On Changing DNS Servers to Speed Up Internet Browsing

7 minutes read

Simply changing your browser's "address book" can quickly speed up your internet browsing times. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Rock1997, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

The United Nations has declared Internet access a basic human right. While you may or may not agree with that, you’ve found your way into my corner of the web, so you must do a lot of browsing and depend heavily on the internet.

Too much internet

Moreover, when the internet craps up or is otherwise slow, it can get people so riled up. Luckily, there might be a quick way for you to (possibly) speed up your internet: by changing your DNS servers from your original Internet Service Provider’s to a public one. But first, we need to know about the…

Domain Name System (DNS)

DNS, or the Domain Name System, is just the part of the internet that I’d like to call the “address book” of the internet. You see, when you type “http://www.facebook.com” into that address bar, this isn’t exactly readable to the computer. In order to the computer to know the location of the website, it needs an IP address, which it asks from the Domain Name System. The DNS Server returns the IP address, so that the computer can contact the Facebook server and start downloading the data. This process is very fast, but sometimes, local DNS servers can be crappy and slow down every single internet query, so let’s figure out how we go about…

Testing your DNS Speed

Rule of Thumb

Testing your DNS speed isn’t really difficult; here’s a good rule of thumb: if you notice that your browser tends to take really long before anything shows up, it’s a good sign that your DNS server is slow. For example, when you load a page in Google Chrome and it takes its time doing this:

Reversing Circle

before doing this:

Forward Circle

then your DNS server is probably slow. Some people may try to solve these issues by upgrading their internet connection, but that won’t really help because everyone who uses the same service essentially gets to use the same DNS Server.

Another way you can test it is by using a free utility called Namebench. It’s available for Mac OS X and Windows, and can be downloaded here. It’s a pretty simple tool. Just run it, press Start! (you don’t really need to configure the options), and you’ll get a result similar to this (It might take a while; up to 15 minutes):

The result above tells you which DNS server is best to use for your location and network (in this case, the Google Public DNS is 114.9% faster than my ordinary ISP server), as well as a the recommended configuration of Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Servers. Details may follow but unless you’re really interested in them, this top bit is all you really need.

Now that you know what DNS servers are fastest for your network and location, a question now arises: how do you…

Change your Computer’s DNS Configuration

To be platform-friendly, let’s go through how to do this both for Windows and for Mac OS. You can also do it for your mobile devices (though mileage may vary significantly as mobile devices tend to connect to different networks at different locations).

Mac OS X

To change your DNS configuration, simply go to System Preferences, open up Network in the Internet Wireless section, select WiFi (or Ethernet if you use a wired connection), and press Advanced…, go to the DNS tab, and this is what you’ll see:

Input the DNS servers that were listed by Namebench in the order of priority (Primary, Secondary, and tertiary), press OK, and then Apply. Then you’re done!


Adapted from this Windows Help File: Change TCP/IP Settings

On Windows, go to the Control Panel > View Network Connections, right-click on the relevant connection and select Properties… You’ll get this:

Just select Internet Protocol Version 4 (or IPv6), then click **Properties. **If you don’t know what IPv6 is, your probably use IPv4. You’ll then be shown this:

When you’re done, press OK on everything and you should be done! If you want to input more then two DNS servers, then you can use the Advanced menu. Again, the DNS IP addresses are ideally the ones given by Namebench.

Mobile Devices (iOS Devices)

For iOS devices, simply go to the WiFi menu, tap the **blue right arrow button **or the **info icon **(for iOS 7), then input the primary DNS IP in the DNS field (for mobile devices it’s only one preferred DNS, then it reverts back to the ISP address).

Final Notes and Caveats

Changing my DNS has definitely shortened the time my computer takes to look up the site, and webpages start loading almost immediately. There are some people who do not recommend the use of geographically-distant public DNS servers such as the Google Public DNS, since they allegedly slow down your internet and make you dependent on the maintenance of this DNS. However, in the Philippines where the geographically-closest DNS servers (e.g. the PLDT DNS servers) are pretty much crappy, it’s probably worth it to switch to Google’s DNS.

I can’t guarantee that you’ll have blazing fast internet, though, so it’s a good idea to use Namebench first or see if it really does speed up your browsing.

Thanks for reading! If you found this post useful or interesting, I’d appreciate it if you liked, shared, tweeted, or +1’d it on your preferred social network, as well as commented below.

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