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.

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.


Posted by:

RandiO
09 Apr 2019

Part #1/2 >> I hope I am not out of line to provide the following factoids, which I had in my OneNote notebook:
IPConfig WinSock DNS - Friday, January 6, 2017
One thing that Microsoft says you can do is reset the TCP/IP stack, release and renew the IP address and flush and reset the DNS settings. This doesn’t always work, but is worth a shot. To do that, open up Command Prompt and type in the following commands, as outlined by Microsoft:
1. Type netsh winsock reset and press Enter.
2. Type netsh int ip reset and press Enter.
3. Type ipconfig /release and press Enter.
4. Type ipconfig /renew and press Enter.
Type ipconfig /flushdns and press Enter.


Posted by:

RandiO
09 Apr 2019

Part #2/2 >> DNS Set - Router or Computer?

Sunday, February 10, 2019
"Does the Router DNS overrule computer / device DNS?"
DNS settings of the end devices override DNS settings of the router if no further measures are taken to prevent end devices or end users to use their own DNS settings. Only admin users can change network settings on computers. And with many routers you can block port 53 passthrough or redirect certain traffic to certain destinations.
From ">https://support.opendns.com/hc/en-us/community/posts/220008627-Does-the-Router-DNS-overrule-computer-mobile-device-DNS>
Does setting DNS on your computer, manually override the DNS servers provided by the DHCP server in your router?
When your computer connects to your router, it usually gets configured by DHCP. That means the computer tells the router "Here I am at ________ MAC address, tell me my IP address, my netmask, my default gateway, and my DNS server". The router acts as the DHCP server.
You can also manually setup your IP address, which means you would override the settings provided to you by the router's DHCP server. You would manually set the IP address, the netmask, and the default gateway.
At this point it is still possible to accept the DNS servers configured by your router's DHCP server or you can also choose to set them manually.
Similarly, you can configure your computer to configure its IP, netmask, and default gateway by DHCP but override the DNS servers manually.
Now that you understand how the whole process works, here is what would happen.
1. You can set Google's DNS 8.8.8.8 in your router settings and now all computers on that network will automatically use that DNS server.
2. You can set Google's DNS 8.8.8.8 on your computer only and now only your computer will use Google's DNS while the rest of your devices will use whatever DNS servers are configured in your router
3. If you let the router get its DNS servers configured by the ISP's DHCP server, which is the default, the router will configure your network to use the ISP's DNS servers. In case of AT&T, it is definitely not advisable. I've seen AT&T and Comcast DNS go down more than once.
4. Configuring redundant DNS, such as 8.8.8.8 (Google) and 4.2.2.4 (Verizon) means the system will try to resolve the query via Google first. If it fails, it will NOT try to resolve it through Verizon. If Google's DNS server is unreachable (more likely to be filtered than down), the system will try to reach the Verizon DNS server. Under normal operations, the system will never query the secondary DNS server. Note: this is for Windows. Other operating systems might behave differently.
From https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-difference-between-setting-your-DNS-choice-on-your-Windows-compare-to-setting-it-on-your-router

[BTW >> Brief review of the NameBench utility indicates that the version available is a 2010 release. I am sticking with Gibson's (GRC) DNS-Benchmark release that is quite current.]


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