Email 101: What is an MX Record?
Written by
Mathew Vernhout
Mathew Vernhout

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Email 101: What is an MX Record?

Published : January 25, 2021 | Updated : May 21, 2024

Much like postal mail, when you are sending email between two individuals the email servers need to know a little bit about the sender and the recipient before the message can be delivered. Messages require that both parties have an email client, email address and an inbox hosted by a mailbox provider (MBP). This could be a service such as Gmail, Yahoo, or Outlook, but it could also be managed by their employer, a friend, or an individual.

What is an MX Record?

An MX record, or Mail Exchanger record, specifies the server responsible for accepting messages on behalf of a user based on the domain name in their email address. The MX record is configured by the domain administrator to identify the server’s location, or Internet Protocol (IP) Address.

How does this relate to an email address?

Email addresses are built to contain a user identifier (username) and the location of the MBP service (or domain). You will recognize the format of ‘[email protected]’ if you have ever sent an email. But, how does your email client and MBP know where to deliver the message you are trying to send? By looking up and connecting to the recipient MBP’s Mail Exchange (MX) record. In short, think of this as the postal address of the recipient – it is the place you send the email to get it delivered. The username then further distinguishes which individual or group should be receiving that message in the home or office.

How do I check my domains MX?

If you are using an MBP like Gmail, Yahoo, or Outlook they have things covered when it comes to the proper configuration to receive and send mail. However, if you are curious, then check out the Email Tester tools found on Grade My Email. Send a quick test message to the unique email address provided from any platform, and within moments you will receive a report that includes your MX records, any potential block listings, and a review of your SPF, DKIM, and DMARC authentication records.

Do I need to have an MX?

While you don’t technically need to have an MX for your email marketing ‘Friendly from’ ([email protected]), the ‘Envelope from’ ([email protected]) should have MXs to process bounces appropriately when sending your email messages. The ‘Messaging, Malware, and Mobile Anti-Abuse Working Group (M3AAWG) Sending Domains Best Common Practices’ recommend that all domains within an email message have a configured and routable MX record and an active mailbox setup to receive emails, replies, or other communications. 

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Written By: Mathew Vernhout
Mathew Vernhout
VP, Deliverability, North America, Netcore Cloud. With two decades of experience in email marketing, he is an industry veteran leveraging the background in privacy and network operations to help customers improve their digital marketing programs.