Threat Intelligence 101

What are the best DNS Servers for Security, Privacy and Speed?

Posted: 19th March 2024
By: Esteban Borges

Are faster browsing and robust security on your internet wishlist for 2024? Identifying the right DNS server is crucial. This article outlines the standout DNS servers, detailing how their speed, robust security features, and dependability advance your online activities. Let's dive in.

Key Takeaways

  • DNS servers translate domain names into IP addresses, acting like a directory for the internet; alternative DNS servers can provide faster browsing speeds, improved security, and better performance than ISP-assigned servers.
  • DNS query resolution speed affects internet speeds; factors like DNS lookup times, cache status, and server distance are crucial; dynamic DNS updates ensure efficient routing and uptime, while DNS recursion involves querying multiple servers to resolve uncommon addresses.
  • When choosing a DNS server, it’s important to consider the server’s speed, security features like DNSSEC, and the privacy policy governing data handling; additional benefits may include ad blocking, ease of management, and advanced configuration options.

DNS: The Backbone of Your Internet Experience

At its core, DNS is the internet’s directory, responsible for translating human-friendly domain names into machine-identifiable IP addresses. Think of it as an interpreter in a world of numbers. When you type a URL into your web browser, DNS servers act as a directory, flipping through its pages to find the corresponding IP address for your desired website. This information isn’t tucked away in a dusty corner of the internet but is distributed across a vast, worldwide network of DNS servers.

This interpreter is provided by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). It automatically assigns a DNS server to handle your queries whenever you go online. But just like choosing your own adventure, you can also select from a host of the best free DNS servers, including free public DNS servers, to enhance your internet journey with a free DNS service. Some of the most popular free DNS servers include:

  • Google DNS
  • OpenDNS
  • Cloudflare DNS
  • Quad9 DNS

By using these alternative DNS servers, including secondary DNS servers, you may experience faster browsing speeds, improved security, and better overall performance.

Let's now take a look on why DNS servers are so important for your online safety.

The Role of DNS Servers in Your Internet Connection

Much like a theater’s backstage crew, DNS servers operate behind the scenes. They tirelessly interpret and answer requests, translating domain names into IP addresses - a critical function enabling website connection. The journey begins with your query to a DNS recursive resolver. This query then proceeds to DNS root nameservers, and TLD nameservers, much like a relay race, where each participant plays a crucial role.

The authoritative nameserver serves as the final destination in this process,, which provides the IP address for the domain, completing the translation process. And here’s a fascinating tidbit - DNS servers utilize cached information from previous queries to resolve new ones quickly. If a query is a curveball, the servers engage in recursion, contacting other DNS servers if needed. This process, known as DNS recursion, is where the DNS resolver queries various servers to identify the correct IP address for a given domain name.

Bear in mind that speed plays a crucial role. Your internet speeds can be affected by DNS lookup times, the status of the DNS cache, and even the geographical distance between you and the DNS server. Slow response times or downtime from DNS servers can lead to delays or complete timeouts in the domain name resolution process, preventing a website from loading. To keep up with the ever-changing internet landscape, dynamic DNS servers update their records to reflect changes in IP addresses, ensuring that the routing of queries remains accurate and efficient.

4 Factors to Consider When Choosing a DNS Server:

Choosing the right DNS server is as paramount as picking the right car. You need one that balances speed, security, and privacy.

  1. Speed is a critical factor; after all, nobody enjoys a slow-loading webpage. Tools like Namebench or DNSPerf can help identify the fastest servers, as they significantly impact initial website loading times by expediting domain name resolution.
  2. Security features are key in DNS server selection. Look for mechanisms such as DNSSEC to prevent unauthorized DNS data modifications and ensure the server does not report all DNS queries to the ISP, enhancing your security and trust.
  3. Don’t overlook the privacy policy of a DNS provider. It governs how your data is handled, including whether it is logged, shared, or sold, which can greatly affect your privacy and data security.
  4. Does the provider block ads or malicious domains? How easy is it to manage DNS settings? These additional factors can range from simple interfaces to advanced configuration options.

Top 8 Leading Free DNS Providers

Finding the right DNS provider can be daunting. But fear not, we’ve got your back! Let’s shine the spotlight on leading free DNS providers like:

  1. Google
  2. Cloudflare
  3. CleanBrowsing
  4. Control D
  5. Quad9
  6. OpenDNS
  7. Alternate DNS
  8. AdGuard DNS

Each of these providers has carved out a niche in the market, offering unique benefits in terms of speed, security, and privacy.

Here’s a more detailed look at some of the most popular ones from this list.

Google Public DNS: Balancing Speed and Simplicity

Renowned for its quick DNS query resolution, Google Public DNS is a popular choice among users., comprehensive security measures, and accuracy, due to its extensive network of global data centers. The primary DNS address,, and the secondary DNS,, are the magic numbers that contribute to Google Public DNS’s high reliability and stability for users globally.

In terms of flexibility, Google Public DNS is akin to a Swiss Army knife. It offers flexible configuration options, allowing users to set it up on individual devices or apply it network-wide through router settings. This means that whether you’re a tech-novice or an IT guru, Google Public DNS has got you covered.

Cloudflare's Privacy-First Approach

With a strong focus on privacy, Cloudflare’s DNS service can be compared to a fortress. It commits to never writing the querying IP address to disk, with all logs deleted within 24 hours. Cloudflare even undergoes annual audits by KPMG to validate its privacy practices. But it doesn’t stop at privacy. Cloudflare’s DNS service has been ranked as the fastest DNS resolver globally by the independent DNS monitor DNSPerf.

Cloudflare’s network extends to 310 cities worldwide, enabling quick DNS response times for users globally, hence recommended for excellent speed and stability. In terms of data privacy, offers the following features:

  • Doesn’t utilize user data for commercial purposes
  • Supports strong encryption
  • Supports DNSSEC
  • Performs query name minimization to enhance user privacy

It also offers protection against DDoS attacks, a good addition to stay one step ahead of cybercriminals.


CleanBrowsing focuses on providing a safe browsing experience, particularly for families and educational institutions. It's designed to offer both security and privacy by filtering out undesirable content and protecting users from online emerging threats. Here's what makes CleanBrowsing stand out:

  • Privacy-focused: While specific details about data handling practices like logging policies or third-party audits were not provided, CleanBrowsing emphasizes user privacy. For precise policies, it's best to check their official documentation.
  • Security features: CleanBrowsing offers DNS-based content filtering, which is a crucial tool for blocking access to harmful websites, ensuring a safer online environment.
  • Encryption support: To protect DNS queries and responses from being intercepted, CleanBrowsing supports encrypted DNS protocols, enhancing your online privacy and security.

Configuring DNS Server Settings Step-by-Step

Having explored the DNS landscape, it’s time to get practical. Changing your DNS can enhance connection speed, offer more private browsing, and even be a lifesaver during travel or when connected to outdated DNS servers. Setting up a DNS server such as is straightforward and requires minimal technical knowledge for desktop users.

When configuring DNS server settings, you can enter both a primary and a secondary DNS server address to ensure uninterrupted service if one server fails.

For Windows 10 users, you can modify your DNS settings by following these steps:

  1. Navigate to ‘Network & Internet’ settings.
  2. Select ‘Change Adapter Settings’.
  3. In the properties of the desired connection, set the DNS server addresses.
  4. Click ‘OK’ to apply changes.
  5. Ensure the correct connection is identified by checking for green bars, which signify active connections.

For the Apple aficionados, you can adjust your DNS settings on a Mac by following these steps:

  1. Access ‘System Preferences’.
  2. Go to ‘Network’.
  3. In the ‘DNS’ tab of the ‘Advanced’ settings, add new DNS server addresses to update your network configurations.
  4. Active network connections are marked with a green dot.
  5. Upon changing DNS settings, any auto-assigned grayed-out entries will be overwritten with the user’s custom entries.

For Linux users with GNOME (a common desktop environment), you can modify your DNS settings through the GUI with these concise steps:

  1. Click on the top right corner of your screen to open the system menu and select "Settings."
  2. In the "Settings" window, navigate to "Network."
  3. Find your active connection (look for a green dot if unsure) and click the gear icon next to it to open settings.
  4. Switch to the "IPv4" or "IPv6" tab depending on your network configuration.
  5. Disable the "Automatic" toggle for DNS.
  6. In the "DNS" section, enter the DNS server addresses you wish to use, separated by commas.
  7. Apply the changes by clicking "Apply."
  8. You may need to disconnect and reconnect to your network for the changes to take effect.

For Android users, you can follow these steps:

  1. Open the 'Settings' app on your Android device.
  2. Scroll down and select 'Network & Internet.'
  3. Tap on 'Private DNS.'
  4. Choose the option to enter your DNS provider’s hostname.
  5. Enter the DNS provider’s hostname in the provided field.
  6. Save your changes by following the on-screen instructions, typically by tapping 'Save' or simply exiting the screen.
  7. For best results, before changing the DNS server, clear the DNS cache in Google Chrome:
    • Open Google Chrome.
    • In the address bar, type chrome://net-internals/#dns.
    • Tap on 'Clear host cache.'

Premium DNS Services: Are They Worth It?

Offering features like DDoS protection, two-way authentication, and DNSSEC, premium DNS services take security up a notch. While some of these features may also be found in free services, premium services often use Anycast networks to ensure faster response times and high uptime, setting them apart from most free services.

In terms of resources and advanced management options, premium DNS services typically offer:

  • More domains
  • More records
  • More DNS zones
  • Higher query limits
  • Tools like DNS templates

While premium DNS services provide numerous benefits, they are not always essential for every user, with many free DNS servers offering similar performance and security.

Protecting Your Family Online with DNS Servers

For young explorers, the internet can often resemble the wild west. Thankfully, DNS servers can help protect your family online with features like Family Shield, adult content filters, and customizable web filtering options. Providers like CleanBrowsing offer public DNS server options like security filter, adult filter, and family filter, specifically designed to protect families online.

Let’s further explore these features.

Family Shield and Adult Content Filters

OpenDNS Family Shield is like a digital guardian for your family. It comes pre-configured to block adult content, simplifying the setup process for creating a child-safe online environment. The parental controls of OpenDNS Family Shield extend over all devices connected to the same home network, offering consistency in content filtering.

As a free service, OpenDNS Family Shield makes basic web filtering accessible to a broader audience at no additional cost. But OpenDNS isn’t the only player in town. Alternate DNS provides a Family Premium DNS service that includes features for blocking adult content.

Likewise, Cloudflare offers optional content filtering for malware and adult content blocking through their DNS service.

Customizable Web Filtering Options

Customizable web filtering options serve as personal bodyguards for your browsing experience. Services such as Alternate DNS and AdGuard DNS offer customizable web filtering options to block ads, trackers, and known malicious domains, enhancing user security and browsing experience.

With services like OpenDNS offering over 55 web content filtering options, administrators can configure comprehensive web content filtering, including predefined tiers like Low, Moderate, and High, for targeting specific types of online content. These tools not only enhance security by blocking connections to malicious domains but can also allow administrators to always block or never block specific domains, providing fine-tuned control over network security.

When managing and changing DNS filtering settings, most of the time you'll need to clear the local DNS cache post-adjustment to ensure immediate application of the new configuration.

Beyond Traditional DNS: Innovations in DNS Service

As we forge ahead, DNS services continue to evolve. Innovations include encrypted protocols like DNS over TLS (DoT) and DNS over HTTPS (DoH), providing enhanced security and privacy. DNS over TLS operates on a dedicated port, offering encrypted communication and reducing the risk of man-in-the-middle attacks. However, its visibility can be a concern for privacy groups.

On the other hand, DNS over HTTPS (DoH) utilizes the traditional HTTPS port to blend in with regular web traffic. This provides encryption while making DNS requests indistinguishable from other web communications, offering an additional layer of privacy. Cloudflare’s WARP application works with their DNS service to secure all traffic from personal devices, functioning like a VPN but without typical performance reductions.

Innovations aren’t limited to encryption protocols. DNS Layer Security is a comprehensive approach to bolster cyber defenses, addressing threats such as DNS poisoning and DDoS, among others. Integration with encrypted DNS systems like through DoH can enhance the security of devices and improve their speed at no additional cost.

Advanced cybersecurity measures within DNS services include mechanisms to detect and prevent DNS attacks, such as firewalls, traffic filtering, and DNS hijacking countermeasures.


Is still the fastest DNS?

Yes, at the time of writing this article, remains one of the fastest DNS services, according to the independent DNS monitor, DNSPerf, it's currently ranking number 2, after DNSFilter.

What does using 8.8 8.8 for DNS do?

Using as your DNS server utilizes Google's public DNS service, which aims to enhance the speed, security, and reliability of the DNS system for all Internet users.

What are the benefits of changing my DNS server?

Changing your DNS server can enhance your connection speed, provide more private browsing, and even be a lifesaver during travel or when connected to outdated DNS servers. This can greatly improve your online experience.

What factors should I consider when choosing a DNS server?

When choosing a DNS server, consider factors such as speed, security, privacy, and additional features such as ad-blocking or malicious domain blocking. These factors can help you make an informed decision.

How does DNS affect my internet speed?

DNS can affect your internet speed through factors like lookup times, DNS cache status, and geographical distance to the server. These factors can impact the overall performance of your internet connection.

Do public DNS servers help to prevent dns leaks?

No, public DNS servers alone do not prevent DNS leaks. DNS leaks occur due to how DNS queries are routed, not which DNS server is used. Using a public DNS with a properly configured VPN can mitigate leaks by ensuring queries don't go through your ISP's DNS servers.


As we covered in this post, DNS servers impact your internet connection speed, security, and privacy. Whether you opt for a free or premium DNS service, the goal should be a safe, secure, and speedy internet experience.

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This invaluable asset allows our users to get ahead by spotting and managing potential threats from obscure hosts and domains, possibly acting as conduits for cyber incursions. Explore how you can efficiently find, evaluate, and mitigate risks within your online environment. Schedule your demo today.

Esteban Borges Blog Author
Esteban Borges

Esteban is a seasoned security researcher and IT professional with over 20 years of experience, specializing in hardening systems and networks, leading blue team operations, and conducting thorough attack surface analysis to bolster cybersecurity defenses. He's also a skilled marketing expert, specializing in content strategy, technical SEO, and conversion rate optimization. His career includes roles as Security Researcher and Head of Marketing at SecurityTrails, before joining the team at Recorded Future.