While browsing the internet, there are several factors that affect how long it takes to load a website, or whether it even loads at all. These include the current condition of your ISP and its network and how fast the server is where the website is hosted. Another part of the loading process is translating the website address, or domain name, into the correct format to be read and understood by other networks. This is known as the Domain Name System, or DNS for short.
DNS is a third party service that takes a more humanly readable website name, such as Raymond.cc or Google.com, and translates it into the websites real name which is a set of numbers known as the IP address. The IP address is then used to connect to the website. A DNS server sits in between you and the website you want to visit so it’s important the service works reliably and fast. Otherwise connecting to websites will be slow or you might not connect at all if the service is down or has not updated its records.
Some default DNS servers supplied by ISPs are not that fast or not entirely reliable, so it makes sense to use something better and change your DNS server. A number of DNS services also offer extras features like malicious content blocking, blocking content unsuitable for children and even blocking adverts. Dozens of third party DNS services are available so there’s no shortage of options to try.
It’s not difficult to change the DNS for your internet connection although the option is buried several layers down in the network adapter settings. Windows defaults to automatically using whatever DNS is configured in your router or by your ISP. Instead of digging through network settings it makes sense to use a method that can make it far easier and quicker to try out and change your DNS settings, here are 7 way to do it.
1. DNS Jumper
DNS jumper is a program we’ve mentioned several times before because it’s got enough features and options for most uses and fits into a small and portable program. A sizable 45 DNS servers are included in the list and you can also add your own or edit the list to update the server addresses.
DNS Jumper is pretty easy to use, select a single network adapter or all to change the DNS of all connected adapters. Pick the DNS server to use from the drop down list and click Apply DNS. Pressing the blue/green icon runs a quick benchmark of both servers or you can test all servers in the list and choose the fastest, press the Fastest DNS button to do that. Although the program flushes the system DNS on a server change, you can flush it manually via the button if needed. DNS Jumper can also sit in the system tray where you can quickly select a DNS by right clicking the icon.
The creator of DNS Jumper also has another tool called DNS Angel. It only includes family safe DNS servers which block inappropriate content. Currently they are Norton, OpenDNS and Yandex.
2. Tweaking.com Change DNS Servers
This small utility is both portable and easy to use. The only real downside is only 2 DNS services are available from the program and you cannot edit them or add your own custom servers. The DNS servers are Google and OpenDNS and probably the most popular, so should be OK for average users. A couple of secure or family DNS options would have been good through.
Usage is just a few clicks, select the network adapter from the drop down (not required if you only have 1 adapter), click either the Google or OpenDNS buttons and press Enable Static DNS. If you want to revert back to using your default ISP supplied DNS then click Disable Static DNS to set the Windows setting back to auto.
QuickSetDNS is a portable, small and simple tool by Nirsoft. It only has one third party DNS service included by default, Google Public DNS, but it’s easy to add your own entries. For convenience we’ve created a QuickSetDNS configuration file with 20 extra DNS services included. Download, extract and copy the .CFG file to the same folder as the QuickSetDNS executable.
The default vanilla options are Automatic, which resets to automatically obtain, Router DNS, which manually sets the DNS to the default gateway and Google DNS. To select any DNS from the list click on it and press F2, the green toolbar button or right click and select Set Active DNS. Also make sure the correct network adapter is selected in the drop down. You can easily add, edit or delete your own entries. Like some other tools, QuickSetDNS could do with a test option so you know whether the service is working and how fast before applying it.
Create Your Own DNS Setting Desktop Shortcut With QuickSetDNS
One reason we like QuickSetDNS is it’s ability to run from the command line. This means you can quickly change DNS settings by double clicking a desktop shortcut or running the command in a batch file. Here’s how to do it.
1. Run QuickSetDNS and right click on the DNS service you want to put in the shortcut. Select Copy SetDNS Command Line or press Ctrl+L which copies the required shortcut command and arguments to the clipboard.
2. Right click on the Desktop > New > Shortcut. In the location box press Ctrl+V or right click and Paste. This will paste the command copied from step 1. Press Next.
3. Give the shortcut a name such as OpenDNS or Google DNS etc, then press Finish. When you double click the shortcut on the desktop the DNS servers will silently change to what you chose.
Before doing this make sure you have copied QuickSetDNS to a permanent location as moving it after creating a shortcut will cause the command to fail.
4. Public DNS Server Tool
This tool is also quite basic in terms of features with no speed testing or comparison available. It is nice and easy to use if you just want to change and occasionally try out different DNS servers. The program is portable so you just need to extract the downloaded zip and run it.
First, select the network adapter to change from the drop down at the top, if you want to change the DNS of all active adapters, check Select all. Then select the DNS service to use from the list of 12 and press the Change button. Custom servers can be added by editing the servers.ini file in the program’s folder. After a few seconds the current DNS display will update to reflect the change. If you want to keep your current DNS settings to restore later, use the Backup menu to backup the data to a registry file.
5. Smart DNS Changer
This program has a few niggles, these include a busy looking user interface and ads at the bottom of the window. Another drawback is it only comes as a setup installer. However, you can at least make a portable version by unpacking the installer with Universal Extractor. Despite these issues, Smart DNS Changer is relatively easy to use and has some nice touches along with a few unique features for a DNS changing tool.
Although only the active network adapter can be changed, selecting one of the 10 supplied DNS services gives you a useful description of what the DNS does, such as blocking malicious sites or adult material. Simply choose which service you want and press the Apply DNS Settings button. Pressing the green tick next to each DNS will test the it. You can add your own DNS servers but it helps if you know what each offers so you can add all the information into the add DNS window.
The extra features could prove quite useful. Kid Shield can use different DNS servers for different user accounts, so you can use a stricter DNS for children. MAC Address Changer is an interesting feature that spoofs the MAC address of your network adapter. Find Devices searches the local network for other devices while DNS Speed Comparer runs a speed test of two of the DNS services and tells you which was the fastest. The .NET Framework 4 is required for Windows 7.
6. ChrisPC DNS Switch
ChrisPC DNS Switch looks like a nice all in one tool for testing and configuring your DNS settings. Sadly there’s a free and paid Pro version and the free version has some restrictions. You cannot benchmark all DNS servers, cannot edit the listed servers and cannot import a list of servers. The free version also includes an ad banner in the window and a popup ad window that appears periodically and on exit. It’s not portable either but can be extracted with Universal Extractor.
If you don’t mind the ads or restrictions, ChrisPC DNS Switch has a total of 34 DNS servers to choose from. Select the network adapter from the drop down, then the DNS service from the other drop down and press Change DNS. You can also change or restore the DNS for one or all network adapters on the computer. The Show drop down is quite useful because it filters the services into categories of regular, secure, family safe, or anonymous DNS.
7. Change DNS Server With The Netsh Windows Command
Windows has a built in command line tool called netsh that performs a number of network related tasks, including changing the DNS servers of network adapters. This is especially useful for scripts and batch files because no external tools are necessary. To set the preferred DNS server:
netsh int ipv4 set dns name=[adapter name] static [DNS server] primary
Replace DNS server with the DNS address you want to use, such as 188.8.131.52 for Google. For adapter name you need to know the name of the network adapter, it’s usually something like “Ethernet”, “WiFi” or “Local Area Connection”. Type “netsh int show interface” into a command prompt for a list of adapters or look at the network connections window in Control Panel.
A typical command would look something like this:
netsh int ipv4 set dns name="Local Area Connection 2" static 184.108.40.206 primary
Adding an alternate DNS server requires a slight change to the command:
netsh int ipv4 add dns name=[adapter name] [DNS server] index=2
While the first command uses set to add the primary DNS, the second uses add and index=2 for the alternate DNS. For setting the alternate DNS to Google, use something like:
netsh int ipv4 add dns name="Local Area Connection 2" 220.127.116.11 index=2
Then put both commands into a batch file and add an "ipconfig /flushdns" to clear the current DNS cache. To set the DNS servers automatically for all enabled network adapters you can download this small batch script. Open the script and edit the DNS1 and DNS2 values to your preferred and alternate DNS servers, then run the batch as administrator.