Some of the most frequent questions we get are about computer or internet speed. Seems lots of folks don't care much for waiting, and waiting - and waiting some more - for the video to load, the movie to download or the upload to send. We don't blame them.
Even now, sometimes the internet can seem horribly slow. But before you commit to paying your internet provider for a faster connection, let's see if we can help you speed up the connection you have right now.
Or, at least it should take only a few seconds.
Of course, sometimes it takes longer than we'd like to pull up a website. There are plenty of reasons for slowdowns. It could just be you aren't getting the internet speed your provider promised. Click here to see if that's the case.
If that's not it, there's other technical wizardry going on behind the browsing scenes that could be the culprit. There's one thing in particular that can give your internet a real speed boost with little effort.
We're talking about your DNS, or Domain Name System. If you're a longtime reader, you've probably heard the term before. But for everyone else, here's a quick explanation.
Domain Name System
Every computer and mobile gadget has an IP address. This is what identifies it to other computers, and website servers are no different.
Google.com's IP address, for example, is "22.214.171.124". If that isn't hard enough to remember, newer IPv6 addresses look like this: "2001:db8::1234:ace:6006:1e". Who's going to remember that?
That's why websites also have more recognizable names, like komando.com. A DNS, also called a nameserver, is like the phone book of the internet. It turns the memorable names that you use into those complicated IP addresses that computers use.
When you sign up for internet, your provider assigns you to its DNS server. However, that isn't always the best one to use. It could be bogged down with traffic, running inefficient software or any number of other problems.
If your computer can't look up IP addresses quickly, it seriously slows down your browsing. Fortunately, there are other DNS servers out there you can use.
Keep in mind that speed isn't the only reason to choose a new DNS. Many DNS systems include filtering to block inappropriate websites or other sites you don't want to see.
What DNS is best for you?
The big question is how to find a new DNS and how to know it will be any better than your current one. Google has a solution called namebench.
This lightweight program will test your DNS against other popular DNS servers. Once it finishes the comparison, it will give you detailed statistics on performance and recommend the best DNS for you to use.
Note: To download the DNS program, navigate to the namebench download page by using the blue download buttons at the end of this article. Then, refer to these instructions as you set it up. This is the easiest way.
On the namebench download page, there are green headers labeled "Featured." Here is where you will find the program you need.
For PC users, click the second download link with the ending "Windows.exe". Mac users should select the download link ending in "Mac_OS_X.dmg".
You will be redirected to another page that has another download link. This link should be highlighted in green and have the same name as the previous download link you clicked.
Note: If the download link is not highlighted in green or the download link is different from the first, do not click on it. It is not the download link you're looking for.
Click the highlighted download link and your download will begin immediately. After the download is complete, extract the installation files. namebench will launch automatically.
On the first window, you'll see a field labeled Nameservers. This will automatically be filled with the IP address of your current DNS.
Below the Nameservers' field are two checkboxes. One says "Include global DNS providers," the other says "Include best available regional DNS services." Leave both of these checked.
The next area is for secondary options. The first checkbox lets you check if the DNS is blocking certain sites. If you're looking for a DNS with filtering options, definitely select this one. It will tell you how effective a DNS is at blocking unwanted content.
The second checkbox will publish your results anonymously. This will help provide more accurate results to you and others in the future. You can leave this blank or check it. Neither will affect the comparisons you're given.
Next, set the location dropdown to your country. In the Query Data Source dropdown menu, select your default browser. If you aren't sure what browser you use, visit this site.
[In the Health Check Performance section, you normally want this set to Fast. This will test the speed of 40 nameservers. But if your internet connection is slow or unreliable, change Fast to "Slow (unstable network)."
For the number of queries, the standard 250 should be sufficient. But if you're on a slower network, you may want to decrease the amount.
Once you've got your settings in place, hit Start Benchmark. While namebench is running, you should avoid using the internet, as that can affect its results.
When namebench completes, it will open up a new browser window with your results. There's a lot of information in this window. We'll focus on the most important parts.
The first box gives you a DNS recommendation and tells you the possible speed increase by switching. The box immediately to the right gives you the settings of the recommended DNS and two backups.
Below these boxes are a series of charts and graphs. These visualize and breakdown the performance of each DNS. You can find exact details about each graph at Namebench's wiki.
Change your router settings
Now that you know which DNS is best for you, you need to change the settings on your router. That improves all the gadgets on your network.
To edit your router settings, you'll need to open your browser and type in your router's IP address and enter your username and password. You can find out your router's default IP address and login information in the router manual. Click here to learn more about accessing router settings and improving network security.
Once you access the router's settings, take a look under the basic settings. You should see fields for Primary DNS and Secondary DNS. Write down both of the IP addresses in case you need to go back to them later.
Next, replace the existing IP addresses with the Primary and Secondary IP addresses from Namebench's "Recommended configuration" box. Then Save your router settings and log out.
If you don't have a router, you can change the DNS settings right on your computer. For Windows, look under Start >> Control Panel >> Network and Internet >> Network and Share Center. Click the "Manage network connections" link on the left.
Right-click on the Local Area Connection icon and select Properties. Under the Networking tab, click on internet Protocol Version 4 and click the Properties button.
Under the General tab, click "Use the following DNS server addresses" and enter the DNS addresses provided by namebench. Then click OK.
On a Mac, go to System Preferences >> Network. Click the lock icon in the lower left corner and enter your password.
Select Built-in Ethernet and click Advanced. Select the DNS tab and click the + icon. Add the DNS addresses from namebench and put them at the top of the list. Click Apply and OK.
Flush the old DNS cache
Once your DNS is changed on your router or computer, there is still one more task. To finish, you'll want to flush your computer's current DNS cache. This prevents it from trying to use the old DNS server to look up sites you visit often.
To flush your DNS on Windows Vista or later, type CMD into the search field in the Start menu and hit Enter.
A Command window should open up. Type "ipconfig /flushdns" (minus quotes). Now hit Enter and you should see "Successfully flushed the DNS Resolver Cache."
To flush your DNS on Mac OS X, first click on Spotlight. It's the magnifying glass at the top right. Now type in Terminal and hit Enter. When the Terminal window opens, enter "dscacheutil -flushcache" (no quotes). Now hit Enter. You should see "bash-2.05a$ dscacheutil -flushcache" if all went well.
That's all there is to it. Enjoy your speedier internet!