DNS Basics – Nameservers

infographic explaining how nameservers work when a webpage is requested.

In order to understand how to find the DNS records for a domain, you need to have a basic understanding of how DNS works. The first step on that road is to know about the nameservers assigned to a domain name and how to determine them. If you’re looking for InMotion’s default nameservers, please see How to Change Your Domain’s Nameservers.

DNS stands for Domain Name System. This system is used to define Domain Names so that they can be found on the internet. DNS servers hold the DNS records that apply to each domain name.

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What do Nameservers do?

A domain name needs to have DNS records in order to be recognized on the internet. These records include A, CNAME, MX, and many other record types. As domain names could move from one location to another, there needed to be a way to identify the DNS records as they applied to the name. This is done through the nameservers assigned to the domain name. In order to understand where the applicable DNS records exist, you simply need to know the nameservers for that domain. Nameservers indicate where the authoritative records are being stored for a domain name. The location indicated by the assigned nameservers can also be called the DNS provider.

Once you know where the assigned nameservers are located, then you can find the DNS records that apply to a domain. Ultimately, the purpose of DNS records is to help your internet browser navigate to a specific location, or more simply, to a website.

How do you find the nameservers for a domain?

There are several ways that you can find the nameservers for a domain. If you are the registered owner, you can simply refer to your domain registrar and find the assigned nameservers through their website. You can also use tools on the internet from multiple websites, or you can log into a terminal and use a command.

Domain Registrars

The service where you register a domain is called a domain registrar. A domain registrar may have a variety of interfaces that you need to navigate through in order to get the information you need. Ultimately, you will need to be able to log in to the system and then provide your domain name so that you can find the assigned nameservers. If the domain name’s DNS records are still with the domain registrar, then you can find all of the DNS records in the same location.

For example, InMotion Hosting provides a domain registration service. If you registered your domain through InMotion, then you can find your information for your registered domains through the Account Management Panel (AMP). To learn how to find the nameservers assigned to your domain, please see Finding your Domain Name Information in AMP.

Web Site WHOIS Applications

The general name for websites that provide domain information is WHOIS websites. You might also find them by using the term “domain lookup.” You can use either term in your favorite search engine and find many examples. The WHOIS name is based on the command used within a terminal. There are many websites that provide this and much more information for domains. We recommend simply using the official ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) lookup tool.

InMotion Hosting also provides a tool to find information about domains. You can find use it by going to the Where Is My Domain Routing page. Type in your domain name and the top of the graphic that appears will indicate the assigned nameservers.

WHOIS in a Terminal Client

The biggest roadblock to using the WHOIS command in a terminal client is that you need to be able to log into a terminal client. Once you’re there, the command would look like this:

Example of the WHOIS command in a terminal
Example of the WHOIS command in a terminal

To learn more about using a terminal, please see:

Note: Both of these articles are based on logging into an InMotion Hosting account.

Congratulations! You know how to find your domain’s nameservers! To learn more, see our DNS and Nameserver Changes articles.

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