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You are reading Maximum PC because you love to build, and tweak your rig. We will gladly spend hours trying to nudge a few extra clock cycles out of our CPUs, but why do so many of us refuse to touch our network settings? The vast majority of users simply plug in their network cables, cross their fingers, and sacrifice an AOL CD to the gods who keep Conficker at bay. Truth be told, without going into too much depth up front, there is a really easy way to boost your surfing speed and it requires very little effort at all. This same tool gives you the ability to customize your internet experience further by creating URL shortcuts, or even filtering content, all without extra software.
The tool we are referring to is Domain Name System, or DNS for short. In a nutshell, DNS is your phone book for the internet. It helps translate a friendly internet domain like www.maximumpc.com, into IP address that our computer needs to find servers on the internet. Each time you visit a new website, a DNS query is issued in the background, and you’re none the wiser. Internet service providers supply DNS to all their customers, but these servers tend to be overpopulated, and certainly aren’t a priority to them because it’s difficult for the average user to measure performance. Power users are intimately familiar with how to benchmark raw connection speeds, but before that even becomes a factor, your machine needs IP address which is supplied by your DNS. Even if your smoking fast Fiber Optic connection can handle 18 Mbps, if your ISP’s DNS server wastes several seconds looking up your favorite website, you connection may be sitting in limbo when you could be surfing instead.
Interested in finding out how to improve the responsiveness of your connection and learning more about your DNS options? Read on.
This step isn’t as easy as it sounds. There are more than 11.9 million DNS name servers in the world today, and some of these represent a significant security threat. You would think that if someone was going to all the trouble of setting up a dedicated DNS server they would keep it up to date. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Some were simply commissioned years ago, and haven’t been touched or updated since launch. It’s worth noting however, that sticking with your ISP’s free default offering isn’t always the best choice either. They are often one of the worst offenders when it comes to defending against new vulnerabilities. Teaching you how to test a DNS server’s performance, and double check their security is something that we will cover in depth later in this article.
The sheer number of choices is overwhelming, but for the lazy readers amongst us who looking for a quick recommendation, OpenDNS is a safe bet. This is a company that has created its entire business around providing you with a flawless, and fast DNS performance. They also offer tons of great customization options which we will cover later, but they aren’t the only guys in town. If you’d rather look around for alternatives, start by surfing over to dnsserverlist.org and take a look at the top three recommended servers for your location. These won’t always necessarily be servers with the lowest ping; there is much more to DNS performance then just your physical distance. The server’s ability to resolve domain names varies greatly based on the platform they are using, and even how busy they are. The recommendations this service makes, takes some of those factors into account.
Select two of the three recommender servers, and get ready to jump to the next step. Don’t worry about the security or speed of your selections just yet. We have a test to address both of these concerns later on.
The easiest and fastest way to get up and running with you new DNS settings is to simply key them into your network cards configuration within the OS. This will get you up and running quickly, but I would only recommend this if you only have a single machine in your network, or if your computer is directly connected to your cable modem without a router. Not having a router is the security equivalent of licking the handrail at a subway station, but if you really don’t have one, this is the way to go. Keep in mind if you ever format your machine, or install a different network card, you will have to go through these steps again. Find the step by step instructions for configuring your OS below. The final step will give you the DNS settings to plug in for OpenDNS, but if you’d rather not use them, you can enter your own choice at the end based on what you decided in Step 1.
Still listening to Ace of Base and can’t find your OS? Click here.
Using your router is the best way to implement your new DNS selection. This allows any machine, or device that connects to your router to enjoy the benefits or content filtering that you have configured.
In general, you can access most consumer routers by opening a new tab in your browser and typing either 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1. You’ll know this worked correctly when you are prompted for your user name and password to login. If you lost this information, don’t despair, just look for any type of reset button on the device itself to restore it to defaults. Look for a tab named Network or Configuration and look for the section that allows you to enter your DNS. Once done, simply click save and reboot your router.
Here is a list of common routers, and instructions on how to reach your DNS settings.