Your internet service provider offers its ownÂ DNS servers, which help you turn websites like www.howtogeek.com into their respective IP addresses. Your devices use those by default, but you canÂ set your own preferred DNS serversÂ for a bit of improved speed.
Many DNS servers will also block malware, pornography, and other types of websites, if you want them to. Weâ€™ll talk about all your options in this article.
If Youâ€™re Looking For Speed, Run a Benchmark
If youâ€™re looking for something faster than your ISPâ€™s DNS servers, we recommend you run a DNS benchmark to find whatâ€™s best for your connection. The fastest DNS server will depend on your geographical location and internet service provider, so we really canâ€™t recommend one fastest DNS provider for everyone.
Many DNS providers are focused on speed, and thatâ€™s their big selling point. But only running a benchmark will tell you which is fastest for you.
We recommend running Gibson Research Corporationâ€™s freeÂ DNS BenchmarkÂ tool if youâ€™re looking for the fastest DNS server on Windows or Linux (Mac users should check outÂ Namebench).Â Just download DNS Benchmark, launch it (no installation required), select the â€œNameserversâ€ tab, and click â€œRun Benchmarkâ€. Itâ€™ll benchmark the top 72 DNS servers. After itâ€™s done, it will even offer to benchmark nearly 5000 publicly available DNS servers in the world and find the best 50 for your connection. This will take longer, of course. For the most accurate results possible, ensure the DNS Benchmark tool is the only thing using your internet connection during the tests (so turn off Netflix streaming, online games, or other downloads that might be using your internet).
For example, in the benchmark we ran on one connection, we saw that the fastest third-party DNS servers were OpenDNS, followed by UltraDNS, followed by Google Public DNS.
Thereâ€™s one issue with this tool. Thereâ€™s a good chance your Internet service providerâ€™s DNS servers may be the fastest for your connection, because theyâ€™re located physically near you. However, DNS Benchmark doesnâ€™t test your ISPâ€™s DNS servers.
In the screenshot above, for example, it actually says our routerâ€”thatâ€™s the â€œLocal Network Namesaverâ€ is the fastest DNS server. Thatâ€™s because itâ€™s physically present on our local network and can immediately return cached results it remembers. However, your router will be using your ISPâ€™s DNS servers by default, so this test didnâ€™t actually benchmark how your ISPâ€™s DNS servers compare to these third-party DNS servers.
To test this, you need toÂ sign into your routerâ€™s web interfaceÂ and locate the addresses of your ISPâ€™s DNS servers. Every router is a little different, but we found this under â€œInternet statusâ€ on our ASUS router.
In DNS Benchmark, you can then click the Nameservers tab, click the â€œAdd/Removeâ€ button. Type the IP address of the first DNS server and click â€œAddâ€ to add it to the list. You can then type the address of the second DNS server and click â€œAddâ€, too.
Once you have, click â€œRun Benchmarkâ€ to run the benchmark with your ISPâ€™s DNS servers. We found that Comcastâ€™s servers were the fastest ones for our Comcast connection, which isnâ€™t surprising.
Even if your ISPâ€™s servers are the fastest, however, you may still want to switch to another DNS server that provides malware filtering, parental controls, and other features. It helps to know how comparatively fast the other options are.
If Youâ€™re Looking for a Fast DNS Server
Some DNS servers donâ€™t offer a lot of features, and just focus on providing fast, speedy, accurate results.
Google Public DNSÂ was created by Google to provide a speedy, secure alternate DNS server. It provides raw, unfiltered results. GoogleÂ promisesÂ it wonâ€™t correlate any usage data with any personal information youâ€™ve provided to other Google services.
OpenDNS HomeÂ is configurable. So, although OpenDNS offers malware protection and other web filtering features, you can create a free account and customize the exact filtering that will take place for your connection. If OpenDNS is fast for you, you can use it with or without the filtering. OpenDNSÂ promisesÂ not to share your information with any outside parties.
Thereâ€™s alsoÂ Level 3 DNS, run by Level 3, which provides backbone connections that link ISPs around the world. Many ISPs actually rely on Level 3 DNS. Level 3 doesnâ€™t publicly advertise its DNS service, but anyone can point their systems at Level 3â€™s DNS servers and use them. Level 3â€™s DNS service may be very fast for some connections.
VerisignÂ also provides its own public DNS server. It also doesnâ€™t block anything, and promises that it wonâ€™t sell your DNS data to third parties.
If Youâ€™re Looking For Parental Controls or Malware Protection
If youâ€™re looking for a DNS server that provides configurable parental controls, we recommendÂ OpenDNS Home. You can create a free account and configure exactly how it works on your connection, setting up malware blocking, parental controls with more granular settings than youâ€™ll find on other services. You can choose which types of sites you want to block and even set a custom list of web domains that should be blocked or allowed. As we mentioned above, OpenDNS promises not to share your information with outside parties. Check outÂ our guide to configuring OpenDNSÂ for more.
Neustar DNS, formerly known as UltraDNS, also offers different DNS servers you can use to block different types of malware or inappropriate websites. If the UltraDNS/NeuStar servers are fast for you, this could be a good option. However, they donâ€™t clearly promise not to sell your usage data, as the other services we recommend do.
If you just want malware protection, you may also want to look atÂ Norton ConnectSafe. These servers are run by Symantec, which also makes Norton Antivirus. Theyâ€™ll block malicious websites and other types of inappropriate sites, depending on the server you choose. Symantecâ€™sÂ privacy noticeÂ says the service uses the data only to provide you with DNS service and to measure aggregated usage of the service, so it doesnâ€™t sell your data.