Folks use the internet throughout their day to access information, and hardly give it a thought. An important piece of this process is when a user enters a website that they want to navigate to into the address bar of their favorite browser.
While us humans think about websites by the name, computers and the internet works with them as numerical addresses. Thankfully, we don’t need to know the IP address of each and every website that we want to go to. Rather, there is a process in place that can convert a website entered into the browser into the numerical IP address. This process is referred to as DNS, which stands for the Domain Name System.
What is the DNS?
The DNS is a sort of a phone book for the internet. It works to convert what gets entered into the browser, for example “www.techradar.com” as a website domain name (also known as a hostname), and then changes it into the format that the data can be worked on via the internet, namely a numerical IP address, which is a string of numbers, separated by decimal points.
Additionally, popular websites with large numbers of simultaneous users, such as www.amazon.com or www.google.com will have a number of IP addresses so many users can be accommodated. Which of the actual IP addresses you end up receiving data from is not a matter that an end user ever really concerns themself with as long as they can log on to their selected site.
What is the default DNS?
Quite frankly, most users are not even aware of which DNS they are using to resolve their hostname requests. Rather, it is a situation of ordering the ‘House wine’ at a restaurant, and as long as a glass arrives, the patron gives little thought beyond if it is red or white.
Therefore, most users simply use the default option for the DNS. This default DNS is provided by your Internet Service Provider (ISP), and lets novice and experienced users alike have access to a DNS that can get the job done, without giving it another thought.
Why change the DNS?
Before we get to how to change the DNS, let’s first think about the larger philosophical question here. Namely, why would we want to change out the default DNS from the ISP, to an alternative. In fact, there are some valid reasons:
- In some cases, a 3rd party DNS may be faster with higher reliability than the default one. This can be due to the ISP’s DNS server being overloaded with requests, or the 3rd party one is located geographically closer. In either case, trying an alternate one is worth a try to see if it speeds up the browsing experience. The Google Public DNS, with an easy to remember 18.104.22.168 server address is often cited for its speed.
- In certain cases, a DNS service claims to offer better security, with less chance of going to a known phishing site. For example, OpenDNS can block adult content, and also offer customizable filtering. It is owned by Cisco, and offers both free tiers, and for even better protection, paid tiers.
- Accessing content that is blocked via geo-restrictions, for example watching BBC content in the US, or conversely for UK users to access US Netflix has traditionally performed via geo-spoofing via a VPN. However, an alternative method is for a user to use a DNS in the country that the content is located in. As the hostname request gets resolved, the user appears to be in the country with the content, and it can be accessed.
Therefore, knowing how to change out the DNS to a different one can yield some intriguing benefits.
How do we change out the DNS?
Thankfully, changing out the DNS is not a difficult task. Here’s how it gets done, step by step for Windows 10:
- Go to the Windows 10 Start Menu in the lower left hand corner, by default.
- Look for the gear shaped icon, located one up from the power icon, and below pictures. When you hover over it, the phrase ‘Settings’ appears, and click to select it.
- Choose the icon for ‘Network & Internet.’
- About halfway down the page, look for ‘Advanced Network Options.’ Select the first choice under that, which is ‘Change Adapter Options.’
- Then locate the adapter that is doing the connection, either Ethernet for a wired connection, or the active wireless adapter if connected through wireless, which will have the green bars (the nonactive connections will have a red X, so don’t click these). Once the active connection is located, give it a right click, and select the last option, ‘Properties.’
- Under the Networking options, go down to “Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4),” and double click on it.
- You will see that if you have not done this before, it is set to “Obtain DNS Server Address automatically,’ which then defaults to the DNS of the ISP.
- The option below this is for ‘Use the following DNS server addresses.’ Select this option.
- There are slots just below this for both a preferred, and also an alternate DNS server address. In general, you should enter both as in case the first one is not working properly, there is another one to resolve the DNS request.
- Hit ‘Ok’ to lock this change in.
That’s it, we now changed out the DNS on a Windows 10 computer!
Changing the DNS is a simple task, when you follow the step by step directions above. It is a simple task that even a novice user can accomplish, with the multiple benefits detailed above. Savvy users realize that they no longer need to accept the “Good enough” DNS of their ISP, and can select an alternate DNS that can be faster, or more secure.
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Jonas P. DeMuro is a freelance reviewer covering wireless networking hardware.