Want to Know How to Double Your Internet Speed for Free?

Change your DNS servers for faster internet access

Man using laptop
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While there are several tweaks and steps you can take to test and improve your internet connection speeds, one of the easiest and quickest ways to speed up your web browsing is modifying the Domain Name System (DNS) servers.

DNS and Your Internet Speed

The DNS is like the internet's phonebook, mapping website names like "About.com" to a specific computer (or computers) where the site is hosted. When you try to access a website, your computer has to look up the addresses, and your choice of DNS server can affect how fast a website loads.

The network settings for your computer, router, and/or access point allow you to specify which DNS servers (primary and secondary) to use. By default, these are likely set by your internet service provider, but there may be faster ones to use.

Find the Best DNS Server

Several utilities can help you find the best DNS server by running benchmarks testing how fast DNS nameservers respond for your location. GRC's  DNS Benchmark is a great tool for Windows and Linux users, and namebench is a quick and easy tool that runs on Mac, Windows, and Unix.

Here's how to use the free open source namebench utility (it should work similarly in GRC's DNS Benchmark):

  1. First, download and install the app.
  2. When you first start it up, you'll be asked to enter your current nameserver. You can find this information in several ways: a) On Windows, go to Start > Run > and type in "cmd" (without the quotes) then press Enter. In the new MS-DOS window, type: "ipconfig /all" (without the quotes). Look for the line that says "DNS Servers" and the number beside it for the DNS server address. On a Mac, open a Terminal window by going to Applications > Utilities > Terminal and type in "cat" then a space and "/etc/resolv.conf". If you haven't changed your DNS server, most likely it's your ISP's default DNS servers.
  1. In namebench, type in your current nameserver, then click the Start button. In a few minutes, a new browser page will open with your benchmarking results: The recommended primary, secondary, and tertiary DNS servers to get a faster internet connection speed than the one you're currently using. You'll see a list of tested DNS servers and how long they took to load web pages. Write down the numbers for your recommended servers.

    Now you can change your DNS server on either your computer(s) or your router.

    Change Your Router's DNS Servers

    If you have multiple devices or friends and family who will be connecting to your network, you should make the change on your router. Head over to your router's administration page (usually something like 192.168.1.1) and look for the section where you can specify DNS servers (it may be in the "advanced" section). Write down the addresses there for future reference, then replace them with the recommended DNS servers addresses. Now, every computer or device that gets its addresses automatically from your router will be updated with these DNS servers for faster web browsing.

    Change Your Computer's DNS Servers

    Alternately, you can modify the DNS servers on each computer or device. Go to the network adapter settings for your computer and enter in the DNS server addresses.

    Results

    Test results showed a 132.1% improvement from using Google's DNS servers over using the stock DNS servers, but in real world usage, it might not be exactly that much faster. Still, this one tweak might get you finally feeling like you have a blazing connection to the internet.

    Another alternate DNS server you might want to try is  OpenDNS, which adds additional features like parental controls and built-in phishing protection.

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