Everything You Need to Know About DNS Records - A Guide for Beginners

If the term "DNS record" only raises question marks in your head, you've come to the right place. I will give you a simple explanation of the most important points you need to know.

You can read the whole article, or if you are interested in something in particular, you can jump directly to the respective points:

What is a DNS record - simply explained?

A DNS record is basically information that is stored in the DNS directory (correctly: DNS zone) of your domain and is interpreted accordingly depending on the defined type.

For example, with the type MX, the entered value is interpreted as the responsible mail server and mails for your domain are delivered to it.

As we discussed in the corresponding article, your domain name serves as a simplified address for various connected services. This can be your website, a mail server and much more (e.g. plain text - which is often used for test procedures).

Typically, you only have to deal with DNS records every now and then:

Either when they are created or when they no longer work.

Create a DNS record

From time to time it is necessary to create certain DNS records (especially if you are setting up a new Internet presence - e.g. website and e-mail).

This can be quite intimidating as it is not a very common and quite abstract topic, but don't panic, with a bit of basic understanding you will be fine:

Creating DNS records in a simplified way
Some hosting providers also act as domain registrars and offer the possibility to create and manage DNS records in a simplified way if you purchase the corresponding products from them. Often the corresponding functions can be found in areas such as DNS diagnosis / analysis / test or simply DNS settings / administration / zone.

However, if you need to create the DNS records manually, this is not a problem. Just follow the procedure below and you should be successful.

  • Get the necessary DNS records (you can usually get this in the interface of the respective provider or, in case of doubt, from their support).
  • Open the DNS zone of your domain
  • Check whether an record of this type already exists and should/must be changed or a new one created.
  • Set the appropriate type for the DNS record (e.g. A, AAAA, MX, TXT, etc.)
  • Enter the corresponding source, the domain name for which the entry should exist (e.g. "howtolive.online" for an MX or www.howtolive.online for a CNAME). Typically, your domain is defined (e.g. your-domain.de) and in some cases the host name is added. Since the records are often to be set for just the domain (e.g. the MX), no value is to be set here (or with some providers an @ symbol as a placeholder).
  • Enter the target or value for the record (see table below for the most common record types). Whether the name is a target or a value usually depends on whether the record refers to something (e.g. CNAME) or just contains information (as with TXT records).
  • Specify the TTL. The Time-To-Live is the self-proclaimed lifetime of an record. The shorter, the more frequently the entry is checked to see if it has changed. In most cases, the TTL is communicated to you with the entry, if there is an important reason. If not, 1 hour (also given as 3600 seconds, depending on the interface) to 24 hours is absolutely fine.
  • Save the record

Here you will find the most common DNS records you will come across:

Type Required target Example target Special noteScope
A and AAAAIPv4 or IPv6 address128.65.195.189
noneConnecting to a server (e.g. web server for your website)
CNAMEDomain Nameshops.myshopify.comCan't be the actual domain. Must be set to a host name such as www., shop., etc.
Can't coexist with other records that exist on the same hostname.
A CNAME is a type of forwarding. This is also the reason why this type cannot coexist with other records on the same hostname.
MXMail Servermail.infomaniak.comWith this type, another value called "Priority" is requested. This defines which MX record has priority, if there are several. The lower the number, the higher the priority.Connection of a domain name with a mail server and ultimately the e-mail accounts available there.
TXTAnyv=spf1 include:spf.infomaniak.ch ?allThis is simple text. The specific function only comes about when interpreted by corresponding applications.Miscellaneous. For example, TXTs can be used for validations (e.g. SPF) and verifications are used (e.g. to connect one's page with Pinterest).

Note 1: It can take up to 48 hours for your new entry to be propagated. This is the maximum time that is technically possible. This information sounds very general... and it is. This is because your provider has only limited influence on the propagation.

Note 2: Which DNS zone is active for your domain and therefore where you have to enter your entries is defined by the name servers (NS for short). You can check here which NS are currently set for your domain: https://toolbox.googleapps.com/apps/dig/#NS/

By the way, if you want to know more about connecting your domain to a mail hosting or webhostingyou can access each article via the corresponding link.

Check a DNS entry

As mentioned above, it can happen that records suddenly no longer work. This can have various reasons. Typically, the problem can be traced back to one of the following causes:

  • The DNS records have been changed. This often happens due to hasty changes to the DNS zone.
  • Your provider has technical issues
  • Your provider has technical issues

Here is the quick version:

  1. Open a testing tool of your choice (e.g. https://whatsmydns.net)
  2. Define the type of your DNS record to be checked (e.g. A, AAAA, MX, TXT, etc.).
  3. Enter the domain name for which the record should exist (e.g. "howtolive.online" for a MX or www.howtolive.online for a CNAME)
  4. Run the search if the tool does not do this automatically

And here is the more detailed one:

There are various ways to check whether a DNS record exists.

You will often find instructions on how to carry out the check in command consoles (e.g. in Windows by means of a command prompt) in order to carry out a so-called lookup, but for the average user, in my opinion, this is not necessarily necessary or useful, as there can be long intervals between needs and one has often already forgotten the commands again. The reason for this is that you rarely need to adjust the DNS records of your domain. So before you research the commands, you can instead look directly for an online tool.

Also, the results in command consoles may be incorrect if the problem is local to your device.

There are several freely available online tools. In most cases, these have a clear interface that simplifies their use.

Such a query of a DNS entry is called DNS lookup. If you are interested in this topic, you can read the corresponding article.

Online-Tool für DNS Lookups – mit Anleitung


Has a simple and sleek user interface:


provides an overview of the global propagation of your DNS record:


Has an extensive record selection and functions. Rather for detailed and/or special queries:

Breakdown of the syntax of DNS records

It can happen that you encounter technical writing as a result. And that can be a little intimidating at first. But if you understand the syntax, it's not so bad:

Designation:SourceTTLClassTypeTarget or Value
DNS record:howtolive.online.3600INTXT„v=spf1 include:spf.infomaniak.ch ?all“
Remark:Here is defined for which domain the entry is validTime-To-Live. How long the record itself says it is valid before it should be queried again (in seconds).Simply means Internet
and is the only class we encounter
The respective record type. The most common ones to contact are: A, AAAA, CNAME, MX, TXT, NSWhere the record points to or, as in this case, what it says

What the query result means

Basically, there are three possible types of outcome:

No record is displayed

Check whether the DNS record exists in the DNS zone. If this is the case, you should check the name servers (NS), possibly a different DNS zone is active than you are aware of. If you have checked this but it was not the problem, you should contact your provider. It is possible that there is a fault on the effective server or that the DNS zone has fallen out of sync.

A different record is displayed than expected:

Check your record for correctness. If it is correct, you should check the name servers (NS), it is quite possible that a different DNS zone is active than you are aware of. If you can rule this out, you should contact your provider. It is possible that there is a fault on the actual server or that the DNS zone has fallen out of sync.

The correct DNS record is displayed

You have done everything right and there is no disturbance: you can put lean back 😉

Fix errors/problems with DNS entries

What sounds complicated is in reality quite easy to do:

  • If the error lies with you, I recommend that you obtain the entry again from the corresponding provider (of the web hosting, mail service, etc.), delete the old record and create the record completely anew. Editing an incorrect record is much less clear.
  • If the problem lies with the provider, a short contact with their support is usually sufficient to initiate the fix.

If you are not in a hurry, you can also write to me and tell me about your problem. I will be happy to help you.

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