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Best free public DNS servers for 2021

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 cheap solution to instantly improve your web browsing experience.

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:

Cloudflare

Primary DNS server address: 1.1.1.1

Secondary DNS server address: 1.0.0.1

Cloudflare is a well-known content delivery network which only got into the DNS game fairly recently. It boasts excellent speeds (ranking top of the charts on DNSPerf) and a reassuring privacy policy; it promises to never record your IP address and wipe any logs within 24 hours. It’s even committed to annual audits to back up these claims.

OpenDNS

Primary DNS server address: 208.67.222.222

Secondary DNS server address: 208.67.220.220

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.

Google Public DNS

Primary DNS server address: 8.8.8.8

Secondary DNS server address: 8.8.4.4

Google’s DNS server benefits from the reliability of its vast network. It’s pretty quick, too. When it comes to privacy, Google does record your IP address for up to 48 hours, but any logs kept after that are wiped of personally identifiable information. It’s up-front about all of this and you can read its privacy policy for a full breakdown of exactly what it knows about you.

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 1.1.1.1 and 1.0.0.1 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 dynamic DNS 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:

Asus AX88U DNS screenshot

 

If you can’t or don’t want to change your Wi-Fi router settings, you can configure DNS settings for an individual device. But this means that the DNS server will only be used on that specific device.

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: 

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