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Wildcard '*' versus Exact Match '@' DNS records

March 20, 2014

Ever wondered what the difference was between the ‘@’ symbol and the ‘*’ symbol when setting up a DNS Zone file for a domain name.  In the past I have seen them used interchangeably with sometimes unexpected results.

The difference is that one (@) is for exact match search where there is no subdomain and the other (*) is a Wild Card – they are not interchangeable in all circumstances.

 Consider the following Zone File for domain name xyz.com,  

 

  •  Any DNS request for an MX (mail) record for xyz.com (with no prefix) will return the two MX records mx1.mailserver.com and mx2.mailserver.com

  •  Any DNS request for an MX (mail) record for the subdomain branch.xyz.com will return the two MX records mx3.mailserver.com and mx4.mailserver.com

  •  If an A record request for the hostname ‘xyz.com’ is made, an exact match for this record with no subdomain is used (@) and it will return the IP address 103.6.216.204.

  •  If an A record request for the hostname ‘www.xyz.com’ is made, an exact match for this subdomain is used and it will return the IP address 103.6.216.205

  • If an A record request for any other hostname  e.g.  ‘branch.xyz.com’ is made, the wildcard record (*) is used it will return the IP address 103.6.216.203.

 In summary then;

 The prefix ‘@’ refers to the domain name itself -- it essentially means no prefix.

  The prefix * is a wildcard -- if a DNS request is made for an address that does not have a specific A record setup, then the wildcard IP address will be returned.

 

 

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Filed under Design & Development

Written by

David founded Apex back in 1997. He has a Bachelors Degree from Auckland University and a post Graduate Diploma in Operations Management. As Managing Director David's role is incredibly varied but tends to focus mainly on technical issues that crop up from time to time around Server Admin, Network Management and Email and Domain related events.

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