Have you ever experienced the frustration of accessing the internet only to encounter an error message? Dealing with DNS server issues can indeed be a hassle, especially when you don’t know what is a DNS server. 

If you have a website, understanding DNS is important because it affects your website's performance every day. DNS controls different aspects of your domain name, so it's crucial to grasp its basics if you own a domain.

To simplify the process, I'll comprehensively explain DNS servers, along with some free DNS servers. But before discussing the DNS servers in detail, let's address one crucial question:

What is a DNS Server?

DNS, also known as the domain network system, is an important aspect of the Internet. It is responsible for translating human-readable domain names into IP addresses. 

When you type a domain name in a browser, the computer doesn't understand it. It sends a request to a DNS server, which acts like a detective to find the IP address associated with the domain name. The DNS server finds the IP address and sends it back to your computer.

This DNS server process enables users to access websites and other internet resources. It does so by using familiar DNS names rather than complex numerical IP addresses.

How does a DNS work?

Now that you know what is a DNS server, you need to know how a DNS works. I have seen countless of professionals who handle the DNS but don’t know its operational efficiency. Thus, when problems arise, they fail to do anything. 

Make sure you don’t become one of them. When you know how it works, you will be able top extend your knowledge. Not to mention, you can solve some basic problems associated with the DNS server. 

1. Requesting Website Information

The DNS process begins when a user initiates an action by visiting a website. They type a domain name into a web browser, which requires resolving the domain name. 

Your computer then searches for the IP address for the domain name in the local DNS cache. This cache stores any information that our computer has recently saved. If the IP address is found in the cache, the computer retrieves it.

2. Local Knowledge Cache Check

The user's device does a quick local search. It has a built-in cache that stores recently accessed domain name-to-IP address translations. It checks its local DNS cache to see if it has recently resolved the requested domain name. There will be three situations:

  • If the IP address associated with the domain is found in the cache and is still valid (not expired), the DNS process skips further steps and proceeds directly to establishing a connection.
  • If the domain name you entered is already in the cache DNS, your device retrieves the IP address directly and instantly connects you to the website.
  • If the domain name is not in the user's local cache or has expired, the user's device sends a request called a DNS query to a recursive DNS server. This server is usually provided by the user's internet service provider (ISP) or configured manually.

3. Navigating the DNS Hierarchy

This is one of the most important things you need to know about DNS functionality. The DNS hierarchy is complicated. This system is divided into different levels:

  • DNS Root NameServers: The recursive DNS server begins the resolution process by querying root servers. Root DNS servers are the top-level authority in the DNS hierarchy. They maintain information about the authoritative DNS servers responsible for top-level domains. 
  • Top-Level Domain Nameservers: There are various top-level domains such as “.com”, “.org”, and “.net”. The DNS recursive resolver contacts the Root Nameservers based on the TLD of the requested domain name. It requests the location of the DNS nameserver responsible for the TLD in the requested domain name.

4. Authoritative DNS Server Query

The next step is following the directions from the root Name Servers. The recursive DNS server contacts the authoritative name server responsible for the requested domain name. This DNS client holds the authoritative server records for the domain, including its associated IP address.

5. Finding the Authoritative Answer

Next, the DNS recursive server contacts the authoritative nameserver. It then obtains the IP address linked to the requested domain name. After that, it sends this IP address back to the user's device.

6. Connection Establishment

Through DNS resolution, the user device (computer/ smartphone) has the crucial piece of information: the IP address. The user's device connects with the server hosting the desired website or network resource.

7. Caching

The user's device and the recursive DNS server cache the resolved IP address. This caching helps expedite future DNS queries for the same domain name. Hence, it reduces the load on DNS infrastructure. 

DNS servers work together in a hierarchical system to efficiently resolve domain names. It also reduces the burden on individual servers and ensures reliable internet connectivity. Caching mechanisms store resolved IP addresses locally, further optimizing the DNS process.

What is DNS Caching?

DNS caching temporarily stores DNS records in a browser, device, network or operating system. It makes DNS faster by storing previously resolved domain names and their corresponding IP addresses. Thus, they don't need to be looked up again every time. 

Imagine you have a phone book with all your friends' phone numbers. Normally, you'd look up their number in the book whenever you want to call someone. This would be like the DNS system looking up website addresses on the internet every single time.

Caching is like making a small copy of your phone book with the numbers you call most often. This way, you can look up those numbers faster without flipping through the entire book. In the same way, DNS caching stores website addresses you've visited recently.

There are only a few phone book publishers, just like there are only a few important servers for website addresses. By keeping a cached copy of addresses, the internet avoids overloading these servers and makes things run smoother for everyone.

Importance of changing DNS Server 

If you’re not using any custom DNS server, chances are you’re using the default one. While it’s a good choice, using a different DNS server other than your ISP is more beneficial. Here are some compelling reasons to change your DNS server. 

1. You will have better security

Some DNS servers, such as DNSSEC (Domain Name System Security Extensions), offer built-in security features. These features also include protection against DNS-based attacks like DNS cache poisoning or DNS hijacking. 

Changing the DNS settings with robust security measures will enhance your domain's overall security posture and protect against potential threats.

Regarded as DNS filtering, certain DNS providers block specific IP addresses. This includes harmful websites or malware that can affect your network. However, when you choose a premium plan, they will protect you from these sites. 

Make sure you choose a reputed third-party DNS provider with impeccable security features. These services will always protect your site. 

2. Third-party DNS Servers are faster

How fast your DNS server can address your request will impact the browsing speed. If your website is slow, your DNS server should be blamed. Choosing faster DNS servers means less time spent waiting around. 

Speed also depends on the location of the DNS servers. For instance, a reliable third-party DNS server will be available in multiple locations. 

Make sure you conduct some experiments to find the fastest DNS server. Consider using different types of tools. Even if your ISP is faster, there’s no harm in choosing a faster DNS server. 

3. Geographic Optimization

DNS servers can be strategically distributed across different geographic locations to optimize DNS resolution based on users' geographical proximity. 

When you change the DNS servers with a global presence, you can ensure that users are directed to the nearest available DNS server. This will reduce latency and improve responsiveness.

How to change your DNS Server?

Changing your DNS server involves updating the DNS settings on your device or network router. There are general steps to change your DNS server on Windows, macOS, and router.

1. On Windows

Here are the steps you need to follow if you want to change your DNS server on a Windows device:

  • Go to the Control Panel or Settings and navigate to Network and Internet > Network and Sharing Center > Change adapter settings.
  • Right-click on your active network connection (Ethernet or Wi-Fi) and choose “Properties”.
  • Select “Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4)” from the list, and click “Properties”.
  • Choose “Use the following DNS server addresses” and enter the IP addresses of the preferred and alternate DNS servers you want to use.
  • Click “OK” to save changes and close the windows.

2. On macOS

Take a look at these steps if you want to change your DNS server on a macOS. 

  • Go to network settings
  • Select the network connection you're using (Wi-Fi or Ethernet).
  • Click on the “Advanced” button.
  • Go to the “DNS” tab, and you'll see a list of DNS servers
  • Add or Remove DNS Servers. 
  • Click “OK” to save the changes and then “Apply” to apply the new DNS settings.

3. On router

Remember that changing your router's DNS server may be more complicated. This is because the system settings are inconsistent, unlike Windows or macOS. Still, here are some general steps for changing the DNS server on your router:

  • Open a web browser and enter your router's IP address into the address bar. Log in to your router's admin interface.
  • Navigate to DNS Settings: Look for DNS settings. It may be located under “Network”, “Internet”, or “WAN” settings.
  • Enter the IP addresses of your DNS provider's preferred and alternate DNS servers.
  • Save the settings and restart your router if necessary.

As you can see, changing your DNS server is not a hard task. Whether you have a Windows or Mac, you can change it easily. If you’re facing problems changing DNS on your router, contact their customer support, and they will help you. 

Different types of DNS Servers

Before I discuss the best free DNS servers, you should know the different types of DNS servers available in the market. Regardless of the DNS server you choose, they will fall into four categories. Let’s take a look at them. 

  • Recursive DNS Server: A caching resolver, also known as a Recursive DNS Server, helps user devices resolve DNS queries. It searches the DNS hierarchy to find the IP address associated with a requested domain. Once found, it saves this information to speed up future searches for the same domain.
  • Authoritative DNS Server: An authoritative DNS server responds accurately to DNS queries for a specific domain. It stores important DNS records like A, AAAA, CNAME, and MX for that domain. These servers are authoritative because they manage and share DNS records for their respective domains.
  • Root DNS Server: Root DNS servers are the highest level in the DNS hierarchy. They hold details about the authoritative DNS servers for top-level domains (TLDs) such as “.com,” “.org,” “.net,” and country-code TLDs (ccTLDs). However, they don't store records for individual domain names. Instead, they direct queries to the correct TLD servers.
  • Top-level domain DNS Server: TLD DNS servers for managing DNS records for specific top-level domains. Each TLD has its own set of DNS servers that store DNS records. TLD DNS servers provide authoritative answers to queries for domain names.
  • Forwarding DNS Server: A forwarding DNS server directs DNS queries to other DNS servers, like those provided by the ISP or third-party services. It simply passes on the queries to these servers and saves the responses for later use.

Top 7 free DNS Servers

Let’s take a look at the best free DNS servers available in the market. While each server on my list has unique features and drawbacks, make sure you consider your needs to choose the best one. 

1. Cloudflare

Cloudflare is at the top of my list. This free DNS server is lightning-fast at resolving queries. Its query speed on DNSperf was 12.94 ms, the fastest of any DNS server.


Cloudflare is present in 200+ locations, so you will always find a server closest to your location. Cloudflare also uses a distributed cache system for DNS storage, enhancing speed and latency. 


Cloudflare Logo
  • Bot mitigation
  • User-friendly interface
  • Protection against DNS attacks
  • Unmetered DDoS protection

In terms of security, Cloudflare uses DNS over HTTPS and DNS over TLS protocols. These protocols effectively prevent ‘man of the middle’ attacks where third parties can hijack your DNS data. 

Other eye-catching features of Cloudflare include three-page rules, global CDN, and unmetered DDoS mitigation. These features will ensure more reliable and stable connections. 


  • Cloudflare boasts the world's #1 DDoS mitigation
  • It accelerates website loading times by delivering content from geographically closer servers.
  • You will get free DNS management and caching
  • The user interface is easy and simple


  • If Cloudflare experiences an outage, your site might be unreachable even if your origin server is functioning.

Cloudflare’s DNS server promises users unlimited bandwidth. This means that the monthly usage is more than enough for regular users. 

Moreover, Cloudflare supports IPv6 connections. The primary DNS is 2606:4700:4700:1111, and the secondary DNS is 2606:4700:4700:1001. 

???? Why purchase from Cloudflare?
  • Cloudflare's free DNS is a great option for personal websites, small businesses, and anyone looking to boost security and performance without breaking the bank.

Cloudflare also prioritizes your business's privacy. It deletes all logs after 24 hours and never collects your IP address. The logs it stores are temporary to prevent debugging issues. 

What made me put Cloudflare in the first position is its mobile product, with Warp. Whether you have an Android or an iOS device, the app will provide fast speed and protect DNS traffic. 

2. Google Public DNS

Thanks to worldwide data centers, Google Public DNS service can greatly improve your speed. These data centers, containing public DNS servers, use anycast routing. 

Google public DNS

If you surf the Internet often or play games often, Google Plugin DNS will be highly beneficial. This DNS server will undoubtedly speed things up. 

Google Public DNS

Google logo
  • Supports DNSSEC
  • Provides DoT and DoH
  • Readily accessible for everyone
  • More privacy-focused

Another great aspect of Google Public DNS is that it provides IPv6 connections. To use this, you simply need to use a different DNS number. 

It will go through all the codes returned from your DNS queries, ultimately preventing DDoS attacks. Authenticating the DNS ensures no one tampers with your DNS requests. 


  • Google's global infrastructure and caching can improve website loading times
  • Google Public DNS supports DNSSEC for spoofing protection
  • Anycast routing directs users to the nearest Google server
  • Accessible through two primary addresses


  • Google Public DNS offers less control over configurations.

When you use Google Public DNS, it will protect you from phishing attacks and cache-poisoning attacks. As it searches fraud websites, you don’t need to worry about protection from shady sites. 

???? Why purchase from Google Public DNS?
  • Google has an extensive global network base that can resolve domain names faster than your default ISP. Moreover, it's also known for its robust security against DDoS attacks and any other threats.

However, unlike Cloudflare, I am a little skeptical about its data privacy. Since Google owns the servers, they might store and track your data. 

3. Neustar UltraDNS

If you’re a beginner and don’t know what is a DNS, Neustar UltraDNS comes with many customization features. It has three different versions: unfiltered, threat, and family. 

Neustar UltraDNS

If you want fast DNS query solving without censorship, make sure you choose the unfiltered option. The threat protection blocks spyware, malware, ransomware, and phishing sites. The family provides the same protection as a threat while also blocking gambling and adult sites. 

Neustar UltraDNS

Neustar logo
  • Analytics and reporting
  • GeoDNS
  • IP filtering
  • Traffic management

UltraDNS can help your enterprise optimize its online presence. Thanks to its superb availability, it ensures seamless connectivity for users worldwide.


  • UltraDNS boasts robust security features
  • Offers fast and reliable domain solution
  • Comes with traffic management, load balancing, and analytics
  • Less downtime compared to other options


  • The interface is cluttered

It provides advanced security measures, including robust DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) protection, DNSSEC (Domain Name System Security Extensions), and real-time threat intelligence. 

???? Why purchase from Neustar UltraDNS?
  • Google has an extensive global network base that can resolve domain names faster than your default ISP. Moreover, it's also known for its robust security against DDoS attacks and any other threats.

If you’re concerned about your business’s security, Neustar UltraDNS can prove beneficial. It can safeguard against cyber threats and ensure the integrity of DNS responses. 

4. Quad9

Quad9 provides a privacy-focused DNS resolver service. It primarily aims to protect users from accessing malicious websites and online threats. 

what is a DNS server Quad9

Quad9 operates a global network of DNS servers. It enhances internet users' security, privacy, and performance worldwide.


Quad9 logo
  • DNSSEC validation
  • Anycast routing
  • DoT and DoH protocols
  • Malware blocking

Quad9 is famous for its emphasis on security. The service leverages threat intelligence from various cybersecurity partners to identify and block access to known malicious websites. 


  • Quad9 blocks access to malicious websites through threat intelligence
  • They prioritize user privacy by not logging or retaining any IP addresses
  • Anycast routing directs users to the nearest server
  • Quad9 supports secure protocols like DoT and DoH


  • Fewer customization controls

Quad9 protects users' privacy by not logging or storing personally identifiable information. This includes the IP addresses or browsing history. 

???? Why purchase from Quad9?
  • Quad9 leverages threat intelligence from multiple resources to block access to malicious websites. Hence, you won't become vulnerable to phishing, malware, and other online threats, creating an extra layer of protection.

Quad9 is known for its performance and reliability. It operates a global network of strategically distributed DNS servers across multiple continents. This way, it can reduce latency and ensure fast response times for DNS queries. 

5. OpenDNS

Now a part of Cisco, OpenDNS provides two options: FamilyShiled and Home. FamilyShiled can protect your kid from adult content, and Home emphasizes security and performance. 


One of the best benefits of OpenDNS is that you can choose to delete your DNS data completely. This will come in super handy, especially when you change the DNS servers. 


openDNS logo
  • Superb security
  • Content filtering
  • OpenDNS FamilyShield
  • Faster Speed

Remember that when you change the DNS server, the DNS requests will be fetched from the old cache. As it’s not the new one, it will cause bad configuration. Deleting the DNS data can prevent any bad connections within the DNS server. 


  • OpenDNS protects you from phishing and malware attacks
  • Content filtering comes with customizable options to restrict access
  • Extensive network servers can enhance browsing speed
  • OpenDNS Home comes with basic features


  • Free tier has numerous limitations

Similar to Google Public DNS, OpenDNS can enhance the DNS leading time with anycast routing. Thus, it will connect you to the nearest server with 100% guaranteed uptime. 

OpenDNS protects users from cyberattacks and prevents potential security breaches. The service operates a global network of strategically distributed DNS servers across multiple continents.

???? Why purchase from OpenDNS?
  • You can set content filters, which will prevent your children from accessing inappropriate websites. Furthermore, you will also get a CDN to deliver content faster.

However, remember that setting up OpenDNS is complicated as it’s suitable for experienced users. But you will find easy-to-follow instructions on their website, covering major operating systems.  

6. Yandex.DNS

Yandex.DNS is a Russian company that provides a reliable and smooth internet experience. It has an uptime score of 100% on DNSperf, which proves its impeccable performance. 

Yandex DNS

You can also choose from three different services: basic, safe, and family. Depending on your requirements, you can implement security and censorship measures. 


Yandex logo
  • DoH encryption
  • Family protection
  • Website security
  • Simple setup

The basic is focused on speed, the safe is focused on DDoS protection, and the family is focused on content filters. 


  • It's capable of blocking botnets and malicious websites
  • Yandex can block inappropriate content
  • Completely free with no paid tiers
  • More benefits in terms of privacy


  • No guaranteed performance improvement

These services will ensure the best security by blocking malicious sites, malware, and ads. 

???? Why purchase from Yandex.DNS?
  • Yandex boasts a reliable infrastructure with servers distributed internationally. This can load to faster domain resolution times as well as quicker website loading, especially if you're location in a region where Yandex has a robust presence.

As there are numerous customization options, you can install Yandex and use the best service according to your needs. 

7. Comodo Secure

Concluding my list with Comodo Secure. This secure public DNS can protect you from malware, ads, spyware, and C&C callbacks. 

What is a domain comodo

I was eager to test its features, so I considered installing it. I must admit I really like the protection aspects of Comodo Secure. For instance, when I tried to access a suspicious site full of pop-ups, it instantly gave me a warning. 

Comodo Secure

Comodo logo
  • Mobile device protection
  • DNS cache poisoning protection
  • Policy management
  • Content filtering

Additionally, Comodo Secure can detect when you try to visit an unused parked domain. In such cases, it will automatically redirect you to an active one. This means that you don’t need to waste time on non-operational websites. 

Comodo Secure is also famous for its speed. You won’t be disappointed if you plan to stream or surf. The faster speed of Comodo Secure is possible due to its extensive and large server network. 


  • Comodo Secure prioritizes protection
  • Yandex can block inappropriate content
  • Can protect your DNS from cache poisoning
  • Global network servers to improve speed


  • The transparency is limited

Some other unique features of Comodo Secure are real-time reporting and network protection. Thanks to the on and off-network protection, you can protect your web traffic. Meanwhile, the real-time reporting will give you updated visibility so you’re aware of any threats. 

???? Why purchase from Comodo Secure?
  • The internet gateway features of Comodo Server come with more robust security features. It's also beneficial for businesses and parents who want to manage the online activity.

The only concern about Comodo Secure is that it will record your data for its marketing purposes. Most probably, they may track and store your IP address. 

Ready to choose a DNS Server?

Choosing a third-party DNS server is more beneficial than the default one. While there are other options, they might come with a premium pricing tag. 

But just because these DNS servers are free doesn’t mean they are less effective. Sure, you will notice some performance issues, but they are undoubtedly excellent for getting started. 

I hope now you know what is a DNS server. Do you have any more questions? Make sure you let me know in the comment section below. 

Frequently Asked Questions

DNS was first introduced in 1983.

Imagine the internet like a giant phonebook, but instead of names and phone numbers, it has website addresses and cryptic numerical codes. DNS servers act like a translator for this phonebook. They take the easy-to-remember website names you type in your browser (like “www.example.com”) and convert them into the codes computers understand.

Your device will first use a primary DNS server to translate a human-readable hostname into an IP address.

Yes, you can see DNS history. However, the process will depend on the device you're using and its command prompts.

DNS servers are located all over the world.