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New User Tutorial: Whois

Posted on by Jay Allen
Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Whois command is used to collect information about a domain including who owns the domain, basic contact information for the domain owner, and the nameservers that the domain is using.

Linux and Mac OS X

Whois is already built-in to OS X and is included by default with most Linux distributions.

  • Mac OS X: Open Applications, Utilities, and then Terminal.
  • Linux: Open your favorite Terminal/Shell.

Windows Whois Applications

Windows users will need to download an application if they would like to run whois queries using a local client, or try one of the online whois tools in the next section below.

Online Whois Tools

These websites allow you to run whois queries using only your web browser.

Running A Whois Query

To run a whois query on a domain name in a terminal using either Linux or Mac OS X, simply type in the following command:

whois domain.com
(where domain.com is the name of the domain you want to query)

The whois tool provided by Microsoft is run the same way once you have added it to your system but to get to it, you will need to open a command prompt. Click on Start and then Run. In the Run box (make sure it is empty first) type in the word command and press Enter (some versions of Windows also allow you to type in just cmd instead of command).

Whois Query Results

Let’s take a look at an example whois request:

Domain Name: DOMAIN.COM
Registrar: ENOM, INC.
Whois Server: whois.enom.com
Referral URL: http://www.enom.com
Name Server: NS1.DOMAIN.COM
Name Server: NS2.DOMAIN.COM
Status: clientDeleteProhibited
Status: clientTransferProhibited
Updated Date: 30-jan-2009
Creation Date: 01-mar-2006
Expiration Date: 01-mar-2010
Contact: hostmaster@domain.com
Domain name: domain.com
==Registrant Contact==
Owner Name
Liquid Web
4210 Creyts Rd.
Lansing, MI 48917
=Administrative Contact==
Owner Name
Liquid Web
Fax: +1.5173935131
4210 Creyts Rd.
Lansing, MI 48917
=Technical Contact==
Liquid Web Inc.
Fax: +1.5173935131
4210 S. Creyts Rd.
Lansing, MI 48917
Status: Locked
=Name Servers==
=Creation date: 01 Mar 2006 20:22:35
=Expiration date: 01 Mar 2010 20:22:35

The results of your whois query may look different from what is above, but the key information is the same.

  • Registrar: The company/organization that registered the domain for the domain’s owner.
  • Name Servers: The servers that control the domain’s DNS.
  • Creation Date: The date the domain was originally registered.
  • Expiration Date: When the domain will expire.
  • Contacts: Publicly accessible information, required by registrars (must be valid!)

Practical Usage of Whois

When you need to make any kind of DNS change to a domain always run a whois query on the domain name first and make sure you know what nameservers are controlling the DNS. DNS records can exist on multiple servers, but only the records located at the nameservers shown in the whois results are actually in use.

If you make changes to a zone file without double checking the nameservers first you may be updating a file that is not in use, and therefor your changes will never take effect. This can lead to days of waiting for DNS updates that will not show up until you update the correct, valid zone file.

A Note On Special Domains

Some Top Level Domains (TLDs) do not allow queries via the whois shell command. In most cases, try the command anyway and the response from the server will tell you where to go to get whois results for the domain in question.


Liquid Web’s Heroic Support is always available to assist customers with this or any other issue. If you need our assistance please contact us:
Toll Free 1.800.580.4985
International 517.322.0434

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About the Author: Jay Allen

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