Changing Your DNS Server: Why You Should and How to Do It

Which DNS (Domain Name System) server do you use? If you don’t know the answer, it’s a good bet that you’re using your ISP’s (Internet Service Provider’s) servers, and you can do better. Changing your default DNS server can boost your security, privacy, and speed (by a few milliseconds, but hey, why not?).

dns-explanation-graphic

DNS servers act like Internet phonebooks – they take your alphanumeric inputs (for example: maketecheasier.com) and convert them to numeric IP addresses (192.124.249.3) that correspond to the server your computer is looking for. They then give your computer directions on where to go, letting your computer connect. The process is so lightning fast that you typically don’t even notice it – which is great, since your computer manually sorting through the Internet’s 1.8 billion websites would take a long, long time.

Your ISP’s servers probably aren’t breaking the Internet for you. However, most ISPs don’t put a lot of effort into maintaining them, which gives public servers a few advantages.

  1. ISPs don’t always have reliable, up-to-date DNS servers, so your requests for certain websites may be bounced around to other servers before the correct address is found, which slows down that site for you.
  2. Most ISPs do not offer phishing protection. They also typically do not use DNSSEC or DNSCrypt – security features that protect your DNS requests from being spied on or hijacked and redirected.
  3. If you need to circumvent geoblocking or an ISP block on a certain website, changing your DNS can help.
  4. Your ISP probably records your DNS activity; you can make your browsing more private by not using their servers.

Unless you have a very slow DNS, switching probably won’t net you more than a few fractions of a second in terms of faster load times. But if it’s a matter of a hundred milliseconds versus five, you probably don’t want to pick the slower one. Luckily, you can use DNS Jumper (or any other DNS testing software; DNS Benchmark is great for more advanced users or those with Macs) to test your speeds.

1. Download DNS Jumper. (Windows only. The link is at the bottom of the page.)

2. Unzip the folder and open it if it doesn’t open automatically.

dns-extract1

3. Run the DNSJumper.exe file. No installation required!

4. Click “Fastest DNS.” Before running the test make sure to stop any other traffic (updates, streaming, browsing, etc.) on the network to make sure it is accurate.

dns-run

5. Hit “Start DNS Test.” This should just take a few seconds.

dns-start

6. The software will automatically sort the servers from fastest to slowest. There may be many unfamiliar names on your list, so do some research before choosing.

dns-results

7. You may want to re-run the test a few times to make sure you get the same results.

8. Once you settle on a DNS server, you can click “Apply DNS Server” to change your computer’s DNS settings without any manual input required.

9. If you want to “jump” between DNS servers in the future, you can simply run this program again and select a different option. If the service you want isn’t listed, you can input a different DNS address by selecting “Custom DNS.”

dns-custom

Note: Mac’s users can set and configure DNS settings with the instructions here. Linux users can follow these instructions.

Setting your computer’s DNS will change your traffic from that machine, but to get every device in your home routing their requests to a different server, you’ll need to change your router settings.

1. Access your router’s control panel. For many routers, typing 192.168.1.1 into your browser’s address bar will work. Some router brands use a different address, but a quick search for “[Router brand name] IP address” will turn yours up quickly.

dns-router-main

2. Unfortunately, router control panels across brands and models are all very different. In general, you should first look for an “Internet Settings” or just “Internet” tab, though some routers put the DNS settings in a “DHCP” or “LAN Settings” menu.

dns-dhcp-panel

3. If the DNS settings don’t show up on the front page of “Internet Settings,” click around the tabs until you find two fields labeled “Primary DNS” and “Secondary DNS.”

4. If you can’t find the settings on your own, you can find specific instructions by searching “[router brand name] change DNS.”

5. If you’ve run DNS Jumper, you’ll see two DNS addresses listed for the server you selected. Just plug the first one into “Primary DNS” and the second one into “Secondary DNS.”

dns-dhcp-change

6. Save your changes, wait for your router to restart, sit back, and enjoy the knowledge that your Internet connection just got a little bit better!

While your speed gains will be marginal, changing your DNS can definitely improve your security and privacy. If you’re behind a firewall or need to get around some censorship, changing your DNS can also be part of your strategy to get around it. Overall, it’s not quite as technically difficult as it sounds, and you have nothing to lose by making a quick switch .

Leave a Reply

Yeah! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic! Check out our comment policy here. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation.