50 alt4.aspmx.l.google.com.
google.com	mail exchanger = 10 aspmx-v4v6.l.google.com.
google.com	has AAAA address 2a00:1450:4002:801::1004

Authoritative answers can be found from:
ns4.google.com	internet address = 216.239.38.10
ns3.google.com	internet address = 216.239.36.10

6. Reverse DNS lookup

You can also do the reverse DNS look-up by providing the IP Address as argument to nslookup.

$ nslookup 209.132.183.181
Server:		192.168.19.2
Address:	192.168.19.2#53

Non-authoritative answer:
181.183.132.209.in-addr.arpa	name = origin-www2.redhat.com.

7. Using Specific DNS server

Instead of using default DNS server’s for querying, you can also specify a particular name server to resolve the domain name.

$ nslookup redhat.com ns1.redhat.com

Server:		209.132.186.218
Address:	209.132.186.218#53

Name:	redhat.com
Address: 209.132.183.181

In the above command, we have used the ns1.redhat.com as the DNS server. Here you may notice that, we don’t get any “Non-authoritative answer:” header, since ns1.redhat.com has all the zone information of redhat.com

8. Change the port number to connect with

By default DNS servers uses the port number 53. If for any reasons, the port number got changed, then we can specify the port number using -port option

$ nslookup -port 56 redhat.com

9. Change timeout interval to wait for a reply

You can change the default timeout to wait for a reply using -timeout option.

$ nslookup -timeout=10 redhat.com

10. Enabling debug mode using -debug

You can turn on/off the debugging using -debug option in the command line

$ nslookup -debug redhat.com
Server:		192.168.19.2
Address:	192.168.19.2#53

------------
    QUESTIONS:
	redhat.com, type = A, class = IN
    ANSWERS:
    ->  redhat.com
	internet address = 209.132.183.181
	ttl = 5
    AUTHORITY RECORDS:
    ADDITIONAL RECORDS:
------------
Non-authoritative answer:
Name:	redhat.com
Address: 209.132.183.181

The debug mode will display the packets information during searching.

Similar to nslookup command, you can also use dig command to query the DNS information.


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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 vijay July 25, 2012 at 8:36 am

Thanks for the details, is there any option in nslookup to use specific interface for DNS. as my primary interface IP does not have connectivity , but my secondary interface has connectivity , since by default nslookup uses primay interface i was not able to query the DNS

2 Shaun Norris July 25, 2012 at 10:33 am

It would be really cool to also have the dig equivalents where applicable for reference.

3 Jalal Hajigholamali July 26, 2012 at 4:20 am

Hi,
Thanks a lot….

4 Alan Sloan July 26, 2012 at 11:06 am

Great article as usual. Do you know if it is possible/practical to do a bulk reverse dns lookup? I have several years worth of data from old Apache access logs and would like to translate the IP addresses into domain names and possibly rough geographic location (city/state). I seem to recall that there is a limit on the number of dns lookup requests you can send at one time. Thanks!

5 kanth July 27, 2012 at 2:35 am

Thanks a lot

6 José Amarildo July 31, 2012 at 9:24 pm

Tank You very much for this wonderfull post! It will be very advantageous.

7 Hiep November 1, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Could you provide me step by step on how to edit/change txt record on linux?

8 nikos April 5, 2013 at 12:47 am

Thanks you man .you are the man

9 cesar naranjo April 30, 2013 at 8:50 am

Very good text.

10 hamstar May 1, 2013 at 2:45 pm

For number 8 it should be `nslookup -port=56`

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