When you change the DNS servers that your router, computer, or other Internet-connected device uses, you're changing the servers, usually assigned by your ISP, that the computer or device uses to convert hostnames to IP addresses. In other words, you're changing the service provider that turns www.facebook.com to 18.104.22.168.
One reason you might want to change the DNS servers you're currently using is if you suspect there's a problem with the ones you're using now. An easy way to test for a DNS server issue is by typing a website's IP address into the browser. If you can reach the website with the IP address, but not the name, then the DNS server is likely having issues.
Another reason to change DNS servers is if you're looking for a better performing service. Many people complain that their ISP-maintained DNS servers are sluggish and contribute to a slower overall browsing experience.
Luckily there are several public DNS servers that you can choose to use instead of the automatically-assigned ones you're probably using now. See my Free & Public DNS Server List for a list of primary and secondary DNS servers you can change to right now.
However, before you change your DNS servers, you'll need to decide if it's a better choice, in your specific situation, to change the DNS servers on your router or those on your individual computers or devices:
- Change the DNS servers on your router if you'd like all the computers and devices that connect to the Internet via that router to also use the new DNS servers. This only works if your computers and devices are setup for DHCP, meaning they look to the router for DNS server information, among other things. This is very common.
- Change the DNS servers on your individual devices if you'd only like that one device to use these different DNS servers. This is a good idea when troubleshooting an Internet problem with one computer/device that you suspect might be DNS related or if you don't have a router at all. This is also the right course of action if you're in the uncommon situation of not using DHCP to obtain network information for your computer(s) or other Internet-connected device(s).
Below is some more specific help with these two situations:
Changing DNS Servers on a Router
To change the DNS servers on a router, look for text fields labeled as DNS, usually in a DNS Address section, most likely in a Setup or Basic Settings area in the router's web-based management interface, and enter the new addresses.
If that generic advice didn't get you to the right area, here are some DNS server change tutorials specific to some of the popular router makes in use today:
- How To Change DNS Servers on NEGEAR Routers
- How To Change DNS Servers on Linksys Routers
- How To Change DNS Servers on D-Link Routers
- How To Change DNS Servers on Belkin Routers
Tip: The instructions linked to above may apply to a majority of router models but may not be specific to the router from that manufacturer that you're using. If you're still having trouble, you can download the manual for your specific router model from that company's support site.
Changing DNS Servers on Computers & Other Devices
To change the DNS servers on a Windows computer, locate the DNS area in the Internet Protocol properties, accessible from within the Network settings, and enter the new DNS servers.
Microsoft changed the wording and location of network related settings with each new Windows release so if you have trouble finding the DNS settings, see one of the operating-specific tutorials below for more help:
- How To Change DNS Servers in Windows 8
- How To Change DNS Servers in Windows 7
- How To Change DNS Servers in Windows Vista
- How To Change DNS Servers in Windows XP
Note: See Configure Your Mac's DNS Settings or Change Your DNS Settings on iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad if you're using one of those computers or devices and need some help.