I'm looking for an easy to setup Linux distro for just running a DNS server (and nothing else) with something easy to setup like DNSMasq.

At home I run OpenWRT with DNSMasq on my Router, and at work I've been given the freedom to run a distro with a DNSMasq for purposes of doing development.

I take my development laptop home and to work, so I want the setup to be nearly the same between locations. (of course I'll have to change it a little bit, the DNS server at home cannot have the same ip as the one at work).

  • 1
    What feature of a distro would possibly make it better at running a DNS server? Other than "it has the package"? Mar 23, 2012 at 15:56

4 Answers 4


For 'single small service' situations, I like to use the netinst disk of Debian. Of all the well-supported, frequently updated, good repos distros, it results in the smallest footprint. RHEL/CentOS/SL's minimal installs are still huge in comparison. Once you install the very base, use the repos to update the base, configure hardware, and install the one service you need. This is the best way I found not to become victim of 'six degrees of separation with gnome libraries' hell. Often enough even the most basic configuration tools require some GUI component which needs enough libraries that one of them will need glib/gtk, and then the dependency graph fans out to many other programs/libraries, and it just snowballs. Avoid at all cost. All you need to configure a single service Linux box is VI. Or VIM, but without the X/GUI components, because then you're back to snowballing dependencies.

  • What about BSD or FreeBSD ? Jan 15, 2021 at 16:12
  • That would probably work well too, although I haven't dealt with FreeBSD in over a decade, so I cannot speak to the exact sizes of 'just enough to get DNS working' installations.
    – Marcin
    Jan 15, 2021 at 18:52

You don't really give quite enough details. If you want security, go with OpenDNS. Ubuntu is a decent choice, as there are a lot of tools and support options, due to it's popularity. Lastly, which OS are you most familiar with? If it's RedHat or a variant, go with one of those. DNS and dnsmasq are going to be largely similar across all of the OSes, but if you have to learn a new OS just to install a piece of software, you'll have more trouble with that.

  • I'd say I'm most familiar with Ubuntu, I'm not too concerned about security as it is just for development. I don't really need a GUI either, I just need to run a DNS server.
    – leeand00
    Mar 23, 2012 at 16:10
  • The I'd say Ubuntu. It's a solid choice, good support on the web and active development. Good luck.
    – Greg Cain
    Mar 23, 2012 at 16:42

If you're looking for a caching DNS server think of dnsmasq or pdnsd. Both are simple to configure with some text files.

However, if you're looking for a real DNS server, bind is the industry standard but it can be rather cumbersome to configure.

Some alternatives would be tinydns or maradns, which are simpler to configure than bind.

They're all available as packages on Debian.


I would also take a look at TurnKey Linux which is pretty lightweight and easy to setup. You could install the packages detailed here to add Bind9 DNS server to it: Simplest DNS Server?

$ sudo apt-get update && apt-get install bind9 webmin-bind8

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