Setting up DNS with Windows 9x and NT 4.0

Although, this article is dated the fundamentals still apply and configuration has not changed significantly in current versions of Microsoft Windows. Updated links are available here.

Setting up a DNS client system



DNS name resolution is enabled via the DNS tab on the TCP/IP protocols properties dialog box. Configuring a DNS client is fairly straight forward.
 
The Host Name field specifies the hostname by which this system will be known to the DNS system. Generally this is the same as the computer name (making them different is asking for trouble).

The Domain field specifies the name of the local domain.

The DNS Service Search Order contains a list of IP addresses for DNS servers that this system should use for name resolution. Servers are contacted in the order that they appear in the list box.

The Domain Suffix Search Order may be used to specify additional domains in which to search for a hostname. Generally this feature is not needed. When only the Domain field is specified in this dialog box, that domain and all of its parent domains are searched for unknown hostnames. If you do list additional domains here, then the local domain and the listed domains will be searched in the order listed, and only these domains, will be checked when attempting to resolve unknown hostnames.

Setting up a DNS server



A Windows NT Server can be a DNS server with the Domain Name Service Manager. There are three kinds of DNS servers:
Primary Server
A system that permanently stores authoritative information for a specific zone. It holds the master copy of the configuration files defining hostname-to-IP address translation for the zone.
Secondary Server
A system that obtains a set of information from the primary server when the DNS server process starts up. THereafter, it can provide the same translations as the primary server. Secondary servers are useful for backup and to distribute the network load created by the DNS clients.
Caching-only Server
A system that relies on other hosts to determine all unknown hostname translations but, remembers what it learns. This type of host operates essentially as a client, but it minimizes the network load by not asking for the same name again for as long as the name remains in its cache.

The steps for setting up a primary or secondary server are very similar:
 
1. Install DNS Server if you haven't already. (via the Add button of  the Services tab on the Network control panel applett) and run it.
2. Select DNS from the top menu bar then New Server... and enter the hostname or IP address for the system on which it will run. If the server is already present on the list then select it.
3. Select DNS >New Zone... menu option. This option is used to create zones and define the server as either primary or secondary.
  • For a primary server select the Primary check box and click Next. Enter the zone name and zone database file (this defaults to the zone name with the a .dns extension) into the following dialog box. DNS database files are stored in Winnt\Sytem32\DNS.
  • For secondary server, select the Secondary check box and enter the name of an existing zone and its primary server. If you prefer, you may use the hand icon in the lower section of the window to point to an existing zone in the  DNS Manager's main server list window. Click Next to continue when you are finished. In the next dialog box, enter the local name for the zone (usually just the zone name) and the path to the local data file (this, also, defaults to the zone name with the a .dns extension). Click Next when you are finished. Last of all, list the IP addresses of one or more master servers for the zone that this server should request its initial translation data (defaults to the server you specified earlier).
4. Next you may subdivide the zone with the DNS >New Domain... menu option. Be aware that this creates a subdomain in the currently selected zone and not a new DNS domain.
5. For a new zone, create its associated reverse-lookup zone, used to translate IP addresses back into host names. In most cases these zones are assigned names in the form of b.a.in-addr.arpa where c, b and a are the third, second and first components of local IP addresses i.e., 2.1.10.in-addr.arpa would be the reverse-lookup zone for the 10.1.2.x subnet.
6. Add an entry for each host with in the zone to the database via the DNS >New Host... menu option. Be sure to check the Create Associated PTR Record box in the New Host dialog box or you'll have to create an entry in the reverse-lookup zone manually.
7. Add any other DNS records needed for your site via the DNS >New Record... menu path.

Helpful link: How to Install and Configure DNS Server in Windows NT

Glossary



A Records (Address Records) - maps a unique alias to one address
CNAME (Canonical Name) - Alias for an A Record.
DNS (Domain Name Service) - The TCP/IP service responsible for translating hostnames to internet addresses.
Domain - Used by DNS to designate a subtree of the overall DNS hierarchical structure.
Hostname - A unique name within a network assigned to every machine. A fully qualified hostname may be up to 64 characters in length.
Hostname Resolution - The process of translating a hostname into an  IP address.
IP Address - A unique address for each host on a network when using TCP/IP
PTR (Pointer Records) - Used by DNS  to map IP addresses to host names.
Primary Server - The main DNS server
SOA (Start of Authority) - How to configure a subnetted reverse lookup zone on Windows NT, Windows 2000, or Windows Server 2003
Secondary Server - DNS server used in addition to or as a buckup to the Priamry server.
Zone - A subtree of a DNS domain

Updated Links