Solve DNS Server Not Responding Errors on Your Network

Internet connection won't work? Take a deep breath; we've got the answers

An image of a man drawing the DNS query route on a glass board with DNS servers in the background.

 Getty Images

When you connect a device to your home network or a Wi-Fi hotspot with internet access, the internet connection may fail to work for any of several reasons.

One class of failures is related to Domain Name System (DNS) – the distributed name resolution service used by internet providers around the world. Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 computers may report the following error messages in the Troubleshooting Problems found window:​

The DNS server isn't responding
Your computer appears to be correctly configured, but the device or resource (DNS server) is not responding

The device will not be able to reach the internet when these failure conditions occur. These DNS server errors may appear for any of several different reasons. Step-by-step network troubleshooting steps can be used to diagnose and repair the problem as described below.

How to Run Windows Network Diagnostics

On Microsoft Windows PCs, Windows Network Diagnostics can be run to help diagnose internet connection problems. If you're not sure whether or not your computer is reporting DNS Server Not Responding errors, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Control Panel.

  2. Open the Network and Sharing Center.

  3. Click the Troubleshoot problems under Change your Networking Settings.

    Troubleshoot problems window in Networkd and Sharing Center for Windows 10
  4. Click ​Internet Connections. A new Internet Connections window appears.

  5. Click Next.

  6. Click Run the Troubleshooter.

    Run the troubleshooter option in Troubleshoot interface for Windows 10
  7. Click Troubleshoot my connection to the Internet.

    Troubleshoot my connection to the Internet interface in Windows 10
  8. Wait for the troubleshooting tests to complete and look in the Problems found section of the window for the error message.

  9. You should be done!

How to Fix DNS Server Not Responding Issues

To properly fix these internet connection failures requires first isolating the problem down to its root cause. The sections below each cover common causes of these failures:

Resolving TCP/IP and DHCP Failures

It’s possible for the TCP/IP software inside a client device’s operating system to malfunction and set its DNS server addresses incorrectly. Rebooting a Windows computer often clears these temporarily glitches. A more elegant solution involves running TCP/IP utility programs that perform the standard procedure to release and renew the Windows IP address settings.

Similarly, most TCP/IP networks use the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) service to assign IP addresses to clients. DHCP assigns not only the device's private IP address but also primary and secondary DNS server addresses. If DHCP is malfunctioning, a PC reboot is likely required to recover it.

Check to ensure both your device and the network router both have DHCP enabled. If either end of the connection is not using DHCP, internet connection errors normally result. 

Handling DNS Provider Issues

Many people configure their home networks to automatically obtain DNS server addresses from their internet provider. When the provider's servers or network suffer an outage or are heavily loaded with traffic, their DNS services can suddenly stop working. Customers must wait until the provider fixes those issues before they can use the provider's DNS.

As an alternative to the private DNS servers supported by each provider, several free public DNS servers have been established on the internet, most notably by Google and OpenDNS. A router administrator can switch their network's DNS setup over from a private to a public DNS configuration if they so choose by manually entering the public DNS IP addresses into the router configuration settings.

Administrators can choose to do this temporarily in emergency situations only, or they can make it a permanent change (and many households do). Note that DNS settings can also be applied on the Windows device itself via Network and Sharing Center. However, this usually will not work as a permanent solution as devices normally obtain and override their local settings with those from the router via DHCP.

Avoiding Internet Blockages from Antivirus Programs

Antivirus programs that people install on their Windows PCs are designed to keep intruders out, but they also have the capability to block internet access if they detect a misbehaving device. 

Most antivirus programs work using special database (dat) files that the software vendors automatically update on a regular basis. PC users often don't realize when these install updates happen as they are triggered in the background and designed to not interrupt normal work.

Unfortunately, sometimes mistakes are made with these dat updates that cause the antivirus program to believe a computer is infected when really it is a false alarm (false positive test). These false positives can trigger WIndows to suddenly start reporting DNS Server Not Responding errors.

To verify whether this is the cause for your device, temporarily disable the antivirus program and re-run the Windows Network Diagnostics. Then consult the antivirus vendor for either a new update or technical support. Although disabling antivirus does not work as a permanent solution, doing so to temporarily to troubleshoot the problem is normally (not always) safe.

Recover or Replace a Malfunctioning Router or Modem

A misbehaving broadband router or broadband modem can trigger these DNS error messages on home network devices. Restarting the router and modem will resolve intermittent router glitches,at least temporarily. 

Routers and modems must eventually be replaced if they continue to exhibit failures. However, it is extremely unlikely for either to fail in such a way that would cause DNS errors to be regularly generated. Failed routers and modems normally cannot power on at all or else generate errors related to the underlying network connection itself. If connecting to the router via a wired Ethernet port, try moving the Ethernet cable to use a different port instead.