Fixing the “Unable to Determine IP Address From Host Name” Error

When trying to resolve a host name to an IP address in Python, you may encounter the error:

socket.gaierror: [Errno -2] Name or service not known

Or a related error like:

Unable to determine IP address from host name

This occurs when the host name cannot be resolved to an IP address for some reason.

In this comprehensive guide, I will explain the common causes of this error and walk through different solutions to fix it.

Let’s start by understanding how host names are resolved to IP addresses on networks.

Understanding Host Resolution

Mapping host names like to IP addresses is called name resolution. It is a core function of the Domain Name System (DNS) on networks.

The DNS resolution process works like this:

  1. A client requests the IP address for a given host name
  2. A DNS resolver queries the authoritative name servers
  3. The name servers return the correct IP address
  4. The client caches and uses the resolved IP address

Common DNS record types used for resolution include:

  • A: Maps a hostname to an IPv4 address
  • AAAA: Maps a hostname to an IPv6 address

When resolution fails, it means this lookup process encountered an issue somewhere.

Next, let’s explore some common reasons it can fail.

Origins of the Error

There are various reasons why host name resolution can fail with “unknown host” errors:

1. Incorrect host name

The application is trying to resolve an invalid host name that does not exist in DNS.

2. Network connectivity issues

There are networking problems like DNS server outages, firewalls, misconfigurations etc. blocking resolution.

3. DNS configuration errors

The DNS servers have incorrect records, circular dependencies, or other issues.

4. Application problems

The application has bugs or misconfigurations affecting name resolution.

5. Server issues

The destination server is down or unreachable for other reasons.

With so many potential points of failure, structured troubleshooting is needed to identify the root cause.

Checking Connectivity

First, verify basic connectivity to the internet and DNS by pinging external sites:

# Test connectivity

# Test name resolution

If pings succeed and nslookup returns an IP address, connectivity is working at a basic level.

Next, check the host name itself.

Verifying the Host Name

Try looking up the problematic hostname manually using nslookup or dig:

# Lookup IP address for hostname

If this fails with a “no answer” error, the hostname itself is invalid or does not exist in DNS.

This points to an application misconfiguration or hard-coded hostname that is incorrect.

Testing DNS Resolution

To further test DNS functionality, attempt to resolve some known valid hostnames:


If these succeed, DNS resolution is working in general.

But if they fail, you likely have an underlying network or DNS issue blocking resolution.

Using a Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN)

One common cause of resolution errors is using an incomplete hostname like:


IP addresses eliminate reliance on DNS. But hostnames are preferred for portability.

Instead, try using the Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN) which includes the domain:

The FQDN provides the full context for name servers to lookup and return the correct IP address.

Modifying /etc/hosts

On the local machine, you can manually map hostnames to IPs in the /etc/hosts file:

# /etc/hosts myappserver

This bypasses DNS for hostnames you specify.

While useful for temporary troubleshooting, hard-coding IPs has downsides and should be avoided in production.

Setting a Default Timeout

Name resolution failures often result in very long request timeouts.

You can set a default timeout on the socket to prevent excessively long waits:

import socket

socket.setdefaulttimeout(1) # Timeout in seconds

Now requests will fail fast instead of hanging. Adjust to balance performance vs. reliability.

Retrying Failed Requests

For transient network errors, retry logic can help:

import socket
import time


for i in range(3):
  except socket.error:
     if i < 2:

This retries the request up to 3 times on failure.

Adjust based on the reliability needed.

Using IP Addresses Instead

If possible, use IP addresses directly instead of hostnames:

# IP address 

# Hostname 

IP addresses eliminate reliance on DNS. But hostnames are preferred for portability.

Checking Server Configurations

Resolution issues may point to the destination server’s configuration rather than the client.

On the server, check for:

  • Firewalls blocking traffic
  • DNS configured improperly
  • Services bound to wrong IPs
  • Outdated A/AAAA records

Misconfigurations on the server side can prevent clients resolving and connecting.

Troubleshooting Approach

With so many potential causes, a structured approach helps identify resolution problems:

  1. Verify basic connectivity to exclude network issues
  2. Check if a known valid hostname resolves
  3. Attempt to resolve the problematic hostname manually
  4. Trace DNS queries with dig +trace to see where resolution fails
  5. Consult server logs for activity related to the client IP and hostname
  6. If external resolution works, troubleshoot server firewall rules and DNS configuration

Isolating where the failure occurs is key to a targeted fix.

Preventing Resolution Issues

Here are some tips for avoiding name resolution errors proactively:

  • Use FQDN hostnames like
  • Validate hostnames against an allow list before use
  • Implement retries in clients to improve resilience
  • Set default timeouts to prevent hanging requests
  • Follow least privilege principles for firewall rules
  • Monitor DNS logs for errors and latency
  • Adhere to DNS best practices like eliminating CNAME chains

Carefully managing hostnames, DNS, and server configs prevents many connectivity and resolution problems.


In summary, the “unable to determine IP address from hostname” error has many possible causes:

  • Incorrect or non-existent hostnames
  • Networking and DNS problems
  • Server-side firewalls and misconfigurations
  • Application bugs

A structured troubleshooting approach is needed to isolate the root cause in complex environments.

Ensuring DNS best practices, server and firewall configurations, and proper host name hygiene prevents many resolution issues from occurring.

Following the troubleshooting steps outlined in this guide will help you diagnose and fix unknown host errors when they do happen.

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