How Does the DNS Server Work?


Angela Bailey

The Domain Name System (DNS) is a critical component of the internet that many of us rely on every day without even realizing it. It plays a vital role in translating human-friendly domain names, like, into machine-readable IP addresses. In this article, we will explore how the DNS server works and the various steps involved in resolving a domain name.

The DNS Hierarchy
At its core, the DNS is a distributed system that consists of multiple servers organized in a hierarchical structure. At the top of this hierarchy are the root servers, which are responsible for managing top-level domains (TLDs) such as .com, .org, and .net. These root servers are maintained by different organizations around the world.

Domain Name Resolution Process
When you enter a domain name into your web browser’s address bar or click on a link, your computer needs to determine the corresponding IP address to establish a connection with the server hosting that website. This process involves several steps:

Step 1: Local DNS Cache Lookup

Your computer first checks its local DNS cache to see if it has recently resolved the requested domain name. If it finds a match, it can directly retrieve the corresponding IP address without further queries.

Step 2: Recursive Query to DNS Resolver

If there is no entry in the local DNS cache or it has expired, your computer sends a recursive query to a DNS resolver specified by your internet service provider (ISP). The resolver acts as an intermediary between your computer and the authoritative DNS servers.

Step 3: Iterative Query to Authoritative DNS Servers

The resolver starts by querying one of the root servers to obtain information about which TLD server handles the requested domain name. The root server responds with a referral to the appropriate TLD server.

Note: The DNS resolver may have the TLD server information cached, which can speed up the resolution process.

Step 4: TLD Server Lookup

The resolver then queries the TLD server responsible for the requested domain name, providing it with the original query. The TLD server responds with a referral to the authoritative DNS server responsible for that specific domain.

Step 5: Authoritative DNS Server Lookup

The resolver sends another query, this time to the authoritative DNS server identified by the TLD server. The authoritative DNS server has the final and accurate information about the IP address associated with the requested domain name.

Step 6: Response to DNS Resolver

The authoritative DNS server responds to the resolver with the IP address of the requested domain name. This response is then cached by both your computer and the resolver for future use.

Step 7: Response to Your Computer

Finally, the resolver sends back the IP address to your computer, allowing it to establish a connection with the web server hosting the requested website. Your computer can now retrieve and render the web page content in your browser.

  • Overall, this complex process of domain name resolution happens seamlessly in just a few milliseconds.
  • The hierarchical structure of DNS servers ensures efficient and reliable lookup of IP addresses.
  • Caches at various levels help speed up subsequent requests for frequently visited websites.

In Conclusion
The DNS server plays a crucial role in translating human-friendly domain names into machine-readable IP addresses. It allows us to access websites using simple names instead of remembering long strings of numbers. Understanding how this system works can help us appreciate its importance and troubleshoot any potential issues that may arise when accessing websites or setting up our own domains.

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