How to use custom DNS servers on your Windows computer

This week we’re running a series of posts that tackle common Windows networking issues, and some tips and tricks that might speed up or improve your network stability. You can find more tech tips in our Tips index.
There are plenty of good reasons to use a custom DNS server on your computers. Some services — like Google DNS — can provide a speed boost to your Web browsing. Other services — like OpenDNS and Sunbelt ClearCloud — can protect you and your family from inappropriate content and malware. So how do you set them up?
The best place to program a custom DNS server is on your router — where it can take care of every computer on your network. If you’re not comfortable poking around your router settings, however, you can make the necessary change on your computers instead.
Start by opening the Start Menu (hit the Windows Flag key!), typing ncpa.cpl, and pressing enter (as detailed in our previous how-to). Many computers have more than one network adapter — like the plug-in and wireless ones in a laptop, for example. More than likely, only one is actually connecting you to the Internet.

To find out which connection is active, click the arrow shown in the screenshot above and select Details from the drop-down list. The connectivity column displays Internet Access next to your active connection. Double click the appropriate connection, and when the connection status window appears press the Properties button. Next, double-click Internet Protocol version 4. You’re almost finished now!

On the TCP/IP properties page, click the radio button next to Use the following DNS server addresses. Here’s where you enter your custom servers!

  • Google DNS Primary / Secondary: /
  • Good for a little extra speed on many Internet connections
  • OpenDNS Primary / Secondary: /
  • Offers content filtering
  • Sunbelt ClearCloud Primary / Secondary: /
  • Offers protection against known malware and phishing sites

If speed is your primary concern, you may want to run NameBench — a program that shows you which DNS provider offers the best performance in your area.

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