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Home  /  geekspeak  /  Are flaky DNS servers crippling your web access?

Are flaky DNS servers crippling your web access?

Internet Connection

Are web pages taking a long time to load? Rather than a slow internet connection, your DNS servers might be to blame.

Temperamental internet access is incredibly frustrating, especially when it’s difficult to pinpoint the cause of the problem. Perhaps your computer is to blame, or perhaps it’s your Wi-Fi network or your broadband modem. Alternatively the culprit might lie further up the chain, such as a fault on your phone line or problems at the exchange. Troubleshooting is a process of elimination.

If your browser tends to stall while loading web pages, displaying a “resolving host” warning, then perhaps your DNS servers are to blame.

DNS servers are like the telephone directories of the internet. When you tell your browser to visit a website such as www.google.com.au, your computer checks with your DNS server to find the IP address for that domain name – in this case 216.58.220.131.

If your DNS server is sluggish then it can take a long time to look up the IP address, which leaves you hanging. If you can’t load www.google.com.au but you can load 216.58.220.131 then you’ve probably got a DNS problem.

Most Internet Service Providers run their own DNS servers to help you look up websites quickly. By default your broadband modem should automatically use your ISP’s DNS servers, such as 192.231.203.132 and 192.231.203.3 if you’re with Internode. Your modem will hand out these details to all the devices on your home network. Alternatively the modem might act as your DNS server and relay requests from your computer and other devices.

Unfortunately broadband modems don’t always do a great job as the DNS middleman. If things are sluggish, check the modem’s settings to see if you can force it to hand out the address of your ISP’s DNS servers, rather than its own address. This way your computer can send DNS requests directly to your ISP rather than relying on the modem.

Alternatively you can tell your computer to ignore the DNS server details issued by your modem and instead look directly to your ISP’s DNS servers. This is a handy trick with desktop computers and other devices which don’t leave the house, but it can cause trouble for mobile devices which switch between networks.

If you’re concerned that your ISP’s DNS servers aren’t doing a great job, there are alternatives. Try overriding the default settings in your modem and switching to Google’s public DNS servers; 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4. Give it a few days to see if you notice a difference when loading web pages.

If you’ve already changed your DNS settings then perhaps that’s the problem. Changing your DNS servers, using services like UnoTelly and Unblock US, can help you beat geo-blocking to bluff your way into foreign video sites like Netflix. If you change the DNS settings in your modem then this trick works with almost every device in your home (there are a few exceptions like the Roku and Chromecast players, which require a little more trickery).

If you’ve changed your modem’s DNS settings to a geo-dodging service but now run into “resolving host” errors then maybe the new DNS servers aren’t as reliable as your old ones. Trying changing your modem back to your original DNS servers and then make changes on the specific devices that you’re using to watch Netflix. You might change the DNS settings just on that device, or use other workarounds such as a browser plug-in or Virtual Private Network.

Troubleshooting flaky internet access takes time, but something as simple as tweaking your DNS settings might be enough to get things running smoothly again.

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