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How long do DNS changes take?

Hosting providers are often asked to make "Urgent" DNS changes.

However it's important to realise, DNS changes can take days to propagate. There is no such thing as a urgent DNS change. It's the nature of the protocol.

When changing a record, it will take the length of the TTL (time to live) in seconds to expire before your new changes go into effect. The TTL tells other internet service providers "this DNS record is fine for the next x seconds, you don't need to ask me again until after that".
You can set the TTL to any value before or after making changes to your records. Reasonable values for a static IP are anywhere from 12 hours (43200 seconds) to 24 hours (86400 seconds). Of course if you set a short TTL after making your changes this new TTL itself won't get picked up until the previous change has propagated out.

Other ISPs cache DNS records sometimes using the TTL and sometimes on their own timetables. In the UK BT is known for caching DNS for up to 48 hours.

Therefore it's important to leave your service running on the old IP addresses for a couple of days.

Tips for Fast DNS Changes

  • Find out when your host reloads DNS - is it daily, twice daily, immediately?
  • Ask your host a few days in advance to lower the TTL records to 1 hour on the domain you will be changing.
  • Finally a quick and dirty trick:
  • Instead of changing DNS records, change the nameservers. This should force ISPs to check the root zone and hence not use cached records.

You can read more about DNS propagation here: www.2020media.com/login/help/32-reference/123-dns-propagation

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