DNS is one of the setting that when setup correctly, can speed up your internet speed in regular browsing and streaming. In many cases, it can also speed up online gaming speeds and reduces latency. In this simple to understand guide, we will go over the basics of DNS, what it means, and what you can do to know the best DNS server IP address for your router, lastly, the best ways to setup DNS for your home use.
Please note that the this guide is written for general home uses, if you are setting up a simple customized DNS server configuration to speed up your internet, this is the guide for you.
What is DNS Server
DNS Server Basic Meaning
DNS server stands for Domain Name System Servers. It is basically like an address book. It “looks” up the domain names that you request it with, and it returns with an actual IP address for the actual website. Your computer then uses that IP address information to do things online such as browsing, email, and gaming.
So better DNS = Look up addresses faster = Improving your internet speed. The DNS settings can benefit most of the internet usage speed. Since almost application that you use almost never call the internet resources by their IP, you need to use the fastest DNS server to speed up your internet performance.
Factors Involving DNS Speed
There are multiple factors that determine how fast the DNS server to the router. Some of the major factors include distance, load, and cache capability. From a regular home user point of view, there is no way for you to figure out the best DNS to use on a consistent basis.
To find the best DNS service, your best bet is to use free DNS benchmark tool like Namebench (by Google) to figure out the best one to use.
The free benchmarking tool will take about 15~20 minutes to run. However, it will give you a few suggestions on the best DNS server setting for you to speed up your internet with.
Actually Using DNS Server Information to Boost Internet Speed
You can generally change the DNS settings on your router or computer by disabling the option “Connect to DNS Server automatically”. And manually input the custom DNS server IP addresses.
Computer or Router DNS Setting
Armed with the fastest DNS server at your disposal, you generally have two choices to utilize the different DNS server. You can either save the setting either via your computer directly, or on the router.
We generally recommend you to use the custom DNS on your router. The main reason is that most mobile devices do not allow you to change its DNS settings.
The only exception is when you have routers that do not allow you to change its DNS settings, then you are stuck with the computer side setting only.
How Often for DNS Speed Benchmark Check Up
Because there are multiple DNS infrastructure that are outside of user’s control. Sometimes internet nodes gets removed, hardware gets upgraded, or servers become loaded with more users. You should generally check to see if the DNS server condition from every 6 months to an year to ensure that you are still optimizing your internet speed with the best DNS servers.
You should also rerun the benchmarking tool when you experience speed decreases with your internet usage.
Other DNS Server Speed Consideration
Lastly, we want to note that in some cases, you may still want to check DNS when your internet appears to be slow for a few websites that you use often but not others.
The reason is that depending on the infrastructure and backbone of each of the servers, and how much cache (saved addresses) that they hold. DNS servers respond faster when the other users look up the same sites that you do. This is because DNS servers keep a running log of domain IP’s or caches, this speed up the process of having to look up domain IP’s every time someone looks for it.
The speed of your actual experience may differ. Some “slower” DNS resolver server’s actual speed may be faster when you deal with certain applications and websites, simply because other users who use that DNS is visiting the same sites as you.
The benefit of benchmark in DNS server testing is really to give you a ballpark idea of how each DNS servers respond in average for the most common web domain addresses. However, your internet usage may not be “average”. To really achieve maximum speed and low latency, you should still test around the top choices with your specific internet uses.
Internal DNS vs External DNS
If you are an advanced user, you may actually host your own personal private DNS on your network. In this case, you generally want to dedicate the DNS from your internal network. Never use internal DNS as primary and external as secondary. Keep the two setups consistent.
Primary DNS and Secondary DNS Considerations
Depending on your specific router or operating system, the primary and secondary DNS gets different treatments. These may also be called as Preferred DNS server or Alternate DNS Sever. For example, some routers will use Primary and secondary only when the primary fails. Some routers will rotate among the DNSresolvers.
However, you generally do not want to assign both the primary and secondary DNS server settings to one specific service. The reason is that when a node in one server IP fails, the other one will generally fail as well due to potentially overlapping backbone.
Use different DNS resolver IPs from two different services ideally. You should however never use the same DNS IP address for both your Primary and Secondary – even if your router or computer may accept it as valid configuration. For example, use Google’s Public DNS and OpenDNS together for either the primary or secondary.