Domain Names - Who Is whois



How Do I Search For Domains? Who Is whois & How Can It Help?

All Domains are listed in directories. Think of it as a filing cabinet or a DNS Server, it doesn't really matter. What is important is getting at that information and this is where whois can help.

The whois function can be accessed as a command line or online at many different websites including all of the domain registration sites. Some prefer the command line because it's faster, does not involve interested third parties and can be saved to a text file for later.

There is a concern that some online websites offering the whois service will aggregate and log search results which would show them the most popular unregistered domain names. There is an entire industry based on buying domain names that have popular appeal and reselling them literally to the highest bidder. 

If this is a issue for you the command line option might be the easiest answer. Windows users require an extra step, but it's a really small one and we show you exactly what to do. We'll also show you how to send the output to a file so if your brainstorming and trying many search variations you can have a record of what you've done

Using Web Browser

Web Browser whois Searching

Even though all domain names & TLDs (Top Level Domains) are centrally controlled by, they do not have a central online place to search for all TLDs. This is another argument for the command line method. Many private websites offer whois searches that do connect to all the whois servers, a google search for whois will easily find them. We will cover how to go straight to the source for each TLD and find the official list of registrars.


.ca domains

.ca Domains

The .ca TLD is managed by Here is the complete list of .ca registrars /registrar-list

.com & other common Types

.com & Other Common TLDs (.aero, .arpa, .asia, .biz, .cat, .com, .coop, .edu, .info, .int, .jobs, .mobi, .museum, .name, .net, .org, .pro, or .travel)

As indicated at the bottom of their website is a trademark of the U.S. Dept of Commerce & is licensed to

 InterNIC has a whois /whois.html, they also have a list of registrars ( /regist.html)

All other TLDs, gTLDs


All Other TLDs & gTLDs

It's a multi step process but you should be able to find an official list of registrars for each specific TLD.

1. Go to iana's "Root Zone Database" ( domains/root/db) and find the TLD you want to know more about
2. Click on the hyperlinked TLD, scroll down and find URL for registration services: and go to that site
3. Search for a list of registrars (location varies with site)

Example: Locate .me Registrars:

1. Go to domains/root/db and locate the .me entry, click on it
2. At domains/root/db/me.html scroll down to URL for registration services: and click on
3. At scroll to bottom of the page & click on Register a .ME, scroll down a bit and click on list of registrars
NOTE: Websites change all the time. If it's not the same as described here you will have to improvise, try looking for a site map or do a websearch (i.e. ".me registrars")

Using Command Line

Command Line Method

Generally it's simply "whois domain.tld" as in "whois".



The whois command is not normally included with Windows. They make it, they just don't ship it!
(It would be interesting to try & understand the marketing philosophy of hiding useful features from customers on purpose, but we're too busy doing the exact opposite & hope you are too!)

Download & Extract

Download From Microsoft

Go to this Microsoft site & download the whois file:

1. Site is technet. en-us/sysinternals/ bb897435,  download the zip file to your computer.

2. Extract whois.exe to a directory that is easy get to with the command line (if in doubt create a directory tmp in your C drive, if there is one already there, just use it)


Using whois.exe On Windows

1. Run the Command Prompt. Start, type command, select Command PromptCommandPrompt under Programs.

2. Change to the directory that whois.exe is in, i.e. cd \tmp if its in tmp. You may need to change to the drive first, i.e. c: then hit enter.

3. Type whois then hit enter.

4. Compare your result to the graphic below. If it looks good you should be all set, type whoisdomain.tld till the cows come home. You may want to replace domain.tld with possible names of your proposed small business. (If you had problems getting whois to work, leave a comment with the error and we'll take a look at it.)

Command Line whois examplewhois-websites4smallbusiness ca

If you didn't get something that looked like the above you may be in a directory other than the one whois.exe is in. If that's the case you probably saw something like this:

whois error

Not In Same Directory as whois is!


Advanced whois | Sending Output To A File

You can send the output of the whois command to a file (the following command will create or overwrite the file called domain-list.txt):
C:\tmp>whois >domain-list.txt

Continue searching for names & put each result into the same file ( the 2nd > means append):
C:\tmp>whois > >domain-list.txt



It's likely that whois is already installed. Open a terminal and type whois then hit enter and see if you get something that looks like:

whois example


Domain name:
Domain status: registered
Creation date: 2013/06/13
Expiry date: 2014/06/13
Updated date: 2013/10/06

Name: Go Daddy Domains Canada, Inc
Number: 2316042
Name servers:

% WHOIS look-up made at 2014-02-03 11:37:35 (GMT)
% Use of CIRA's WHOIS service is governed by the Terms of Use in its Legal
% Notice, available at
% (c) 2014 Canadian Internet Registration Authority, ( )

This should be straightforward on Linux but if you had problems getting whois to work, leave a comment with the error and we'll take a look at it.

And of course the redirect (>) and append (>>) commands work in Linux but you already knew that.



The Mac OSX has a whois under Network utilities according to this link.

NEXT: Domain Names - Registrars




Must be logged in to post comments

What We Do?

Websites 4 Small Business, designs, builds and hosts websites. We specialize in small business websites.

When it's possible, practical and cost effective, we use Open Source off the shelf software to get your site up and running fast. Our philosophy is simple:

Why reinvent the 'technology wheel' at your expense?Cave Man creating wheel

Ok tell me more,...


Who We Do It For?

Blue Sky Landscaping
Flying Eagle Services
Frame It Right GC
West End Business Network
Joomla! 3 Help
ST AUBIN's Carbon Cloth
Trader Joe's Tractors
Hills & Valley Water Systems
Arduino Help
Designs For Business