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How To Use nslookup To Test Your DNS

April 2, 2023 | By David Selden-Treiman | Filed in: DNS.


Welcome! In this guide, we’ll be discussing the Domain Name System (DNS) and how to use a powerful tool called nslookup to test and troubleshoot your DNS settings. As an expert in DNS and DNS server administration, I’m excited to help you learn more about this topic.

What Is DNS & Why Does It Matter?

The Domain Name System, or DNS, is an essential part of how the internet functions. It acts as a phone book, translating human-readable domain names (like into IP addresses that computers use to identify each other. Without DNS, we’d have to memorize complex IP addresses to visit websites or use online services, which would be quite cumbersome!

In short, DNS plays a vital role in ensuring the internet remains user-friendly and accessible.

Nslookup For Troubleshooting & Testing

As a network administrator, web developer, or just an internet-savvy user, you might encounter situations where you need to test or troubleshoot your DNS settings. This is where nslookup comes in handy.

nslookup is a command-line tool that allows you to query DNS servers and retrieve information about DNS records. It’s a versatile utility that can help you identify issues with your DNS configurations, check if your domain’s DNS records are set up correctly, and diagnose various DNS-related problems.

Our Focus

In this guide, we’ll be focusing exclusively on nslookup as our DNS testing tool of choice. While dig (Domain Information Groper) is another popular command-line tool for DNS troubleshooting, it won’t be covered in this tutorial. Our focus will be on helping you become an expert in using nslookup across various operating systems, including Windows, MacOS, and Linux.

Stay tuned as we dive deeper into the world of DNS and nslookup. By the end of this guide, you’ll have a solid understanding of how to use nslookup effectively to test and troubleshoot your DNS configurations.

Installation & Setup

Before we start exploring nslookup, let’s make sure you have it installed and ready to use on your system. Don’t worry, the process is quite simple and, in most cases, nslookup comes pre-installed on many operating systems.

Availability of nslookup By Default


If you’re a Windows user, you’re in luck! nslookup comes built-in with the operating system. You can access it through the Command Prompt or PowerShell without any additional installation.


MacOS users can also breathe a sigh of relief as nslookup is pre-installed on their systems too. You can access it via the Terminal application.


Linux distributions usually include nslookup by default. However, it may not be available on some minimal or custom installations. You can check its availability by opening the Terminal and typing “nslookup”.

Installing nslookup

If you find that nslookup isn’t available on your system, don’t worry! Here are the installation instructions for each operating system:


Windows users typically don’t need to install nslookup separately, as it comes pre-installed. However, if you face any issues, consider running a system repair or re-installing the Windows operating system.


If you’re a MacOS user and don’t have nslookup, you can install it using Homebrew, a popular package manager for MacOS. First, you’ll need to install Homebrew by following the instructions on their website: Once you have Homebrew installed, open the Terminal and type the following command to install nslookup:

brew install bind

This will install the BIND utilities, which include nslookup.


On a Linux system, you can use the package manager specific to your distribution to install nslookup. Here are the commands for a few popular distributions:


sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install dnsutils


sudo yum install bind-utils


sudo zypper install bind-utils

Once you’ve installed nslookup, you’re all set to start using it to test and troubleshoot your DNS configurations. In the next sections, we’ll dive into the basic and advanced usage of nslookup, along with some examples to help you become a DNS testing pro.

Basic nslookup Usage

Now that you have nslookup installed and ready to go, let’s explore its basic usage. We’ll begin by discussing the default behavior of nslookup on various operating systems and then move on to querying specific DNS record types and specifying DNS servers.

Default Behavior

When you run nslookup without any arguments, it enters an interactive mode where you can issue multiple queries without needing to retype the nslookup command each time. Let’s see how this works on different operating systems:


Open the Command Prompt or PowerShell and type “nslookup”, then press Enter. You’ll see the default server and its IP address, followed by a “>” prompt where you can enter your queries.


Open the Terminal application, type “nslookup”, and press Enter. Just like in Windows, you’ll see the default server and its IP address, along with the “>” prompt for your queries.


In the Terminal, type “nslookup” and press Enter. The output will be similar to that of Windows and MacOS, displaying the default server, its IP address, and the “>” prompt.

Interactive Mode

Now that you’re in interactive mode, you can start querying DNS records. For example, to look up the IP address associated with a domain name, simply type the domain name at the “>” prompt and press Enter. nslookup will display the A (Address) record for that domain, showing you the corresponding IP address.

Querying a Specific DNS Record Type

While nslookup defaults to querying A records, you can also specify other DNS record types. For example, if you want to query the Mail Exchange (MX) record for a domain, you can use the following command:

nslookup -query=mx

This will display the MX record for the “” domain, showing you the mail server responsible for handling email for that domain.

Specifying a DNS Server

By default, nslookup queries your system’s configured DNS server. However, you can specify a different DNS server to query by including its IP address or hostname as an argument. This is useful for testing and troubleshooting purposes. Here’s an example:


In this example, we’re querying the A record for “” using Google’s public DNS server at IP address This allows you to see if there’s any difference in the DNS records returned by different servers, which can help diagnose issues related to DNS propagation or misconfigurations.

Now that you’re familiar with the basic usage of nslookup, let’s move on to some more advanced features and techniques that will help you become a true DNS testing expert.

Advanced Usage of nslookup

Congratulations on mastering the basics of nslookup! Now it’s time to explore some advanced features that will help you gain even more insights into your DNS configurations. In this section, we’ll cover querying various DNS record types, performing reverse DNS lookups, and using the “set” and “server” commands.

Querying Other DNS Record Types

nslookup can query a wide range of DNS record types beyond A and MX records. Here are some examples:

MX records (Mail Exchange)

As we covered earlier, you can query MX records to identify the mail servers responsible for handling email for a domain.

nslookup -query=mx

NS records (Name Server)

To find the authoritative name servers for a domain, query the NS records.

nslookup -query=ns

CNAME records (Canonical Name): CNAME records are used to alias one domain to another. To find the CNAME record for a domain, use the following command:

nslookup -query=cname

SOA records (Start of Authority): SOA records contain information about the primary name server, the email address of the domain administrator, and various domain-wide settings. Query the SOA record like this:

nslookup -query=soa

TXT records (Text): TXT records can store arbitrary text data, often used for domain verification, SPF (Sender Policy Framework), or DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) purposes. Query a TXT record with the following command:

nslookup -query=txt

Reverse DNS Lookup

A reverse DNS lookup allows you to find the domain name associated with a given IP address. This is done by querying the PTR (Pointer) record. Here’s an example:

nslookup -query=ptr

In this example, we’re looking up the domain name associated with the IP address (which is one of Google’s public DNS servers).

Using the “set” Command

The “set” command in nslookup allows you to modify various settings and options for your queries. Here are some examples:

Changing Query Type

Instead of using the “-query=” option, you can change the query type using the “set” command in interactive mode.

> set querytype=mx

Enabling Debugging Mode

Debugging mode provides additional information about the query process and response. Enable it by entering the following command:

> set debug

Setting Query Timeout

You can set the query timeout (in seconds) to control how long nslookup waits for a response before giving up.

> set timeout=5

Using the “server” Command

The “server” command allows you to switch between multiple DNS servers during an nslookup session in interactive mode. This is useful when you want to compare the responses from different servers. Here’s an example:

> server
> server

In this example, we first query Google’s DNS server ( for the A record of “” and then switch to OpenDNS’s server ( to perform the same query.

By exploring these advanced nslookup features, you’ll be well-equipped to tackle a wide range of DNS testing and troubleshooting scenarios. The more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll become with nslookup, and the better you’ll be at identifying and resolving DNS-related issues.

Troubleshooting Common DNS Issues with nslookup

As you become more comfortable with nslookup, you’ll find it to be an invaluable tool for diagnosing and resolving common DNS issues. In this section, we’ll cover some typical DNS problems and how you can use nslookup to troubleshoot and fix them.

Identifying Non-Responsive DNS Servers

Sometimes, DNS servers can become unresponsive or slow to respond, causing issues with domain resolution. Using nslookup, you can quickly identify if a specific DNS server is having problems. Simply query the problematic domain using the DNS server’s IP address or hostname:


If the server doesn’t respond or takes a long time to reply, it could indicate an issue with the server itself. You can compare the response with other DNS servers to confirm the issue:


Diagnosing DNS Propagation Delays

DNS propagation is the process of updating DNS records across the internet. This can sometimes take hours or even days to complete, depending on factors like Time-To-Live (TTL) settings and caching. To check if your DNS changes have propagated, query different DNS servers and compare the results:

nslookup -query=ns
nslookup -query=ns

If the results differ, it could mean that propagation is still in progress. You can periodically re-run the queries to monitor the propagation status.

Detecting Incorrect DNS Records

Misconfigurations in DNS records can cause a variety of issues, such as website inaccessibility or email delivery problems. To verify that your DNS records are correctly configured, use nslookup to query the relevant record types:

nslookup -query=a
nslookup -query=mx

Compare the results with your intended configurations. If you spot any discrepancies, you’ll need to correct the records through your domain registrar or DNS provider.

Testing DNS Server Configurations

If you manage your own DNS servers, you may want to test their configurations and ensure they’re working correctly. Using nslookup, you can query your DNS server directly to verify that it’s returning the expected results:

nslookup your_dns_server_ip

If you notice any inconsistencies or issues, review your DNS server’s configuration files and make any necessary adjustments.

By using nslookup to troubleshoot these common DNS issues, you’ll be well-prepared to maintain and optimize your DNS configurations. Remember, practice makes perfect! The more you work with nslookup, the more adept you’ll become at identifying and fixing DNS-related challenges. Keep experimenting and testing with different scenarios to hone your skills and become a true DNS testing pro!

Putting It All Together: Mastering nslookup

Great job on making it this far! By now, you should have a solid understanding of how to use nslookup to test and troubleshoot your DNS configurations. From basic usage to advanced techniques, you’ve learned how to:

  1. Install and set up nslookup on various operating systems.
  2. Query different DNS record types and specify DNS servers.
  3. Perform reverse DNS lookups.
  4. Use the “set” and “server” commands in nslookup’s interactive mode.
  5. Troubleshoot common DNS issues.

Now it’s time to put all this knowledge into practice. Here are some tips to help you master nslookup and become a DNS testing pro:

Practice Makes Perfect

The more you use nslookup, the more comfortable and skilled you’ll become. Start by experimenting with different queries and DNS record types. Practice troubleshooting common DNS issues on your own domains, or use public domains for testing purposes.

Keep Learning

Stay up-to-date with the latest developments in DNS and DNS-related tools. Read articles, join forums, or participate in online communities to learn from other experts and expand your knowledge.

Experiment with Other DNS Tools

While nslookup is a powerful and versatile tool, it’s not the only utility available for DNS testing and troubleshooting. Explore other tools like dig, host, and whois to broaden your DNS toolkit and enhance your skills.

Troubleshoot Real-World Scenarios

Apply your nslookup skills to real-world scenarios, such as setting up new domains, migrating websites, or optimizing DNS configurations. By tackling real-life challenges, you’ll gain valuable experience and further sharpen your DNS testing abilities.

By following these tips and continuing to practice and learn, you’ll soon become a true DNS testing expert. Congratulations on your journey so far, and best of luck as you continue to master nslookup and the world of DNS!

Conclusion: The Value of nslookup in Your DNS Toolkit

You’ve come a long way in learning about nslookup and its various uses. By mastering this powerful tool, you’ve added a valuable skill to your repertoire, making you better equipped to handle DNS-related tasks and challenges.

As you continue to explore the world of DNS, remember the following key takeaways:

  1. nslookup is a versatile tool that can help you query and troubleshoot a wide range of DNS issues, from simple domain lookups to complex propagation and configuration problems.
  2. Practice and experimentation are crucial to becoming proficient in nslookup. The more you use it, the more comfortable and skilled you’ll become.
  3. Don’t stop at nslookup! There are many other DNS tools available, like dig, host, and whois. Familiarize yourself with these utilities to broaden your DNS toolkit and enhance your skills.
  4. Share your knowledge with others. As you become more experienced with nslookup, consider writing articles or creating tutorials to help others learn how to use it effectively. Teaching others is a great way to reinforce your own understanding and contribute to the community.
  5. Stay up-to-date with the latest developments in DNS and DNS-related tools. Continuously learning and staying informed will help you remain at the forefront of your field.

In conclusion, mastering nslookup is an essential skill for anyone working with DNS. By diligently practicing and expanding your knowledge, you’ll become a DNS testing expert and a valuable asset in the world of DNS server administration. Keep up the great work, and remember to enjoy the process as you continue to learn and grow!

David Selden-Treiman, Director of Operations at Potent Pages.

David Selden-Treiman is Director of Operations and a project manager at Potent Pages. He specializes in custom web crawler development, website optimization, server management, web application development, and custom programming. Working at Potent Pages since 2012 and programming since 2003, David has extensive expertise solving problems using programming for dozens of clients. He also has extensive experience managing and optimizing servers, managing dozens of servers for both Potent Pages and other clients.


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