Every connection to the internet relies on the Domain Name System, which is supplied by your network provider. These default servers don’t always prioritize speed or security. If it takes a long time to load a website, you might be better off with a fast DNS service from a third-party.
What are DNS servers?
DNS stands for Domain Name System. Think of it as a phonebook or a contact list, containing names and corresponding numbers. But in this case, the numbers are Internet Protocol addresses and the names are website addresses. Whenever you enter a domain name into a search engine, the DNS server lets you look up the IP address for the site.
Best DNS Servers
There’s a wide range of DNS servers available. Although most free DNS servers can improve speed and performance, their features aren’t equipped to protect and filter malware attacks.
That’s where paid DNS servers come in.
Paid alternatives can block threats and protect data while providing reliable speed and improved performance. Below, you’ll find a list of DNS servers that you can use instead of the ones assigned to you.
- Google Public DNS
- Comodo Secure Internet Gateway
- UltraDNS Public
- DNS Watch
- Alternate DNS
OpenDNS is one of the most popular DNS servers worldwide. It comes with free and paid versions. Its free service can help improve your network’s speed, increase website uptime, and block phishing threats. It can be quite useful for households with young internet users, as it comes with optional parental controls. With OpenDNS, you can make a list of web domains that you want to block.
You can sign up for free and manage everything from there—your connection, parental controls, malware protection, and more.
Its primary DNS is 18.104.22.168, while its secondary DNS is 22.214.171.124. It also has IPv6 addresses, which are 2620:119:35::35 and 2620:119:53::53
- Configurable parental controls
- Blocks phishing websites
- Might log the traffic it receives
Cloudflare has a free public DNS service with memorable addresses—126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52. It is available on Windows and Mac devices. It offers a modern and optimized connection between your network and devices. It can make websites about 30% faster.
With Cloudflare, you can prevent malicious parties from capturing your personal data. The DNS provider promises that it won’t sell your data to ad agencies.
To set up the DNS service, you can follow their simple tutorials. If you have any concerns, you can turn to the community forums for help.
- Optional filtering feature
- Doesn’t sell your data
- Has no ad-blocking feature
Google Public DNS is one of the best free DNS servers. Their servers are hosted in data centers across the globe, which is why it can offer reliable speeds. Once connected to their IP addresses, you’ll be directed to the closest server to your location.
Google has memorable IP addresses—184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11. By changing your default DNS to Google’s public DNS servers, you can have faster browsing and enhanced security. You’ll also have accurate results with no redirects.
As Google only offers basic guidance, its DNS server is more suitable for users who’ve configuring operating system settings.
- Protects against DDoS attacks
- Ideal for experienced users
Comodo’s services are designed for enterprises and managed service providers. All of its plans are cloud-based and geo-distributed. The services can prevent malicious domain requests and IP responses. They can also offer protection against various cyber threats—phishing, spyware, cookie stealing, and anonymizers to name a few
Its free service is quite basic. It allows up to 300,000 DNS requests every month. If you want internal IP-based visibility, monitoring, encryption, you can choose its paid services. They have packages for enterprises and MSPs as well.
Comodo’s primary DNS server is 18.104.22.168 and its secondary DNS server is 22.214.171.124.
- Has a one-month trial
- Offers real-time reporting
- Free plan doesn’t offer encryption
Another free public DNS service you can use is from Verisign. As of October 9, some of its public DNS business assets have been transferred to Neustar UltraDNS public. Despite the transition, its services still focus on stability, privacy, and security.
Using this public DNS, you won’t have to worry about being redirected to ads and malicious domains. You also won’t have to worry about having your private data stolen by malicious parties. Whether you intend to keep your home or business secure, you can block unwanted websites and content using the DNS service.
You can give this public DNS service a try using these primary and secondary addresses: 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52.
- Won’t sell your data
- Won’t redirect your content to ads
- Speed could use improvement
One of the best public DNS servers that can protect your computers and network from cyber threats is Quad9. It automatically blocks sketchy websites. However, it won’t filter content. It can only block phishing domains and malware. It can do all of that without collecting your personal data.
Quad9 is free and easy to set up. It doesn’t require complex software installations. It can protect your privacy and your network from common cyber threats. If it detects a malicious domain, it will automatically prevent you from accessing the site, keeping your computer and data safe.
The Quad9 primary and secondary DNS servers are 184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11.
- Hassle-free setup
- Available for Mac and Windows
- Might be slow depending on where you live
Using OpenNIC’s free democratic DNS service, you can gain access to a new space on the internet. You’ll be able to access new top-level domains, such as .oss and .parody.
One thing that sets OpenNic apart from other DNS providers is that it gives you a list of the four closest servers to your location. You’ll have IPv4 and IPv6 options.
- Provides DNS neutrality
- Prevents DNS hijacking
- Privacy features aren’t tight
8. DNS Watch
DNS.Watch focuses on delivering unrestricted browsing experiences. It can give you access to region-blocked content. Not only that, it won’t log any DNS queries from your devices, preventing advertisers from getting their hands on your personal information.
Compared to other DNS providers, its security features aren’t as tight. It can’t offer the same level of protection against cyber threats. Hence, you’ll have to use extra measures to keep your devices and your network safe against phishing, malware, and other threats.
- Doesn’t record your queries
- Won’t sell your private data
- Security isn’t as tight
CleanBrowsing offers modern content filtering and protection services designed for parents, schools MSPs, and municipalities. Its free version comes with three predefined filters: security, adult, and family. If you want more control over which content to block, you should turn to the paid version.
The paid DNS service has 14 predefined filters—social media, gaming, and torrents, to name a few. You can also customize your own filters and block any domain you want to. Aside from filters, its paid services give you advanced features such as unique profiles and custom blocks.
CleanBrowsing DNS servers are 18.104.22.168 (security), 22.214.171.124 (family), and 126.96.36.199 (adult).
- Has a step-by-step guide
- Won’t record queries from the free service
- The free plan can’t customize filters
10. Alternate DNS
A free public DNS service, Alternate DNS can prevent unwanted ads from entering your network. Despite being fairly new to the game, it can improve your network’s speed and performance. It can also increase server uptime. It makes a reliable secondary DNS resolver.
If you pick Alternate DNS, you can follow its step-by-step instructions. You’ll just have to pick the guide for your operating system or router. In a few easy steps, you’ll be able to switch your DNS server.
The Alternate DNS primary and secondary servers are 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206.
- Blocks threats and unwanted content
- Free to use
The Advantages of Using Public DNS Servers
Switching to your own DNS service doesn’t have to cost a dime. Plus, there are several advantages to using these public DNS servers.
Here are a few benefits of using public DNS servers:
- Increases the speed of your browsing
- Enhances the performance
- Improves your productivity
- Blocks malware and other malicious content
- Grants access to region-blocked content
- Helps you manage the content that your family sees
How to Choose the Best DNS Service
Choosing a third-party DNS server can be challenging because you have too many options on the market. You can narrow down your search by looking at the following factors:
- Parental controls
- Malware protection
- Filtering options
How to Find My Current DNS Servers
Typically, you’ll have multiple DNS servers. If one doesn’t respond, others will serve as a backup. You can identify your current DNS servers with a quick search using Command Prompt.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Press Windows button + R to open Command Prompt
- Type ipconfig /all
- Click Enter
How to Switch DNS Servers
Different operating systems have varying requirements for configuring DNS servers. For home users, it’s important to update your router before you switch to new DNS services. You should log into your router, then look at your current primary and secondary nameservers.
Take note of these nameservers before replacing them with new ones. If you ever encounter problems, you can switch back to the default DNS service.
You can turn to your DNS provider for setup guidance. You may also follow the step-by-step guides of other DNS providers. Just don’t forget to enter the right nameserver IP addresses.
- Open System Preferences
- Select the Network icon (check if your connection is highlighted)
- Click on the Advanced button before selecting the DNS tab
- Select the plus icon on the left side to add a new DNS address
- Click on OK once you’re done
- Then, hit Apply to confirm
- Open the Network and Sharing Center
- Tap on the name of your network
- Click on Properties
- Select Internet Protocol Version 4 (If you use IPv6, click on that)
- Click on Use the following DNS server addresses
- Enter your preferred DNS address
How to Test My DNS Service
Windows users can test their DNS servers by using Command Prompt to run a nslookup query. Remember that you don’t have to test the speed regularly. If you experience slow page load time or you want to change your DNS server, you can test your DNS service.
Test your DNS service by following this procedure:
- Open cmd.exe to open a command line window
- Type nslookup website.com (replace website.com with a web address you want to access)
- Click the Enter button
By running a nslookup query, you’re telling your default DNS server to search for the IP address of the website you entered. If it responds with the IP address, then your server has no issues.
However, if it says that the website can’t be found, then your DNS server lacks a record of the domain name you entered.
You can enter another DNS service by typing the following in your command prompt: nslookup website.com 220.127.116.11. You can replace the address (18.104.22.168.) with your preferred service.
If it still indicates errors, you, most likely, don’t have a problem with your DNS.
A DNS server affects your browsing experience. If, say, your default server isn’t configured for caching, it will make your connection slow. You’ll notice this when you load web pages that use multiple domains from affiliates and advertisers.
Another common problem with default DNS servers provided by the ISP is security. Standard DNS servers can see what you do and where you go online.
DNS Servers – Frequently Asked Questions
Are DNS and IP addresses the same?
No. If a DNS server is a phonebook, the IP address is the phone number. Whenever you browse the internet, a DNS server translates the domain name to a numerical label, which machines can understand. This is called an IP address.
What is the fastest DNS server?
The speed of DNS servers depends on a myriad of factors. Your location, as well as your proximity to the nearest server, are a few examples.
There are free online solutions that can help you find a fast DNS server in your area. Using tools like the Gibson Research Corporation’s DNS Benchmark, you can identify the DNS services that can deliver the fastest speed for your Windows or Linux system. It is free to use. Plus, you don’t have to install it on your computer.
Running a benchmarking program will help you narrow down your options by showing you the fastest DNS providers in your area.
Which DNS server is best for gaming?
The Google public DNS server and the Comodo Secure DNS are ideal for gaming. These servers can enhance your network’s security and provide fast lag-free gaming experiences.
Is changing DNS servers safe?
As long as you follow the instructions properly, switching DNS servers is relatively safe and simple. It won’t cause any harm to your network or your computer. You can also undo the changes you made and revert it to the default settings.
How can I get a free DNS?
You can change your default DNS server by configuring your network settings to use the IP addresses of a free third-party DNS server.
Should I use a private DNS?
Standard DNS servers usually won’t encrypt your connection. This makes you vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks. By using a private DNS, you can keep your queries safe from malicious parties.
There is no harm in trying private DNS servers. If it doesn’t function as well as your default DNS, you can always revert it to the previous its original settings.
Why is paid DNS better than free?
Compared to free DNS services, paid versions offer better protection against malware and other cybersecurity threats. They also have additional features such as parental controls that help you restrict content by age ratings.