DNS, or Domain
Name System, is what turns an internet name like www.yahoo.com
into an internet address, such as 184.108.40.206. In essence
it’s an enormous distributed database. If you’re interested in more
gory details, HowStuffWorks has a good overview
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Your ISP provides servers that perform the DNS lookup function each time you
access a name on the internet. Sometimes those servers can have problems which
range from not knowing the names they should, to taking a long time to perform
So I’ll be clear: once you’ve determined that you have a DNS problem, your
first step should be to complain to your ISP. You and all their other customers
will benefit if they address their problem.
Unfortunately, some ISPs don’t seem to care much about the little guy. They
make it difficult to report problems and seem to do everything possible to
avoid taking responsibility. I’ve been there, and I switched ISPs as a result.
If you’re not getting satisfaction from your ISP I strongly suggest you vote
with your feet.
However I realize that switching ISPs can be painful, and it’s not always a
practical option. So I do have a couple of alternatives.
AnalogX FastCache is a caching DNS server for
Windows that runs on your local machine and handles the DNS requests that your
computer makes. The first time you ask for a name, it goes to your ISP’s DNS
Servers to get the address. After that every time you ask for the same names
again it gives it to you instantly. A friend in the
industry recommends it highly. Even with a good ISP things seem to run a little
snappier with FastCache installed.
Another alternative is to simply use a DNS provided by someone other than
your ISP. This can get a little risky as unlike your ISP, whomever you choose
will have no responsibility for keeping you working. Some
Simply use the DNS servers of a different ISP. Rather than publish IP
addresses here, just ask someone you know for the DNS they’re running with and
see if they work for you.
Use the DNS Servers provided by OpenDNS. (This is
what I’ve been using lately.)
Another approach may be to use the Internet’s root DNS
servers directly. These are a set of 13 DNS Servers that are by definition
the master copies of the DNS database. Remember though, that you’ll be
competing with thousands of other DNS Servers who also use the root servers as
their reference point.