Linux ‘Host’ Command Install and Usage Walkthrough

Linux ‘Host’ Command Install and Usage Walkthrough

Visual depiction of a Linux terminal with the process of installing the host command for DNS lookups and queries

Are you looking to resolve domain names into IP addresses in Linux? Just like a skilled detective, the ‘host’ command in Linux can help you find the information you need. However, installing Linux commands might seem daunting, especially for beginners. But don’t worry, the ‘host’ command is available on most package management systems, which makes the installation process straightforward once you know the steps.

In this guide, we will navigate you through the process of installing and using the ‘host’ command in Linux. We will provide you with installation instructions for both APT (Debian and Ubuntu) and YUM-based distributions (CentOS and AlmaLinux), delve into compiling ‘host’ from the source, and installing a specific version. Finally, we will show you how to use the ‘host’ command and ensure it’s installed correctly.

So, let’s dive in and begin installing ‘host’ on your Linux system!

TL;DR: How Do I Install and Use the ‘Host’ Command in Linux?

In most Linux distributions, the ‘host’ command comes pre-installed. To install it in Debian based distributions like Ubuntu, you can run the command sudo apt-get install bind9-host. For distributions like CentOS that use the yum package manager, you would run the command sudo yum install bind-utils.

# For Debian based distributions like Ubuntu
sudo apt-get install bind9-host

# For CentOS and similar distributions
sudo yum install bind-utils

# Output:
# Reading package lists... Done
# Building dependency tree
# Reading state information... Done
# bind9-host is already the newest version (1:9.11.3+dfsg-1ubuntu1.15).
# 0 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.

This is just a basic way to install the ‘host’ command in Linux, but there’s much more to learn about installing and using ‘host’. Continue reading for more detailed information and advanced usage scenarios.

Getting Started with the ‘Host’ Command in Linux

The ‘host’ command is a simple, yet powerful utility in Linux used for DNS lookups. It’s an essential tool for network administrators and cybersecurity professionals, helping them translate domain names into IP addresses and vice versa. It’s also helpful for troubleshooting network issues and understanding how your system interacts with other servers on the internet.

Installing ‘Host’ Command with APT

For Debian-based distributions like Ubuntu, the ‘host’ command can be installed using the Advanced Packaging Tool (APT). Here’s how you can do it:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install dnsutils

# Output:
# Reading package lists... Done
# Building dependency tree
# Reading state information... Done
# dnsutils is already the newest version (1:9.11.3+dfsg-1ubuntu1.15).
# 0 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.

The ‘dnsutils’ package includes the ‘host’ command along with other DNS utilities. The first command updates the package lists for upgrades and new packages, while the second command installs the ‘dnsutils’ package.

Installing ‘Host’ Command with YUM

For RPM-based distributions like CentOS, Fedora, or RHEL, you can use the Yellowdog Updater, Modified (YUM) to install the ‘host’ command. Here’s the command you need to run:

sudo yum check-update
sudo yum install bind-utils

# Output:
# Loaded plugins: fastestmirror, langpacks
# Loading mirror speeds from cached hostfile
# bind-utils.x86_64 32:9.11.4-26.P2.el7 will be installed
# Finished

The ‘bind-utils’ package, similar to ‘dnsutils’, includes the ‘host’ command and other DNS utilities. The first command checks for updates, and the second one installs the ‘bind-utils’ package.

By following these steps, you can easily install the ‘host’ command in Linux and start exploring its capabilities.

Installing ‘Host’ Command from Source Code

There are instances where you might want to install the ‘host’ command from its source code. This could be due to the need for a specific version not available in your distribution’s package repositories or for development purposes. Here’s how you can install the ‘host’ command from source code:

# Download the source code

# Extract the tarball
tar -xvf bind-9.11.2.tar.gz

# Change into the directory
cd bind-9.11.2

# Configure the build

# Compile the source code

# Install the binaries
sudo make install

# Output:
# 'bind-9.11.2' is now installed.

This process involves downloading the source code, extracting it, configuring the build environment, compiling the source code, and finally, installing the binaries.

Installing Different Versions of ‘Host’ Command

Different versions of the ‘host’ command might have different features or compatibility with certain systems. Here’s how you can install different versions of the ‘host’ command from source code and using package managers like APT and YUM.

Installing Different Versions from Source Code

The process is similar to the one described above. You just need to replace ‘9.11.2’ with the version number you want to install.

Installing Different Versions Using APT and YUM

With APT and YUM, you can specify the version of the package you want to install. Here’s how to do it:

# With APT
sudo apt-get install bind9-host=<version>

# With YUM
sudo yum install bind-utils-<version>

# Output:
# The specified version of 'bind9-host' or 'bind-utils' is now installed.

Key Changes and Features in Different Versions

Different versions of the ‘host’ command come with different features and compatibilities. Here’s a brief comparison of some versions:

VersionKey ChangesCompatibility
9.11.2Initial releaseMost Linux distributions
9.11.3Bug fixesMost Linux distributions
9.11.4Improved performanceMost Linux distributions
9.11.5New features and bug fixesMost Linux distributions

Using the ‘Host’ Command and Verifying the Installation

Once you’ve installed the ‘host’ command, you can use it to perform DNS lookups. Here’s a basic example:

# Use the 'host' command
echo $(host

# Output:
# ' has address'

This command will resolve the IP address for ‘’. The ‘echo’ command is used here to print the output of the ‘host’ command.

To verify that the ‘host’ command has been installed correctly, you can use the ‘which’ command:

# Verify the installation
which host

# Output:
# '/usr/bin/host'

This command will print the path where the ‘host’ command is installed. If the ‘host’ command is installed correctly, it should return a path. If not, it will not return anything.

Exploring Alternative DNS Lookup Commands

While the ‘host’ command is a powerful tool for DNS lookups, Linux provides other utilities that offer similar functionalities. Two such commands are ‘dig’ and ‘nslookup’. Each of these commands has its unique features, advantages, and disadvantages.

The ‘dig’ Command

The ‘dig’ command, short for ‘domain information groper’, is a flexible tool for interrogating DNS name servers. It performs DNS lookups and displays the answers returned from the name server(s) that were queried.

Here’s a basic example of using the ‘dig’ command:

# Use the 'dig' command

# Output:
# ; <<>> DiG 9.11.3-1ubuntu1.15-Ubuntu <<>>
# ;; global options: +cmd
# ;; Got answer:
# ;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 18750
# ;; flags: qr rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 1, AUTHORITY: 0, ADDITIONAL: 1

The ‘dig’ command provides a detailed output, which includes the query status, flags, and the answer section containing the resolved IP address.

The ‘nslookup’ Command

The ‘nslookup’ command, which stands for ‘name server lookup’, is used to query internet domain name servers. ‘nslookup’ has two modes: interactive and non-interactive. Interactive mode allows multiple queries, and non-interactive mode is used for a single query.

Here’s a simple example of using the ‘nslookup’ command:

# Use the 'nslookup' command

# Output:
# Server:
# Address:
# Non-authoritative answer:
# Name:
# Address:

The ‘nslookup’ command provides a straightforward output, which includes the server address and the resolved IP address.

Comparing ‘host’, ‘dig’, and ‘nslookup’

While all three commands can be used for DNS lookups, they each have their unique features and use cases.

hostSimple output, easy to readBest for quick lookupsLimited functionality
digDetailed output, flexibleBest for detailed lookupsCan be overwhelming for beginners
nslookupTwo modes (interactive and non-interactive)Best for multiple queriesConsidered deprecated in some distributions

In conclusion, while the ‘host’ command is a great tool for DNS lookups, ‘dig’ and ‘nslookup’ provide alternative methods with their unique advantages. Depending on your needs and the level of detail you require, you might find one of these commands more suitable than the others.

Troubleshooting Common Issues with ‘Host’ Command

As with any tool, you might encounter some common issues when using the ‘host’ command in Linux. Here, we’ll discuss a few of these potential problems and how to resolve them.

Issue: ‘Host’ Command Not Found

If you try to run the ‘host’ command and receive a ‘command not found’ error, it’s likely that the ‘host’ command isn’t installed on your system or its installation path isn’t included in your system’s PATH variable.


# Output:
# bash: host: command not found

To resolve this issue, you can install the ‘host’ command using the instructions provided earlier in this guide. If the ‘host’ command is installed but not found, you can add its installation path to your system’s PATH variable.

Issue: No Response from ‘Host’ Command

Sometimes, you might not receive any response when you run the ‘host’ command. This could be due to a network issue or because the DNS server is not responding.


# Output:
# ;; connection timed out; no servers could be reached

To resolve this issue, you can check your network connection and ensure that your DNS server is functioning correctly.

Issue: Incorrect IP Address Resolution

In some cases, the ‘host’ command might return an incorrect IP address. This could be due to a DNS cache issue or a problem with the DNS server.


# Output:
# has address

To resolve this issue, you can clear your DNS cache or try using a different DNS server.

Considerations When Using the ‘Host’ Command

When using the ‘host’ command, it’s important to remember that it relies on DNS servers to resolve domain names. Therefore, the accuracy and speed of the ‘host’ command can be affected by the performance and reliability of these servers. Additionally, the ‘host’ command might not work properly if your system’s network settings are not configured correctly.

In conclusion, while the ‘host’ command is a powerful and useful tool, it’s important to understand its limitations and potential issues. With the solutions provided in this guide, you should be able to troubleshoot most common problems and use the ‘host’ command effectively.

Understanding DNS: The Backbone of ‘Host’ Command

To fully grasp the power and functionality of the ‘host’ command, it’s crucial to understand the underlying concept it operates on – the Domain Name System (DNS).

What is DNS?

DNS is a hierarchical and decentralized system for computers, services, or other resources connected to the Internet or a private network. It associates various information with domain names assigned to each participant. Most importantly, it translates domain names, which are easy for humans to remember, into numerical IP addresses that are required for the purpose of locating and identifying computer services and devices.

# Example of DNS in action

# Output:
# PING ( 56(84) bytes of data.
# 64 bytes from ( icmp_seq=1 ttl=119 time=5.94 ms

In the above example, the ‘ping’ command uses DNS to translate the domain name ‘’ into the IP address ‘’. This process is known as DNS resolution.

Why is DNS Important?

DNS is a critical component of the Internet. Without DNS, we would need to remember the IP addresses of every website we want to visit instead of their domain names. DNS also enables the existence of virtual hosts, where multiple domain names can point to the same IP address.

How Does ‘Host’ Command Use DNS?

The ‘host’ command is a simple interface to DNS. It translates domain names into IP addresses (forward DNS lookups) and IP addresses into domain names (reverse DNS lookups). It can also find the mail server for a domain, the canonical name of a domain, and much more.

# Example of 'host' command for forward DNS lookup

# Output:
# has address

# Example of 'host' command for reverse DNS lookup

# Output:
# domain name pointer

In these examples, the ‘host’ command is used to perform a forward DNS lookup and a reverse DNS lookup. The forward DNS lookup translates the domain name ‘’ into the IP address ‘’, and the reverse DNS lookup translates the IP address ‘’ back into the domain name ‘’.

In conclusion, understanding DNS is essential to fully utilize the ‘host’ command and understand its output. With DNS and the ‘host’ command, you can easily perform DNS lookups and troubleshoot network issues.

Unraveling the Impact of DNS Lookups on Network Troubleshooting and Security

The ‘host’ command and DNS lookups are not just tools for resolving domain names into IP addresses. They play a significant role in network troubleshooting and maintaining security. Understanding these aspects can help you use the ‘host’ command more effectively and appreciate its importance.

DNS Lookups in Network Troubleshooting

DNS lookups can help identify issues with network connectivity or DNS configuration. For instance, if a DNS lookup fails, it could indicate a problem with the DNS server or the network connection to the DNS server.

# Example of a failed DNS lookup

# Output:
# Host not found: 3(NXDOMAIN)

In this example, the DNS lookup fails because the domain name does not exist. This is indicated by the ‘NXDOMAIN’ status, which stands for ‘Non-Existent Domain’.

DNS Lookups and Security

DNS lookups can also have implications for security. Cybercriminals can manipulate DNS responses to redirect users to malicious websites, a technique known as DNS spoofing or DNS cache poisoning. To mitigate this risk, a security extension for DNS, known as DNSSEC (DNS Security Extensions), can be used.

# Example of a DNSSEC-protected DNS lookup
host -t DNSKEY

# Output:
# DNSKEY 256 3 8 AwEAAd+IeGw...

In this example, the ‘host’ command is used to retrieve the DNSKEY record for a domain. This record is part of the DNSSEC extension and is used to verify the authenticity of DNS responses.

Diving Deeper into DNSSEC and DNS Spoofing

While DNSSEC and DNS spoofing are beyond the scope of this guide, they are important concepts to explore if you want to understand the security aspects of DNS lookups. DNSSEC provides a way to verify the authenticity of DNS responses, helping to prevent DNS spoofing attacks. However, implementing DNSSEC can be complex, and it’s not universally adopted.

Further Resources for Mastering DNS Lookups

To deepen your understanding of DNS lookups and their importance in network troubleshooting and security, here are some resources:

  1. DNS for Rocket Scientists: This online book provides a comprehensive guide to DNS, including the ‘host’ command, DNS troubleshooting, and DNSSEC.

  2. BIND 9 Administrator Reference Manual: This manual provides detailed information about the ‘host’ command and other DNS utilities in the BIND 9 software suite.

  3. The Linux Documentation Project: This guide provides a detailed explanation of the ‘host’ command and its usage in Linux.

Wrapping Up: Mastering the ‘Host’ Command in Linux

In this comprehensive guide, we’ve delved into the intricacies of installing and using the ‘host’ command in Linux. This powerful tool, used for DNS lookups, plays a pivotal role in network administration and cybersecurity.

We embarked on this journey with the basics, learning how to install the ‘host’ command on different Linux distributions and from source code. We also explored how to use the ‘host’ command to perform forward and reverse DNS lookups.

Venturing into more advanced territory, we discussed how to install different versions of the ‘host’ command, both from source code and using package managers. We also highlighted the key changes and features in different versions, offering a comparative analysis to help you choose the version that suits your needs best.

Along the way, we tackled common issues that you might encounter when using the ‘host’ command, such as the ‘command not found’ error, no response from the ‘host’ command, and incorrect IP address resolution. We provided solutions to these issues, equipping you with the knowledge to troubleshoot effectively.

We also explored alternative commands for DNS lookups, such as ‘dig’ and ‘nslookup’, comparing their features, advantages, and disadvantages with the ‘host’ command.

CommandFeaturesUse Case
hostSimple output, easy to readQuick lookups
digDetailed output, flexibleDetailed lookups
nslookupTwo modes (interactive and non-interactive)Multiple queries

Finally, we delved deeper into the concept of DNS, the backbone of the ‘host’ command. We discussed its importance in network communication, its role in network troubleshooting, and its implications for security. We also provided resources for further exploration into related concepts like DNSSEC and DNS spoofing.

Whether you’re a beginner just starting out with the ‘host’ command or an experienced user looking to deepen your understanding, we hope this guide has been a valuable resource. With the ‘host’ command and the power of DNS lookups, you’re well-equipped to tackle network administration tasks and enhance your cybersecurity toolkit. Happy networking!