I'm running Debian Jessie and I'm trying to configure dnsmasq as a caching DNS server. I used a guide to come up with the following /etc/dnsmasq.conf:


Doing sudo service dnsmasq restart fails and it won't start, telling me

Mar 26 17:13:01 user dnsmasq[26743]: dnsmasq: syntax check OK.
Mar 26 17:13:01 user dnsmasq[26746]: dnsmasq: only one resolv.conf file allowed in no-poll mode.

Ok, kind of strange that a config straight out of a guide failed. I'll just remove the no-poll option to see if it works. This time it starts just fine, but DNS resolution is clearly failing. Relevant files:







The third file appears to be dnsmasq's live resolv.conf file, because adding a nameserver line to it while dnsmasq is already running causes DNS resolution to immediate start working. So it looks like it ignored my /etc/resolv.dnsmasq. I also tried adding a nameserver line to my /etc/resolv.conf and removing the resolv-file line in /etc/dnsmasq.conf, but it gets overwritted immediately to what you see above upon doing sudo service dnsmasq restart.

What is going on with dnsmasq and do I configure dnsmasq as a caching DNS server?

  • 1
    If you just want a static server, why don't you put server= in your dnsmasq config?
    – tripleee
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 22:54
  • I'm thinking the no-poll basically says to ignore the resolv-file. At startup, it takes whichever file is newer, so that will be /etc/resolv.conf in your case (because it gets rewritten when something changes).
    – tripleee
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 23:01
  • I still don't know what the correct way to do it would be if I had more than one DNS server in mind, but since I don't I'll just be happy that your remark solved my issue.
    – nullUser
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 23:52

4 Answers 4


There appears to be a bug in the start-up script for dnsmasq that uses resolvconf to clobber the local resolver if the local loopback interface is not explicitly except-ed in the /etc/defaults/dnsmasq file.

The short answer is that you can add...


to /etc/defaults/dnsmasq to solve the problem.

For more info, see this question...


  • 1
    This saved my life. Thank you. Commented May 9, 2019 at 15:16

bigjosh is right - except there's been an update to dnsmasq, and there's now an option at the end of /etc/default/dnsmasq which you can un-hash:

  • This is how it works with my complex setup on Ubuntu 16.04.
    – Ikon
    Commented Mar 8, 2018 at 12:59
  • 1
    bigjosh's way worked for me. Even though /etc/defaults/dnsmasq had IGNORE_RESOLVECONF=yes with instructions to uncomment it to solve this issue, which it didn't.
    – andho
    Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 15:01

Don't use


Put dns server into dnsmasq.conf, like

server=/localnet/ # change ip for your ip-server

And add into dnsmasq.conf


If you just want a caching-only DNS server and nothing else fancy that dnsmasq can do, you'd be better off installing either lwresd or unbound and using the stock default configuration which gives you a caching-only DNS server. Then you just set /etc/resolv.conf to use "nameserver" and you're done.

The nice thing is these two packages do not mess around with what's in /etc/resolv.conf like dnsmasq does and is thus a cleaner solution IMHO. You can also usually remove the resolvconf package so nothing messes around with /etc/resolv.conf.

FYI, dnsmasq has gotten rather complicated, too many bells and whistles and is just causing pain for most people anymore. Violates KISS in my book.

  • Unfortunately, some packages depend on dnsmasq-base, like network-manager and libvirt-bin (if you're doing KVM), so it's not always possible to completely get rid of it. In that case, you can delete /usr/sbin/dnsmaq and make it a hard-link to /bin/true so it always succeeds (to fool the init script) Then chattr +i /usr/sbin/dnsmasq to lock it from being updated. I've had to do this on several laptops.
    – milli
    Commented Apr 2, 2015 at 23:01
  • +1 as well described in philandstuff.com/2013/11/07/dnsmasq-resolvconf.html . Reallly disgusting behavior and keeps causing pain even 5 years after the post and bug report... Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 19:50

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