What is a DNS A record?
This is one of the first questions that comes up when you start learning about DNS. It is the most fundamental DNS record type for domain administrators to learn about. But what makes it so important?
Let’s find out together! 🤝
📚 Table of contents:
What is a DNS A record? 🤷♂️
An A record is a DNS record that links a domain name and its IPv4 address (32-bit address). The “A” letter stands for “address”.
Why are these records so important?
Before the DNS, the internet relied on host files. These were lists of hostnames (device or site names) and their connected IP addresses. Every user had to create such a host file and manually add and remove hosts from it.
People needed to search inside the host file, just like a phone book, to find the IP addresses connected to the devices/sites they were looking for. That made the internet inaccessible to people without significant tech expertise and limited the number of devices that could connect. In today’s world, it would be impossible to track everything on the internet by keeping host files on our devices.
This is where the Domain Name System (DNS) comes in. It’s easier for people to remember site names (domains) instead of long combinations of numbers. The DNS allows us to use these domain names by translating them into IP addresses to help your device find the right website. A records are what allow the DNS to do this.
Moving from the basic A records, we also have AAAA records within the DNS framework. These records are linked with the IPv6 protocol, characterized by its extensive 128-bit address space. IPv6 operates alongside the established IPv4, providing a complementary network architecture. This coexistence is key in today’s internet, accommodating an ever-increasing number of devices and ensuring robust and scalable connectivity. By utilizing both IPv4 and IPv6, the internet effectively addresses current and future digital demands.
Another important thing to know is that you can have multiple A records for a domain. You can use them for preventing redundancy or for load balancing to help your website handle large numbers of visitors. They can also be used together with AAAA records.
Examples of a DNS A record
👉 Here you have five examples of DNS A records for popular websites:
Format of the A record
👉 When we investigate a DNS A record we can find the following parameters:
- Host – the name of the host or domain.
- Type – here we can see an “A” that represents an address record.
- Points to – here we can see the IPv4 address of the host or domain, previously mentioned. When somebody types the “Host” the A record will provide the IP address and the user will be able to visit the right place.
- TTL – time to live. This value shows for how long the DNS record is current, displayed in seconds. The user’s browser or device can keep the DNS record inside its cache for the time that the TTL indicates. This reduces the number of resources needed to load web pages a user’s visited before.
Managing A records 🤹♂️
Managing different DNS A records is quite easy. This record can coexist with other DNS record types; you can have multiple A records and even have multiple AAAA records for the same website.
For those of you who are not familiar with the topic, a DNS zone is the administrative subdivision of the DNS, which you are managing. You can manage your domain by accessing the Domain Settings area of your hosting account, or Domains > Zone Editor if your hosting uses cPanel.
In case you are renting a whole server or using your own, before you start adding A records, you will need to create a Forward DNS Zone (RFC 1034) . The zone is an administrated portion of the domain. After you have created it, you can manage different DNS records inside it.
However, for most users, particularly with shared hosting services, these DNS zones are usually pre-configured. In such cases, your role is more about modifying or adding records within these pre-set zones rather than creating them from scratch.
If you can’t easily find one of these setting areas, check your web host’s documentation for how to manage A records. Otherwise, follow the instructions below:
How to create an A record? 👷
- Go to the Domain Settings (or zone editor if you’re using cPanel). If you manage your own server, you’ll need to go to the Forward DNS Zone instead.
- Choose to create an A record.
- Add the Host, Points to, and TTL of the domain record and save it. Ready!
- If there was previously another A record, you will need to wait until the DNS propagation finishes.
How to edit an A record?
- Go to your Domain Settings (or other relevant area) and find the A record you would like to edit.
- Click on Edit.
- Make the changes you want (for example, changing the TTL to reduce DNS propagation times).
- Wait until the changes propagate over the internet.
How to delete an A record?
- Go to your Domain Settings (or other relevant area) and locate the record which you want to delete.
- Delete the DNS A record.
- Wait until the DNS change propagates. Users and servers will still have a copy of your old A record until the TTL expires. Take note that if you delete all A records and there are no AAAA records, your domain may become unavailable to users.
How to query an A record? 👨💻
It is quite easy to perform a DNS A record check, from any device you have. Many of the operating systems have multiple built-in tools that can help you with that. You can find directions for running these checks on the most popular Operating Systems below.
Linux DNS A record check
- Open the Terminal.
- Use the Host command. Type the URL for the host you want to look at in the format example.com.
- The result will include all address records. That means all A and AAAA records.
macOS DNS A record check
- Open the Terminal.
- Use the Dig command. Type dig a example.com. Replace example.com with the domain you would like to check.
- Now you can see all the A records of the domain.
Windows DNS A record check
- Open the Command Prompt or PowerShell. Both work the same.
- Use the Nslookup command. Type nslookup -type=a example.com. Replace example.com with the domain you would like to check.
- The result will be the address record of the domain.
DNS A record check from a browser
You can make a record check online too. Use one of the multiple A record check tools. Here we will use MxToolBox.com.
- Visit the A record check tool’s site inside the browser of your device.
- Add the domain you would like to check.
- See the answers for the A record check.
What is an A record? The A record is one of the building blocks of our current internet. Without it, the users will struggle to remember countless IP addresses and access different services. It’s a simple instruction that connects hostnames with IP addresses.
Want to know how long it’ll take for your A record changes to show up for your users? Check out our article explaining DNS propagation.