Some DNS servers are slow, others allow malware, porn and other undesirable material lurking in dark corners of the internet in the web browser. Here are some alternative DNS servers that offer speed and security, and a handy utility that enables you to switch in the blink of an eye.
What is a DNS server?
Do you have a smartphone that is really smart? Can you say ‘call home’ or ‘call Bob’ and the phone automatically dials the number? It is a common features these days and the phone looks up the phone number you need in the contacts database and calls the number for you. It saves you having to type it in and it's easier to say 'call Bob' than to try and remember his phone number
Computers work in a similar way. The address of a website like google.com, ebay.com or facebook.com is meaningless to computers and they actually work with numbers. When you type in the URL of a website like www.google.com into a web browser, the computer looks up the website’s number using a DNS server and then it can contact it and fetch the web page you want to view.
Just as the phone looks up names and turns them into phone numbers in the contact manager, the computer looks up website names and turns them into numbers using a DNS server.
The number is actually called an IP address and it looks like 220.127.116.11 – four sets of numbers in the range 0 to 255. Just as every phone has a unique number so that you can call it, every computer on the internet has its own unique IP address so that you can access it.
The ISP you use to connect to the internet provides two DNS servers (they always come in pairs – a primary and a secondary or backup), but they may not be quick and they may not block malware, porn and other undesirable internet content.
You do not have to use the DNS servers provided by your ISP. You can easily switch DNS servers and there are others that can be used like OpenDNS, Google, Comodo, Dyn and Norton to mention just five.
Switch DNS servers with QuickSetDNS
QuickSetDNS is a great freeware utility that enables you to add any number of DNS servers and then switch from one to the other instantly. Well, as fast as you can click the mouse anyway.
Download the program and unzip it. It does not need installing and you just double click QuickSetDNS.exe to run it. It has only two DNS servers – Google and your router’s default DNS. The third setting is Automatic DNS and this sets the computer to automatic mode rather than manual, which basically means that it will use whatever DNS your router gives it.
It already has Google, so select File, New DNS server and enter these others (the two DNS servers are separated by a comma if you look closely):
To switch to any one of these servers, select it and then click the green button in the toolbar. That’s it. You won’t actually see anything, but you can test whether it is actually working. Select Dyn for example, and then go to http://dyn.com/support/internet-guide-setup/. It will tell you whether you are using Dyn or not. Select OpenDNS and then go to http://www.opendns.com/welcome/ and it confirms that you if you are using OpenDNS.
Google offers a little security, but is mainly used for speed. The others offer varying degrees of security and filtering of adult and undesirable content. If a website has malware or undesirable content, it is blocked by the DNS server, a bit like removing a contact and phone number from your phone's contact manager, thus preventing you from accidentally visiting the site.
Related: Manage your internet bandwidth
If you are wondering why there are three Norton entries, it is because Norton 1 blocks malware and phishing, Norton 2 blocks malware, phishing and pornography, and Norton 3 blocks malware, phishing, porn and other topics like alcohol, crime, drugs and so on. It's your choice which one you use, but that last one is obviously a good one to use on children’s computers.