If your broadband is down, you’re finding websites a little sluggish, or you want to enjoy more privacy online, then changing your Domain Name System (DNS) server may be a quick, easy, and free solution to instantly fix or improve your internet.
In this guide, we'll tell you some of the best alternative DNS services, and also explain what DNS is and why you may want to choose a different DNS provider for your home broadband.
What are the best free public DNS servers in 2021?
Right now, these are our favourite free public DNS services:
Primary DNS server address: 188.8.131.52
Secondary DNS server address: 184.108.40.206
Primary DNS server address: 220.127.116.11
Secondary DNS server address: 18.104.22.168
OpenDNS is a trusted and reliable operator that’s been around for years. Its basic DNS offering includes automatic filtering of potentially harmful sites, and parents can take advantage of optional content controls to block adult content. OpenDNS also offers a premium service that provides more web-blocking powers and a log of your internet activity over the last 12 months.
Primary DNS server address: 22.214.171.124
Secondary DNS server address: 126.96.36.199
What is a DNS server?
The Domain Name System is an address book for the web, translating the web addresses that we type into the IP addresses used by computers to communicate.
When you enter a URL like broadbandgenie.co.uk into your web browser, your browser queries the DNS server to get the IP address so it can access the website.
Why should I change my DNS server?
By default, your home broadband will be set up to use your broadband provider’s own DNS servers. But these don’t always offer the best speeds, and your ISP is almost certainly keeping a record of every site you visit.
You may also discover that your broadband provider’s DNS is not very reliable, and when DNS fails you won't be able to access websites. But many public free DNS services have 99.9%-100% uptime, so are extremely unlikely to fall over and interrupt your web browsing.
Alternative DNS servers can also offer extra features such as parental controls, filters, and blocking of harmful content such as phishing and malware.
How do I change my DNS settings?
First, you’ll need to decide which DNS server you want to use. Make a note of the Primary and Secondary DNS server IP addresses (for example 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206 for Cloudflare), because you will need to enter both.
To change DNS servers, you can either switch them on each device or change the settings on your Wi-Fi router.
It is best to change the DNS server settings on your router because this will mean that every device connected to your home broadband will automatically use the new DNS server without any further configuration.
To do this, you’ll need to access your router’s administrator control panel and change it from the default automatic DNS (which uses your ISP's servers) to the primary and secondary DNS addresses of your chosen provider.
We cannot provide exact steps for this as it varies depending on the make and model of your router, but you can find instructions in the user manual, or visit our guide to changing router settings for more help.
As an example, this is how the setting looks on an Asus AX88U Wi-Fi router:
If you can’t or don’t want to change your Wi-Fi router settings, you can configure DNS settings per device. But this means that the DNS server will only be used on that specific device and you will need to manually configure DNS servers on all your hardware.
For precise instructions on setting up DNS servers on various devices, consult the OpenDNS setup guides (but, if you’re not using OpenDNS, remember to change the IP address to whichever service you want to use).
Still having broadband problems? It might be time to switch
While swapping DNS servers can often solve issues, it won’t help if there’s a wider problem with your broadband provider. If you find yourself regularly experiencing outages, then it might be time to look at what else is out there. So long as you’re out of contract then it won’t cost anything to cancel.
Start your search for a new broadband package by entering a postcode to see what’s available in your area:
Broadband Genie postcode checkerWhy do we need your postcode?
Why do we need your postcode?
Or if you’re ready to buy, these are some of the best broadband deals available right now: