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BUT, when I try to change the nameservers on any of our .com domains via the registrar's control panel, we receive the error "Nameserver doesn't exist in the registry". Their help pages state that you need to contact their support to "request the name server be registered for all registrars".
I have been emailing and phoning the registrar all week but cannot get them to reply to any email or pick up the phone! I can't seem to proceed with moving domains over until these nameservers are registered. Is there any other way I can do it without going via our registrar?
If you are running your own nameservers you should have 3 machines ideally on at least 2 different parts of the internet.
Most people use their Registrars Nameservers, though a 3rd party Namesevers with a company like ZoneEdit.com would give you more flexibility if you want to (or have to) move webservers.
we receive the error "Nameserver doesn't exist in the registry"
You need to register the domain servers first. This is done in a DIFFERENT PLACE in your registrar's control panel than where you set your nameserver addresses.
You should also make sure your new nameserver is reponding, and create A and NS records for the new nameserver(s).
You must register your name servers.
You can do so on namecheap and godaddy etc... by just opening a new account there.
You can only register a nameserver using the registrar where you have the domain containing the nameservers registered.
So, you have a domain, "example.com", registered, for example, at GoDaddy, and you want nameserver ns1.example.com and ns2.example.com.
First, set up your DNS server. Add A records and NS records for ns1 and ns2. Change your SOA record so that ns1.example.com is the origin.
Now, go to Godaddy and register the domain servers ns1.example.com and ns2.example.com. Finally, change your nameserver pointers to point to ns1.example.com and ns2.example.com.
You can NOT register ns1.example.com and ns2.example.com at some other arbitrary registrar. It must be the registrar where you have example.com registered, and you'll have to be logged-in to that account (if you have multiple accounts at the registrar).
And then, surprisingly, my existing registrar accepts those same nameservers. So it seems that godaddy updates the registries immediately. The domain containing the nameservers isn't registered with them either.
Not sure why or how, I'm just pleased it works!