How Does Cache Work in a DNS Server?


Angela Bailey

How Does Cache Work in a DNS Server?

When it comes to understanding how a DNS server functions, one crucial component to grasp is the concept of cache. The cache plays a vital role in improving the efficiency and speed of DNS lookups. In this article, we will delve into the workings of cache in a DNS server and explore its significance.

The Basics of DNS

Before we dive into cache, let’s briefly revisit the basics of DNS. DNS stands for Domain Name System and serves as a crucial part of the internet infrastructure. Its primary function is to translate human-readable domain names, such as, into IP addresses that computers can understand.

A typical DNS lookup involves querying multiple servers to find the IP address associated with a given domain name. These servers are organized hierarchically, with recursive resolvers at the top and authoritative name servers at the bottom. However, performing these lookups every time someone visits a website can be time-consuming and resource-intensive.

The Role of Cache

This is where cache comes into play. A DNS server’s cache stores previously resolved queries for a certain period of time, known as the Time-To-Live (TTL). By storing this information locally, subsequent requests for the same domain can be answered more quickly without needing to perform additional lookups.

The cache operates based on two main principles: caching positive responses and negative responses.

Caching Positive Responses

When a DNS server successfully resolves a query and receives an IP address as a response from an authoritative name server, it caches this information along with its TTL value. The cached entry allows subsequent requests for the same domain name to be answered directly from the cache without involving further resolution steps.

  • Benefits of Positive Response Cache:
  • Improved response time: With the information readily available in the cache, DNS servers can respond to queries almost instantaneously.
  • Reduced network traffic: By serving responses from cache, the number of requests sent to authoritative name servers decreases, resulting in lower network traffic.
  • Lower resource consumption: Since caching eliminates the need for redundant lookups, it reduces the overall load on DNS servers and improves their performance.

Caching Negative Responses

In addition to caching positive responses, DNS servers also cache negative responses. These negative responses indicate that a domain name does not exist or that an error occurred during the resolution process. Caching negative responses prevents subsequent lookups for non-existent domains from being forwarded to authoritative name servers.

  • Benefits of Negative Response Cache:
  • Faster error handling: When a non-existent domain is requested again, the DNS server can quickly respond with a cached negative response instead of initiating a full resolution process.
  • Reduced load on authoritative name servers: By caching negative responses, DNS servers minimize unnecessary queries sent to authoritative name servers for non-existent domains.

TTL and Cache Expiration

The TTL value associated with each cached entry determines how long it remains valid in the cache. Once this duration elapses, the DNS server must revalidate the information by performing a fresh lookup. The TTL is specified by the owner of the domain and may vary depending on their configuration.

If a subsequent request for a domain exceeds the TTL value or if it is explicitly invalidated due to changes made by the domain owner, the DNS server removes the corresponding entry from its cache and performs a new lookup.


Caching plays a crucial role in the efficient functioning of DNS servers. By storing previously resolved queries, both positive and negative, DNS servers can improve response times, reduce network traffic, and minimize the load on authoritative name servers. Understanding how cache works in a DNS server helps us appreciate the behind-the-scenes mechanisms that power the reliable translation of domain names to IP addresses on the internet.

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