System administration

13 Best Free and Open Source DNS Servers

The internet uses numbers, not names, to find computers. Domain Name System (DNS) is the internet’s directory service: It takes a human readable name, like “www.linuxlinks.com”, and converts that name to a machine readable “IP” address that your computer can use to connect to www.linuxlinks.com.

Browsers then use those addresses to communicate with origin servers or CDN edge servers to access website information. This all happens thanks to DNS servers: machines dedicated to answering DNS queries.

DNS is one of these things many take for granted that is critical to using the internet. Without DNS, the internet breaks. It’s critical that a DNS server keeps the internet working in a secure and stable manner.

DNS clients, which are built into most modern desktop and mobile operating systems, enable web browsers to interact with DNS servers.

This article selects our favorite DNS servers. Our verdict is captured in a legendary LinuxLinks-style chart. We only feature free and open source software in this article.

Ratings chart for DNS servers

Let’s explore the DNS servers at hand. For each application we have compiled its own portal page, a full description with an in-depth analysis of its features, together with links to relevant resources.

DNS Servers
CoreDNSDNS server that chains plugins
BINDFlexible, full-featured DNS system
PowerDNSAuthoritative server, the Recursor, and Dnsdist
NSDNLnet Labs Name Server Daemon
Knot DNSHigh-performance authoritative-only DNS server
UnboundValidating, recursive, caching DNS resolver
YADIFALightweight authoritative Name Server with DNSSEC capabilities
acme-dnsSimplified DNS server with a RESTful HTTP API
DnsmasqNetwork infrastructure: DNS, DHCP, router advertisement and network boot
gdnsdAuthoritative-only DNS server
encrypted-dnsModern encrypted DNS server
MaraDNSSmall DNS server
aardvark-dnsAuthoritative DNS server for A/AAAA container records

An authoritative DNS service provides an update mechanism that developers use to manage their public DNS names. It then answers DNS queries, translating domain names into IP address so computers can communicate with each other.

Recursive DNS: Clients typically do not make queries directly to authoritative DNS services. Instead, they generally connect to another type of DNS service known a resolver, or a recursive DNS service.

Best Free and Open Source SoftwareRead our complete collection of recommended free and open source software. Our curated compilation covers all categories of software.

The software collection forms part of our series of informative articles for Linux enthusiasts. There are hundreds of in-depth reviews, open source alternatives to proprietary software from large corporations like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, IBM, Cisco, Oracle, and Autodesk.

There are also fun things to try, hardware, free programming books and tutorials, and much more.

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