Have you heard of people wanting to change DNS servers? Want to know what that means, why people do it and how it can be done? We’ll look at all of these factors in a moment, but first of all let’s get an understanding of what DNS servers are and how they impact on you.

What Are DNS Servers?

DNS is a naming system for computers, services and any other resource that is connected to the Internet. I could give you a high-level explanation of what this is and how it works, but I’ll try and keep things as simple to understand as I can here.

All websites are hosted on servers and each server has at least one IP address. The domain name (or website address, depending on what you want to call it) is essentially an alternate name that the IP address has. The DNS server is used to translate the website address to an IP address so that your browser can connect to the server to retrieve the web page. As an example, if you visit example.com, your DNS server will translate this into an IP address (192.0.43.10), it’ll then query the IP address to retrieve the website and display it on your screen.

Essentially, website addresses were created to make it easier to find a website rather than visiting it through an IP address. Imagine if I have a meeting and I need to tell someone this website address – telling them to go to geekitdone.com is a lot easier than telling them to go to 205.186.187.167

If you want to learn a little more about DNS then check out this Wikipedia article which goes into a lot more depth and see if that helps you understand why you may need to change DNS servers.

Why Change DNS Servers?

There are many reasons that you may want to change DNS servers, but first let me explain something. When you connect to the Internet your ISP (Internet service provider) will assign you a pair of DNS servers. Most ISP’s will have their own set of name servers and each will be stored on their own servers with varying levels of hardware specifications and security. There are many 3rd party DNS servers which you can use instead that are more likely to be up-to-date with security.

DNS servers that are operated by ISP’s can easily come under attack by hackers. This could result in scenarios like the servers going offline, so you can’t connect to any websites. It could also point you to fake websites, so if you try to do online banking it’ll look like you are visiting your bank’s website, but instead you are visiting a site hosted by hackers which is on a different IP address, but the domain name you have entered is pointing there instead of to the correct location.

How do you get around these issues? You need to change DNS servers to one that is more secure and trusted.

What Are The Options?

There are many options to consider when wanting to change DNS servers, but  most people who want to make the change go for one of two choices, either OpenDNS or Google’s Public DNS Servers. OpenDNS contains a lot of features such as a customisable web filter and options to help prevent certain types of attack. For pure security we recommend OpenDNS.

But what about Google’s Public DNS Servers? We recommend using these if you want to speed up your Internet connection. Speed is the main highlight of using Google’s offerings – their DNS servers are highly maintained which is exactly what you’d expect from the search engine giant. Worrying about attacks or issues is something you won’t need to do.

Personally, I use Google’s Public DNS Servers on my home computers and home server, but there are pros and cons of each. My favourite feature of Google’s DNS servers isn’t to do with security, and it’s probably something unimportant to most people, but it is the DNS server’s addresses. Their 2 DNS servers are located on IP addresses 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4 so they are pretty easy to remember. Have a search online and you’ll find lots of reviews of both that’ll help you make your mind up when wanting to find the best solution to change DNS servers.

How To Change DNS Servers

To change DNS servers, all you’ll need to do is make a few changes to your operating system’s settings.

Windows

  1. Go to Control Panel. Select Network and Internet and then Network and Sharing Center. Click on the option forChange adapter settings.
  2. Right click onto the network adapter that you use, either the wired adapter if you connect to the Internet using an Ethernet cable, or the wireless adapter if you use a wireless connection to the Internet. Select the Properties option.
  3. Go into the IPv4 properties, click onto Advanced and select the DNS tab.
  4. Select Use the following DNS server addresses.
  5. Enter 8.8.8.8 as the first DNS server address and 8.8.4.4 for the second.
  6. Click OK to close out of these open windows and then restart your computer.

Mac OS X

  1. Open System Preferences and then click onto Network.
  2. To change the settings for an Ethernet connection select Built-In Ethernet, and click Advanced, and for a wireless connection select Airport, and click Advanced.
  3. Select the DNS tab and enter 8.8.8.8 as the first DNS server address and 8.8.4.4 for the second.

Linux

Changing the DNS servers in Linux can be done in several different ways, depending on the distribution of Linux that you are using. For specifics on how to change the DNS settings in your version of Linux we’d recommend either trying to follow the steps below if your distro has a GUI, and if you can’t follow the steps or if the OS is command line based then we’d recommend Googling the answer. The steps below should work fine with Ubuntu and related distributions.

  1. In the System menu, click Preferences and then Network Connections.
  2. Select the connection that you want to change the DNS for – if you are using an Ethernet connection select the Wired tab, then select your network interface in the list (usually called eth0) and to change the DNS of a wireless connection just select the Wireless tab then select the appropriate wireless network.
  3. Click Edit and then select the IPv4 Settings.
  4. If the selected method is Automatic (DHCP) then you’ll need to click into the drop-down box and select Automatic (DHCP) addresses only instead. If the method is set to something else, do not change it.
  5. In the DNS servers field you’ll need to enter the DNS IP addresses separated by a space, e.g. 8.8.8.8 8.8.4.4
  6. Click Apply and you are done.

Mobile

You can often change the DNS servers that your mobile phone uses, but this will be limited to WiFi rather than your mobile Internet connection such as 3G. The way to change this will vary from device to device, so the steps below are for guidance only.

  1. Go to the screen in which the Wi-Fi settings are specified.
  2. Find the screen in which the DNS server settings are specified.
  3. Add the DNS servers 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4

Additional Notes

In the examples above we’ve assumed that you are using Google’s DNS servers which have the addresses 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4 – if you instead are opting to use OpenDNS’s servers then you should use 208.67.222.222 and 208.67.220.220 instead.

Conclusion

Whether you are bothered about security or speed, to change DNS servers is something that you should seriously consider. Understanding DNS servers isn’t essential, but it is probably one of the reasons why changing DNS servers isn’t mentioned as much as it should be. If the topic were more simple to understand then I’m sure that changing DNS servers would be something that everyone would consider. Why not give it a try and let us know how you get on.

Image Credit: Blaise Alleyne