• Status: Solved
  • Priority: Medium
  • Security: Public
  • Views: 5217
  • Last Modified:

DNS search path in linux

What is the DNS search path in linux and what does it do? (On fedora core 4)
1 Solution
DNS (Domain Name Service) is the service that looks up a computers Internet Protocol Address (IP address) based upon the machine's network name.  For instance, given the host name "www.apple.com", I can resolve its IP address (  This is necessary for computer-to-computer communications, as IP traffic uses addresses, not names, to identify the source and destination computers for data packets.

There are very many machines running domain name services on the internet, so the DNS search path is basically a short list of Domain Name Servers that a computer will communicate with when attempting to resolve names.  For instance, businesses will usually have a corporate DNS server that knows the names and address of all the machines on the corporate network.  If the computer name you lookup is not one of the corporation's machines, then the lookup is handed off to a DNS of the broader internet (typically belonging to the business's ISP).  The list of DNS servers a computer uses (and the order in which to use them) is usually specified in a file called /etc/resolv.conf .

If I can make an crude analogy to looking up someone's phone number, name resolution would look something like this:

1) Look up host name address in local known hosts file /etc/hosts - equivalent to look up in a phone book or Rolodex in your possession.
2) Look up host name in corporate DNS server - equivalent to calling the company switchboard operator and asking for a colleague's extension.
3) Look up host name in ISP's DNS server - equivalent to calling local region directory assistance.
4) Look up host name in wider DNS server - equivalent to getting the area code of a remote city, then calling that directory assistance.

DNS service tends to be hierarchical, so your corporate DNS service typically knows to hand off unsatisfied requests to the ISP server, and the ISP server hands off unsatisfied requests to Tier-1 servers, and the Tier-1 servers know the "area codes" of all the remote regions to direct requests.

For more information about DNS see:
if your search path in resolv.conf is  microsoft.com mit.edu
add the following line in your resolv.conf
serarch  microsoft.com mit.edu

then try this command
ping star
[root@mail root]# ping star
PING star.mit.edu ( 56(84) bytes of data.
--- star.mit.edu ping statistics ---
8 packets transmitted, 0 received, 100% packet loss, time 7011ms
the queries will be attempted using each component  of the search path in turn  until  a  match  is  found...

man resolv.conf

Question has a verified solution.

Are you are experiencing a similar issue? Get a personalized answer when you ask a related question.

Have a better answer? Share it in a comment.

Join & Write a Comment

Featured Post

Free Tool: Subnet Calculator

The subnet calculator helps you design networks by taking an IP address and network mask and returning information such as network, broadcast address, and host range.

One of a set of tools we're offering as a way of saying thank you for being a part of the community.

Tackle projects and never again get stuck behind a technical roadblock.
Join Now