A DNS, or Domain Name Server, is what helps translate human-friendly URLs into computer-friendly IP addresses. This is what enables our devices to connect to the internet and access the content we want to see.
When people change their DNS, it’s usually to enhance either performance, security or both! And while there are many paid options, we’re always fans of freebies. Below, we’ll take a look at what to consider when switching our DNS and the 14 best free DNS servers to do it with.
What to consider when switching our DNS
A few things to note before we dive in:
Default DNS vs. third-party DNS – When we have internet service, our internet service provider (ISP) has a default DNS which our network uses to connect to the web. ISPs can collect data on customers and their internet activity. A third-party DNS can do the same, though it becomes more difficult to attribute the connection to specific individuals or households.
Free DNS vs. paid DNS – Beyond the obvious financial difference between a free and paid DNS, free options typically have fewer features. A paid DNS will have more advanced security and performance functionality, as well as better customer support and more customization options. Generally speaking, a free DNS will work for most purposes.
Public DNS vs. private DNS – A public DNS is available to the general population and it typically comes from our internet service provider or a dedicated DNS provider. A private DNS is typically used by companies to give employees easier access to internal-only websites/IP addresses. Typically, we are on a public DNS at home and either a private or public one at work.
Best free DNS servers of 2021
126.96.36.199 with Warp
Google Public DNS
Comodo Secure DNS
Verisign Public DNS
Ad Guard DNS
Owned by Cisco, OpenDNS has two free options: Family Shield and Home. Family Shield is good for parents who want to make sure their kids can’t access inappropriate content. Home focuses on internet safety and performance.
The “fastest DNS resolver on Earth,” Cloudflare’s free DNS service has:
Unmetered mitigation of DDoS
Shared SSL certificate
188.8.131.52 with Warp 184.108.40.206
A Cloudflare subproduct, 220.127.116.11 with Warp is designed for mobile devices. When you download the app on your smartphone or tablet, it “replaces the connection between your phone and the internet with a modern, optimized, protocol.” They also pledge never to sell your data, which is always a bonus.
Google Public DNS 18.104.22.168
Google’s own DNS product is also free. It focuses on “speed, security, and validity of results.” It only offers DNS resolution and caching — there is no site-blocking with Public DNS.
Comodo Secure DNS 22.214.171.124
Comodo Secure DNS’s cloud-based Secure Internet Gateway Gold package is free (up to 300,000 monthly DNS requests). This gets you:
Protection from advanced threats, phishing, malware and C&C callbacks
Web filtering for 80+ content categories
Web access policy protection on and off-network
Real-time visibility for all connected devices
Quad9 emphasizes security, privacy and performance — the company was founded on the goal to make the internet safer for everyone. It blocks malicious domains, phishing and malware while maintaining your anonymity. Quad9 is constantly expanding to new regions. Right now, it comes in at No. 8 on the DNS Performance Analytics and Comparison ratings.
Verisign Public DNS 126.96.36.199
Verisign touts its superior stability and security features, plus the fact that they don’t sell user data to any third-party companies or for selling/targeting ads. Verisign became Neustar UltraDNS Public in the fourth quarter of 2020 after an asset sale on October 9.
At its core, OpenNIC is an attempt to combat censorship. Volunteer-run, this free DNS server makes the entire web accessible to everyone. They also prevent “DNS hijacking” which is when an ISP takes over commonly mistyped URLs.
Completely run and funded by founder Thomas Steen Rasmussen, UncensoredDNS is based in Denmark. It’s a great option for those local to FreeDNS, complete with security features, performance enhancement and reliability.
Both free and paid versions of CleanBrowsing are available. The free DNS server focuses on privacy, especially for households with children. It comes with three free filters and blocks most adult content.
Yandex DNS 188.8.131.52
This Russia-based option has a whole list of features:
Performance – Gets you faster access to the web
Protection – Blocks malware and bots
Content filtering – Prohibits access to adult content
UltraRecursive DNS 184.108.40.206
Neustar’s UltraRecursive DNS is also a well-rounded option. It offers performance enhancement with quick query resolution and reliable infrastructure. It also blocks malware, malicious websites, phishing, spyware and bots (plus DDoS protection). It’ll also block inappropriate or adult content.
Alternate DNS 220.127.116.11
Sick of seeing so many ads online? Alternate DNS is the solution for us. They maintain a database of known ad-serving domains and send a null response to block ads before they connect to your network.
AdGuard DNS 18.104.22.168
AdGuard DNS also focuses on ad blocking. It also blocks counters, malicious websites and adult content, if we are looking to extend parental blocks for younger web users.
The best free DNS server for us depends on what we want to get out of switching our DNS and where we are located.