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How to change your DNS Server settings for faster browsing on Windows 10

One of the fun things about PCs and computers is tinkering around with settings to improve things. Today, I'm going to touch briefly upon the topic of changing your DNS Server to something other than what your internet service provider gives you to use.

There are a million ways to do this trick, but for now, we'll start with going the simple route and using a freeware app called DNS Jumper 2.0.

What is DNS?

When your computer's web browser connects to the internet, it goes through something called a DNS Server (Domain Name System).

The idea is simple: an IP address represents each website, server, computer, and any other device connected to the internet, but since we're human and not computers each website has a corresponding name e.g. www.windowscentral.com. When you type in www.windowscentral.com, the real address may be 199.83.131.30, but your computer does not know that so it hits up a DNS server and does a query to get the correct address. Assuming the DNS server has everything cached and up to date, it pings back with the right address and your computer then goes to the website.

In other words, you never actually go directly to a website. DNS servers stand in the way and like any other system added to a network they could slow down things, or even lose track of "where" a website is if it changed servers. Most internet users' DNS servers are set by their internet service provider (ISP), which is why you never touch it.

Finding a faster DNS server could shave a few milliseconds off each DNS query. That may not sound like much, but added up over time and assuming the new DNS server is consistent it could result in slightly faster browsing.

The description above is a simplification of things, but at least you get the gist of it. DNS servers are the atlases of the internet.

To find the fastest DNS Servers you need to use one of many third-party apps to do benchmarks. DNS Server speeds are dependent on many factors that are relative to your location and network. What is a fast DNS query for one person in New York can be downright slow for someone in Los Angeles. This is why we need to test and find out which is the fastest for you.

Warning: If you use a computer at work and connect to a corporate or work network it is not recommended you make this change to your PC. Doing so could break connectivity with domain controllers and servers thereby making your PC unable to access valuable information. If you have questions, you should contact your company IT department about implementing DNS forwarders.

DNS Jumper 2.0

DNS Jumper is a freeware app by Sordum.org that I find easy to use. The company makes some nifty networking tools that are free, ad-free, and don't use an installer. No installation is safe as you are never touching the OS, registry, or adding files to your system. You can even put this app on a USB drive to make it a portable file to use on other PCs.

While you can manually change DNS Servers on your PC, and then run a command to flush the old DNS on your computer DNS Jumper does it all for you. DNS Jumper also benchmarks DNS Servers based on your current connection and location. Here is how to use it:

  1. Download DNS Jumper 2.0 from Sordum.org

  1. Open the ZIP and copy the folder to your PC, USB Drive, etc. Then open the folder and run DNSJumper.exe.

  1. Choose Fastest DNS in the menu

  1. Enable Turbo Resolve

  1. Select Start DNS Test

  1. After the test is complete, the fastest DNS Server is presented at the top of the list and value boxes. Select Apply DNS Server to keep settings.

DNS Jumper should also automatically flush your PC's DNS data so it can begin using the new DNS server for new queries. If not, you can just hit the Flush DNS button to make it happen manually. (You can also just hit Win + R and type in ipconfig /flushdns and OK).

And that's it! There are also a few other options in the app including using only secure servers, or ones with parental controls. You can also have the app auto-start each time on your PC so that you can check for faster DNS servers whenever. Frankly, that is probably overkilling it as 1-3 millisecond differences will likely go unnoticed, but it is good to have options — especially if things are getting slow.

Speaking of, if you're looking for a free or paid DNS service, OpenDNS offers more control, including parental controls and blocking of phishing sites. They're also just a great resource if you want to read more about DNS settings, configurations, changing router info, etc.

Go to the next level: DNS on your router

I hesitate to jump into configuring routers as that opens a Pandora's Box of hardware and options. Changing DNS settings on a router is different for every router manufacturer and even model-to-model. Not to mention, you can easily nuke the internet at your home if you change something you are not supposed to change. Luckily, you can quickly restore to factory settings on most routers via a pinhole button or via 192.168.1.1 in your browser, which is how you configure your home router.

Assuming you know something about router configuration you may want to consider changing your DNS at the router level in your home or office.

The trick I detailed above applies to just one PC – the one where you changed the DNS Server. However, if you alter it at the router level, any device connected to it gets the benefits of a faster DNS Server — you Xbox One, your phones, other PCs, etc. It doesn't matter if it connects over Wi-Fi or Ethernet, the same DNS server settings applies.

For gamers, especially, this can make a big difference in using the Xbox One. Some people have reported faster app loading times (since they fetch data from the internet) and gaming functions as well. Your mileage may vary, but a lot of gamers do the manual DNS Server option either on the Xbox One itself or the router.

If you are interested in configuring your home router for custom DNS Server settings your best bet is to start with your router make and model to look up its user guide. From there, you can use 192.168.1.1 (but even that varies from router to router) to enter the router settings and hunt around until you find the DNS Server configuration. Usually, you can find them under My Network > Network Connections > Ethernet/Coax > Settings > DNS Server > Use the following DNS Server, but it will vary from device to device. The above sample image is from my Verizon Quantum FiOS router.

Wrap up

I do change my DNS Servers at the router level because I noticed better, more consistent connections with all of my devices including phones. The key to this, of course, is making sure you enter in fast and reliable DNS Servers. If they change or go off-line, well you lose DNS queries. That rarely happens and it is why you always enter in two addresses. That way, if one fails, the router just tries the next one on the list.

Also, for all you know your ISP does have the fastest DNS servers (although that is relatively rare).

Finally, for those curious, there does not seem to be a way directly to configure DNS server settings on your Windows 10 Mobile device. Unless you're connecting through a Wi-Fi router on which you've configured the DNS settings, you'll be stuck with the default for that ISP or your cellular carrier (which, technically speaking, is also an ISP).

Combined with enabling TCP Fast Open in Microsoft Edge and a faster DNS server you may just see a quicker and more reliable browsing experience on your phone and Windows 10 PCs.

Do you have your own tips and ideas on DNS Servers and best practices? Let me know in comments!

Daniel Rubino
Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

37 Comments
  • Very informative article thank you.
  • I've been using Open DNS at the router level for years! I highly recommend going the same.
  • Yeah, OpenDNS is pretty good, for a long time, it was way faster than Google DNS. I haven't done any benchmarking lately.
  • OpenDNS used to be an awful idea. Their free service used to redirect NXDOMAIN results (ie, bad url entered, the site does not exist) to their own landing page, which was filled with ads by Yahoo along with *cough* "helpful" *cough* information about why you got there. This was both a privacy and a security flaw. The privacy flaw came in the fact that every url you entered that was slightly wrong would direct you there, meaning that advertising providers could farm these for the sake of finding what the "most popular" misspellings of domains were - allowing them to domain park and ruin peoples time. This leads onto the security flaw, whereby any ad provider that managed to get a malicious ad through screening was suddenly not limited to one site or one group of sites, it would be on every non-existing domain that OpenDNS encountered. Luckily they cleaned up their act. Depending on your geographical location, OpenDNS may be faster than Google or Level 3's dns servers, but if you're only looking for performance across a wide geographical area, Google's tend to be the fastest overall. You have to give up any hope of privacy in that situation though, since Google can easily track which sites you're visiting, even if they don't use Google Analytics or get linked through from Google itself. The world of DNS is dark and full of terrors, it seems.
  • We'll all be computer experts in no time now! Thanks for this
  • You can never have enough computer experts.
  • With 4 young children and a house full of devices, Open DNS at the router level has been extremely helpful with it's free filtering and been more reliable than the ISP's DNS.
  • Yeah, OpenDNS is good stuff.
  • One thing you can do to test is use Namebench. Test the settings as they are now, find news ones and configure them, then test again to see which is faster
     
  • I completely agree!
    I use Open DNS and additionally the classical parental control Time Boss Pro on local W10.
    I think that is the easiest way to block harmful porn websites and to limit websites by time.
  • Is there any way to set custom DNS options on WM10? Ads are so bad on Edge that on certain websites it makes the browsing experience unusuable. I know there's some ad blocking DNS services out there that seems like a good option since we don't have extensions on Edge mobile. Only other thought I had was to set up a VPN on my router, set the DNS at the router level, and then tunnel in when I need to.
  • It says on article that there is no method right now for Win10M. However you could just change the DNS at router . That way your phone (when connected to that internet) will use that DNS.
  • If you are on Insider fast ring they are already releasing Edge extensions - I'm using AdBlock+ and it works pretty well.  August 2nd and all the updates will be released to the general public.
  • wow,,working,,,,,,,,,bt sightly
  • Arguable, that tool didn't actually list any ISP based DNS servers.  Which really should be tested as they might be a millsecond or two faster, and probably are the default. Saying that, as you said, a millisecond here or there won't make any difference and so unless there is a good reason to change DNS, users are probably best leaving things as is.  OpenDNS is however a good option to block malware or unsavoury websites.  Definitely recommand that for users.
  • Agreed, ISP based DNS are likely to be fastest. DNSBench program allows you to add your ISP DNS to the benchmark.
  • The problem with that idea is many ISP DNS servers are non-public - ie, they can only be accessed if you are actually *with* that isp - and external testing is always going to produce inaccurate results. Additionally, in terms of network traversal, if those servers actually are public and you aren't on the ISP hosting those servers, you're suddenly going to find yourself 2-3 routers further away from getting a response.   Everyone should test their own ISP's DNS performance, but it's impossible for an objective third party to do so - they would need to have an account, and connection, to every major ISP to test the real world performance expected by customers.
  • I think it's really unfortunate that the article does not warn users about doing this on corporate networks or networks with one or more domain controllers. With BYOD becoming more common, many users have admin rights on their devices and are able to perform the steps in this article. Unfortunately, doing so will break connectivity with domain controllers and servers and may prevent users from accessing corporate resources. If you bring your device to work and access network resources there, DO NOT change your DNS server settings from automatic. If you want faster DNS, ask your IT department to implement DNS forwarders if appropriate. I configure many of my clients' Windows Server DNS servers to forward to OpenDNS for this very reason.
  • Thanks, I'll note it. I'm not IT, nor work in a corporate space, so that scenario is not something I am familiar with.
  • In my opinion, don't change your DNS settings...
  • Quick access to the router can be done using the file explorer in Windows 10 (and some previous version as well). Just select the Network in the left pane and you will see the router listed. Double click on the router icon and the web page opens. No need to fiddle with ip addresses anymore.
  • Is it affected by my locations settings, because it only shows 4 results, one from Russia 3 from US
  • Note the the gateway to the router, is not alwayss 192.168.1.1, il varies by make and model of the router being used.
  • Right, will note that as well. That's the reason I hated even bringing up routers ;)
  • The easiest way to find out your router's IP address is to check which IP is set as the gateway for your LAN according to your DHCP setup. That can be done simply with an "ipconfig" at a command prompt, the Default Gateway listed is your LAN router, on typical home networks, that means it is your integrated router+modem+NAT+WiFi+switch+* box and that IP can be used to access your router's web interface. ​Also, "ipconfig /flushdns" does not mean you want to start using the newly setup DNS immediately, the new DNS setup takes effect immediately when changed. Flush DNS is used to purge your local DNS cache, therefore slowing down next requests as they need to query the DNS server again instead of using a local cache, but useful if your local cache is invalid, for example if you changed DNS server because they were giving an out-of-date or invalid (for safety filtering or just bad setup) responses and you want to get rid of all cached queries and query the new DNS even for addresses you used recently.
  • One thing you can do to test is use Namebench. Test the settings as they are now, find news ones and configure them, then test again to see which is faster. It shows options after a benchmark test.
  • I can see Daniel and Mauro has been hanging out.  Thanks Daniel.
  • Nice work Daniel
    GooD read
  • This is a placebo for most people, and companies hosting DNS servers to fill that placebo effect are doing so for the aggregate data it provides them in terms of web activity.  And, the article couldn't iterate enough just how much you don't want to do this in a corporate/enterprise enivornment, unless you're willing to manually enter all your internal ips to your host file yourself. 
  • What malware does DNS Jumper install?
  • none. DNS Jumper is a standalone program. It's doesn't install anything or write to the registry.
  • When I try to turn on mobile hotspot in pc shows a DNS server error. Any idea about this error.
  • I want to save this article for later reading but no offline list :(
  • I use Getflix to get around geoblocking
  • Good Start
  • WARNING:  Whichever service you choose, you must trust them as they can track every web site you visit as they are the ones resolving the names for you.  Lots of people use Google DNS.  Bad idea.
  • DNSBench is another good alternative for DNSbenchmarking. Google also has/had one called namebench.