Speed Up Web Surfing with Alternate DNS

Category: Networking

Can you speed up your web surfing by making a simple change to the settings on your computer or router? YES! Using an alternate DNS server, instead of the DNS provided by your internet service provider. I know it sounds geeky, but I promise to explain it all in plain English, and show you how to make it happen...

Should I Use an Alternate DNS Server?

Let's start by de-geekifying the DNS acronym. DNS stands for "Domain Name Service" and it's a service normally provided by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Here's why it's necessary... Humans refer to websites by their common "dot com" names, but the computers that run things on the Internet know them only by numbers known as IP (internet protocol) addresses. When you tell your browser you want to visit a certain website, it must connect to a DNS server to translate that website name into an IP address.

Normally, that DNS server is operated by your ISP, but there's no technical reason why that must be so. Alternate DNS services can be used to speed up web surfing, provide an additional layer of security, correct typos, or assign shortcuts to commonly-typed website names. Here are some free alternative DNS services you can try.

I've written previously about OpenDNS, the free Domain Name Service that looks up IP addresses and connects you to them faster than the DNS provided by many ISPs. There are other free alternative DNS providers for Web surfing and email, plus managed DNS services for Web site, corporate intranets, and others who need more than basic domain/IP address lookups.
DNS Server

Google Public DNS debuted in December, 2009. To use Google Public DNS, configure your router or TCP/IP Properties to use the nameservers located at IP addresses 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4. (Step-by-step instructions are available at the Google Public DNS site.) Google Public DNS isn't anything fancy; it just works.

Norton ConnectSafe is a free DNS service offered by Internet security software maker Symantec Corp., which owns the Norton Utilities brand. ConnectSafe focuses on content and security, rather than speed. You can choose one of three protection policies. Choice "A: Security" blocks malware, phishing sites and scam sites. Choice "B: Security + Pornography" blocks all of that plus adult content. Choice "C: Security + Pornography + Non-Family Friendly" adds blocking for content that you probably don't want younger children to access. In order to do this content filtering, all DNS lookup requests are checked against Symantec's huge database of known malware/adult sites. Of course, this comparison slows DNS lookup responses a bit, but it's a tradeoff. You'll find instructions on the site for changing your router, or the settings on a Windows or Mac computer.

DNS Advantage was founded in 2007. Its free, public nameserver IP addresses are 156.154.70.1 and 156.154.71.1. This free DNS service is provided by NeuStar, and uses the same DNS infrastructure as NeuStar's fee-based enhanced DNS service, UltraDNS.

NOTE: After changing your DNS servers, you should also flush your system's DNS and browser caches so that your new DNS settings will take immediate effect. This step is optional, but recommended.

So which one of these alternate DNS services is fastest? That depends partly on your geographic location, partly on your Internet service provider, and maybe the phase of the moon. A free program called NameBench will attempt to find the fastest DNS servers available for your computer. It takes about 5 minutes to run the analysis, and then it pops up a web page with the recommended fastest DNS servers. Another handy utility is Gibson Research's DNS Benchmark tool. You'll learn a lot about the DNS system at the Gibson site.

There's no harm in trying out one of these DNS services. Most likely, you'll see a boost in the speed of your web page loading. If you decide to go crawling back to your ISP for DNS service, you can simply change the DNS numbers back to what they were.

Dynamic DNS Services

If you're a home user and you're only interested in speeding up your web browsing with an alternate DNS service, you can skip the next two paragraphs, which explain "Dynamic DNS" services for webmasters.

Suppose you want to run a personal website, or set up a Minecraft server on a home computer which connects to the Internet through a typical consumer-oriented ISP. Or maybe you want to access your security camera or DVR remotely. Generally, you can't, because the IP address that the ISP assigns to your router changes every so often. Your ISP may give you a static IP address that never changes for a fee, but many don't offer static IP addresses at all. Dynamic DNS solves this problem.

The dynamic DNS offered by No-IP.com shows how dynamic DNS works. You provide a hostname, such as "mysite", and it's tacked onto a No-IP.org domain name, e.g., mysite.no-ip.org. That name is associated with a static IP address controlled by No-IP. Next, you download and run a little utility that configures your router so that each time the router gets a new IP address from your ISP, the router communicates the new IP address to No-IP. When someone types mysite.no-ip.org into their browser, the request goes to No-IP's static IP address. No-IP looks up your router's current IP address and routes the request to it. Best of all, No-IP.com is a free service.

Have you tried an alternative DNS service? Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Speed Up Web Surfing with Alternate DNS"

Posted by:

KRS
28 Aug 2013

I've never noticed much delay due DNS lookups.

How much time can switching to an alternate DNS save me?


Posted by:

Marcy
28 Aug 2013

I ran NameBench and it was almost done but gave me a message saying it stopped working and it just quit. If I hadn't been sitting here I wouldn't have a clue what had happened, it was that quick. And it's longer than 5 minutes. More like 1/2 hour or more.


Posted by:

RandiO
28 Aug 2013

My default AT&T U-Verse ISP DNS servers are notoriously slow for some reason. Using Steve Gibson's handy little utility (DNS Benchmark), I changed my DNS to the GRC recommended one and I am now quite happy with the current response time. Irony is that the new DNS server is also an AT&T (SBC) IP yet it is much faster than the default setup. Hmmmmmmmmmm...


Posted by:

Dan
28 Aug 2013

The first time it stopped responding (per windows).
The second time it told me that the primary DNS should be the address that my router(s) have as secondary and the secondary DNS should be my router.
Should I set my router's secondary DNS to itself?
Is this program ready for prime time?


Posted by:

Geoff Harris
28 Aug 2013

I use DNS Benchmark about once a month. After that length of time look-up delay becomes noticeable. It takes less than 30 minutes.


Posted by:

sumo
28 Aug 2013

Does this speed up just initially connecting to a website or does it make the entire session faster?


Posted by:

SamG
28 Aug 2013

Bob; I've been using a free program called DNS Helper for months. It's a small Windows program that will easily switch a dns service with a mouse click. It uses Google DNS, OpenDNS, Comodo DNS, DNS Advantage, services to connect. Download at Softpedia.com or do a web search. And no i'm not employed by either, just trying to help out.


Posted by:

Peter Ridgers
29 Aug 2013

Some time ago a friend was having problems with internet access from all PC's on a small network. His daughter had homework due that needed info from the internet - I changed the dns on her pc to 8.8.8.8, 8.8.4.4 - problem solved. A BT engineer later told them that changing the dns settings on that one pc had screwed up the internet performance of all pc's on the network (I'm surprised he didn't say in the whole town or even the country).


Posted by:

Matt Bludau
29 Aug 2013

And the good thing for the NSA is that they won't have to ask foreign agencies for the websites a particular user is accessing, they get it on US soil for free. Sorry, my data stays outside the US as far as possible.


Posted by:

Rick
30 Aug 2013

Comcast is my ISP and I use a Cisco router that serves as my DHCP server. I ran Namebench and then placed the top 3 recommended DNS addresses into my router's 3 DNS fields (which were previously blank). Then I did an 'ipconfig /renew'. Is it normal for my PC's network properties to show the first DNS address as the router (192.168.1.99) instead of the first DNS address I entered into the router (75.75.75.75)?


Posted by:

Random
03 Sep 2013

I'm wondering how safe, secure, and smart it is to run your private info thru someone elses DNS. Especially Google's. Think I will stay with my current setup.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Your info really isn't going through the DNS server. The only thing that's changing is how your "dot com" web addresses are getting translated into IP addresses. You're telling your ISP "use this DNS server, instead of the one you normally use." The picture above that goes along with the article shows the process.


Posted by:

Georgeofthejungle2
28 Oct 2014

Bob, You are my hero!!! namebench worked perfectly increased mine by 73% over my monopolized isp/tv provider...
Thanks again!
PS Only took 4 minutes 39 seconds to complete


Posted by:

Tom
19 May 2015

Public DNS Servers that actively block ads

198.101.242.72
23.253.163.53

http://www.alternate-dns.com/


Posted by:

john silberman
24 Dec 2016

Thanks. Never heard of Namebench. What a great find.


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