What Are DNS Records

The domain name system or DNS is a system that makes it easy to access websites. Without this system in place we would all have to remember complex IP addresses instead of easy to remember domain names.

Below we highlight what DNS records actually are, and how to change one of the main components of the DNS records, your name servers.

What are DNS Records?

DNS refers to the large-scale system of information that contains the IP addresses, domain names, hosting, and other registration information across every site on the Internet. Before this system was created the only way for people to access your website would be by typing in your IP address.

DNS records act as instructions for the DNS server, so it knows which domain names each IP address is associated with.

DNS records contain a lot of different syntax and commands for how the server should respond to the request. Some of the most common forms of syntax are highlighted below:

  • A” This record refers to the actual IP address that’s associated with the domain.
  • CNAME” This record is used to indicate subdomains that might be listed under or associated with your current domain.
  • MX” This refers to any mail servers that might be used in accordance with your domain.
  • NS” This shows which nameservers are currently being used for your domain.
  • SOA” This record has crucial information about your domain, like when your domain was last updated and relevant contact information. 
  • TXT” This can be edited to include any additional information about the domain that isn’t currently listed.

As you can see, there are numerous components of your DNS records, but most of this information can’t and shouldn’t be altered. The main component of your DNS records that will concern you, and you might have to change at some point are your name servers.

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What Are Name Servers?

Name servers are the portion of your DNS records that enable people to use your domain name to access your site, rather than your complex IP address. Your name servers are an aspect of your registrar, and the purpose is to point your domain to the place where your site is being hosted.

Changing your name servers allows you to change your web host without having to move your domain to a new registrar.

Name servers can also be referred to as DNS servers, which can lead to some confusion of the two terms.

How Do I Change Name Servers?

Most registrars make it easy to edit your name severs. The simplest setup would involve using the same host and registrar. But, if your domain isn’t registered and hosted in the same place, then you’ll follow the general steps below.

HostGator customers can follow the instructions here to change their name servers, or watch the video below.

1. Locate Domain Management

Every registrar has a set of domain management tools that allow you to edit your name servers. These will usually be found on the dashboard of your account.

2. Find Your Name Servers

Under each individual domain you’ll be able to change your name servers. Your name servers will look something like this:



You’ll need to change both the primary and secondary name servers. The second server exists in case the first one crashes, or another error prevents it from being used.

3. Change to Your New Name Servers

Then all you have to do is change your existing name servers to the new name servers given to you by your host. Remember, these changes don’t take place immediately and it’ll usually take around 24 hours for the changes to take effect.

There you have it. Hopefully you have a better understanding of what your DNS records actually are and the role they play in making your site accessible.

Kevin Wood writes about technology and human potential. You can find him at his virtual homes Wooden Writing and Counter Culturist.