Domain Name System (DNS) is a system that translates the domain names you enter in a browser into the IP addresses that are required to access those sites.
Your ISP allocates you DNS servers when you connect to the internet, but they are not always the best choice. Slow DNS servers can cause a delay before websites load and if your server sometimes fails, you may not be able to access any site at all.
Switching to a free public DNS server can really make a difference, with more responsive browsing and long 100% uptime records, which means there is much less chance of technical problems.
Some services may also block access to phishing or infected sites, and some services offer content filters to keep your children away from the worst websites.
You have to choose carefully with your service – not all providers will necessarily be better than your ISP – but to point you in the right direction, this article will highlight six of the best free DNS servers in the neighborhood.
Primary, secondary DNS servers: 220.127.116.11 and 18.104.22.168
Phishing sites are blocked by default
Optional web filtering
Founded in 2005 and now owned by Cisco, OpenDNS is one of the biggest names in public DNS.
The free service offers many benefits: high speeds, 100% uptime, default blocked phishing sites, optional parental control-type web filtering to block websites by content type, along with free email support if something goes wrong.
With commercial plans you can view a history of your internet activity until the past year and you can optionally lock your system by only allowing access to specific websites. These are not must-have features for the average user, but if you're interested, they can be about $ 20 (£ 14.30) a year for you.
If you have an old hand when swapping DNS, you can get started immediately by reconfiguring your device to use the OpenDNS name servers.
If you're a newbie, that's good too, because OpenDNS has setup instructions for PCs, Macs, mobile devices, routers and much, much more.
2. Cloud flare
Primary, secondary DNS servers: 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199
Tight privacy levels
Community support forum
Best known for his network with the best content, Cloudflare has expanded its range with a new public DNS service, the catchily-named 188.8.131.52.
The product has none of the extras that you will often see elsewhere. There is no anti-phishing, no ad-blocking, no content filtering or other attempts to monitor or control what you have access to and what you can not.
Instead, Cloudflare has focused much more on the foundations. These begin with the performance and independent testing of sites such as DNSPerf show that Cloudflare is the fastest public DNS service.
Privacy is another important highlight. Cloudflare not only promises that it will not use your browsing data to show ads; he undertakes never to write the searching IP address (yours) to the disk. All log files that do exist will be deleted within 24 hours. And these claims are not only reassuring words on a website. Cloudflare has retained KPMG to audit its practices annually and to prepare a public report to confirm that the company is keeping its promises.
The 184.108.40.206 website contains some installation support, with simple tutorials on Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux and routers. These are very generic – for example, you get a set of instructions for all versions of Windows – but there are some plus points (IPv6 and IPv4 details) and you should be able to figure it out.
If you have problems, Cloudflare offers a community forum where you can ask questions or see what others are doing, a nice extra touch that we would like to see followed by other providers.
3. Google Public DNS
Primary, secondary DNS servers: 220.127.116.11 and 18.104.22.168
Strong on the privacy front
Intended for experienced users
Google has its fingers in most web-related cakes, and DNS is no exception: it's free Public DNS is a simple and effective replacement of the name servers of your own ISP.
Privacy can not quite match the & # 39; we do not keep anything & # 39; promises from Cloudflare, but it's not bad. The service registers the full IP address information of the query device for about 24 to 48 hours for troubleshooting and diagnostic purposes. & # 39; Permanent & # 39; logs drop all personally identifiable information and reduce the location data to city level, and after a small random sample, these are deleted after two weeks.
The Google support site provides only very simple guidelines for experienced users, noting that "only users are competent in configuring operating system settings" [should] Make these changes. "If you are not sure what you are doing, consult the guides of a provider such as OpenDNS and remember to replace the name servers with Google: 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199.
4. Norton ConnectSafe
Primary, secondary DNS servers: 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206
Uses Norton Safe Web
Three protection levels available
Poor installation instructions
This is a well-known idea – OpenDNS and Comodo, among other things, do virtually the same – but ConnectSafe has one major advantage. It retrieves its data from Norton Safe Web, an extensive database on more than 50 million websites in 23 languages. The service probably provides the best web filter performance, and the ability to get it for free, without having to install software, is an important security advantage.
To set up the service, you have to choose from three protection levels.
The security policy only blocks malicious and fraudulent websites and uses the name servers 220.127.116.11 and 18.104.22.168.
The security and pornography policy adds support for filtering sexually explicit material and uses the name servers 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199.
The very strict program Security and Pornography and Other extends the filtering to block sites with adult content, abortion, alcohol, crime, sects, drugs, gambling, hatred, sexual orientation, suicide, tobacco or violence by using the name servers 199.85. 126.30 and 188.8.131.52.
That will probably exclude you from a lot of content, but it can be attractive as a way to protect young children, and you do not have to use this policy everywhere. For example, you can lock your children's tablet with this policy, but you keep to the clear security policy for your own laptop.
There are only very simple setup instructions on the ConnectSafe site, but if you run into problems, the manuals about competitors such as OpenDNS can point you in the right direction. Make sure that you use Norton's nameserver IP addresses when you change your device settings.
5. Comodo Secure DNS
Primary, secondary DNS servers: 184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11
Focus on safety
Cleverly deal with parked domains
Performance may not be as popular
Comodo Group is the power behind a variety of excellent security products, so it's no surprise that the company also offers its own public DNS service.
Exactly as you would expect, Comodo Secure DNS has a strong focus on safety. It not only blocks phishing sites, but also alerts you when you visit malware, spyware or even parked domains that can overload you with ads (pop-ups, pop-unders, and more).
Comodo claims that its service is also smarter than average, by detecting attempts to visit parked or "not in use" domains and automatically redirect you to where you really want to go.
The performance is of course crucial, and the company proposes that its global network of servers and smart routing technology give it an advantage. The Comodo statistics from DNSPerf are unfortunately less impressive. As we write, DNSPerf reports the average query time as approximately 82 ms, which it is classified as ninth out of ten tested services.
That said, Comodo may still be interesting if you are looking for an extra layer of web filtering and the support website has some short but useful instructions on how to set up the service on Windows PCs, Macs, routers and Chromebooks.
Primary, secondary DNS servers: 18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124
Fast performance levels
Blocks harmful domains
Limited help with setting up
The company sells itself because it is able to block malicious domains by gathering information from a variety of public and private sources & # 39 ;. It is not clear what these sources are, but according to the website used Quad9 18+ threat intelligence providers & # 39; from May 2018.
That is a bit too vague for us, and we are not convinced that the use of a large number of threat information providers will necessarily help – the quality of intelligence is generally more important than quantity.
There is no argument, however, about the performance of Quad9. DNSPerf is currently ranked third in the ten for average global query times, lagging behind Cloudflare and OpenDNS, but effortlessly outperforming competitors such as Comodo and Norton.
By estimating the detail, some variations in speed emerge – Quad9 falls to fifth place for North American searches – but overall the service delivers even better performance than most.
Installation guidance is a bit limited, with tutorials for the latest versions of Windows and macOS. However, they are well presented, and it is not difficult to figure out what to do.
Do you have questions about DNS? Here are some common questions along with our answers.
What is DNS?
The Domain Name System (DNS) is a telephone directory for the Internet, a framework that converts domain names, such as facebook.com or twitter.com, to the IP addresses required for devices to load those internet sources.
The mechanism of DNS can be quite complicated, because information is not stored in a single database, but rather is distributed in a worldwide directory with a large number of DNS servers.
Fortunately, the average internet user normally does not have to be involved in technical details of low level. Your ISP automatically gives you access to a DNS server when you go online and when you enter a URL in your browser, it will find the relevant IP address for you.
Why is DNS important to me?
DNS servers can vary enormously quickly, especially in areas that do not always have the best internet coverage (Africa, South America, Oceania.) To cite an example of a single day when we tested, DNSPerf.com reported that Cloudflare an average 4.33 ms query time for Oceania, while Yandex lagged behind with 350.24 ms. That is potentially more than a third of a second in extra waiting time before your browser has access to a new website.
This is an extreme example, to be honest. European or American lookups can see less than 30ms differences between most DNS services, and because your device or router will probably store the address in the cache for later use, even this delay will only occur very occasionally. Still, a slow DNS server can noticeably slow down your browsing in some situations, and trying an alternative – especially because the best options are all free – is generally a good idea.
There is a second possible benefit in terms of uptime. If your ISP DNS server fails, you may not have access to some or all of your favorite sites. Big-name providers such as OpenDNS claim that they have had 100% uptime in recent years.
How can I find the fastest DNS service?
DNS speed depends on many factors, including your location, the distance to the nearest server, and that server that has enough power and bandwidth to answer all the questions that are received.
DNS Jumper is a portable freeware tool that tests multiple public DNS services to help you find the best performance for you.
The program has many options, but is not difficult to use. Start it up, click Fastest DNS> Start DNS test and within a few seconds you will see a list of DNS services, sorted by speed.
DNS Jumper can be useful, especially because it checks how servers perform from your location, but insufficient tests are performed for a sufficiently long period to give you a definitive answer.
DNSPerf tests multiple DNS services from more than 200 locations around the world every minute and makes the results freely available on its own website. This gives a very good overall picture of the performance and also makes it possible to see how services compare on different continents, and to assess their employability.
How can I change DNS server?
The steps for changing your DNS service vary depending on your hardware and possibly your version of the operating system.
Generally, you should start by finding the primary and secondary name servers for the DNS service you want to use. These IP addresses are normally displayed very clearly on the service website. For example, Cloudflare DNS uses 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52.
The simplest approach for home users is to update their router to use the new addresses. Most other devices automatically record the new DNS settings without having to do any further work.
To do this, you must log in to your router (the default password can be printed on the basis) and search for the current DNS primary and secondary name servers. Write down the current values in case of problems and replace them with the name servers you want to use.
If you encounter problems, go to your DNS service website for installation guidance. Please note that you can also use the self-studies from other DNS providers as long as you remember to replace their name server IPs with your preferred options. For example, OpenDNS has specific guidelines for many different router types on its support site.
If router tweaks are not good for your situation, you may need to change the DNS configuration of each individual device. Cloudflare has short and simple guidelines here, while the OpenDNS website goes deeper.
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