The Definitive Guide to Windows DNS

Last Updated by Unyime Etim on Sept. 13, 2020, 10 p.m.

Windows DNS (the definitive guide)

 

The windows 10 operating system like every other major operating system comes bundled with an inbuilt DNS client. This guide aims to answer your frequently asked questions on DNS, DNS cache,  how to check DNS cache on Windows 10, how to clear/ flush DNS cache on Windows 10, how to change/configure DNS on Windows 10, and how to fix the 'DNS server not responding' error.

What is DNS?

The DNS stands for the Domain Name System which represents an internet equivalent of a phone book. It maintains a directory of domain names, and translate them to Internet Protocol (IP) addresses.

This protocol is very necessary because though we access information on the web through the human-friendly domain names (for example www.unyimeetim.com) which are very much easier to recall, the browsers interact through the machine-readable Internet Protocol (IP) addresses which consist of groups of numbers like 204.0.8.51. Without DNS, you would have to type the series of four numbers and dots into your browser to retrieve websites.

What is a DNS server?

To fully understand what a domain name server is, we need to understand the basic definition of a server. It is simply a computer on the internet that hosts services that can be accessed by other computers. A common example is computers that host websites, often called web servers.

There are other servers too. Examples are mail servers that host and manage email services, file transfer protocol (FTP) servers that enable the sending and receiving of files over the net, and of course, the DNS server, that manages DNS services.

What exactly does the DNS server do?

The DNS server is any computer that is registered to join the domain name system. It maintains a database of domain names and the IP addresses associated with it, and in most cases serves to resolve, or translate, domain names to IP addresses as requested.

DNS Cache

Every time you visit a website by its hostname, the web browser makes a request out to the internet which cannot be completed until the site's name is "converted" into an IP address.

Complete DNS lookups every time a new website is opened is quite not very efficient, hence the need for a better solution: the DNS cache.

A DNS cache is a temporary database, maintained by a computer that contains records of the recent visits and attempted visits to websites and other internet domains. This speeds up the DNS lookup process and hence the load time of websites.

Many modern browsers are designed to cache DNS records by default for a certain amount of time. Therefore, when a request is made for a DNS record, the browser cache is the first location checked for the requested record. If the record is not available, the operating system is checked next.

The operating system level DNS resolver is the second and last local stop before a DNS query leaves your machine. The process inside your operating system that is designed to handle this query is commonly called a “stub resolver” or DNS client. When a stub resolver gets a request from an application, it first checks its own cache to see if it has the record. If it does not, it then sends a DNS query, outside the local network to the Internet service provider (ISP).

Read also: How to Prevent a Ransomware Attack (11 actionable tips)

Windows DNS

Every Microsoft Windows operating system has an inbuilt DNS client or resolver (DNS Client Service) which aids DNS resolution for you. This software handles the common DNS lookups, caching, etc.

Whenever you sign up for internet access, your internet service provider (ISP) provides you with the required network settings which include DNS addresses that'll enable you to access the internet.

In most cases, the DNS servers provided by your ISP is appropriate, but you’re generally not required to use it. However, if you’re concerned about the speed, security or reliability of the default servers, you can always port to other public DNS services like Google’s Public DNS and OpenDNS.

How to change/configure DNS on Windows 10

There are three common ways of manually configuring the DNS of your Windows 10 system:

1. Command-line

2. Control panel

3. Windows settings

The most powerful option involves the command line. Unfortunately, I don’t recommend beginners playing around with any major system settings through this tool, hence we’re going to avoid it. However, if you still want to check it out, this article from tweaks.com can put you through.

Method 1: From the Control Panel

You can change your DNS from the control panel with the following steps:

1. Open your Control Panel

2. Click on Network and Internet

how to change windows dns

3. Click on Network and Sharing Center

How to change windows DNS from control panel

4. Click Change Adapter Settings

change windows dns

5. Right-click on the network interface connected to the internet and click on the properties option.

6. Select and check the Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) option and click on properties.

change windows dns

7. Uncheck Obtain DNS server address automatically, and check use the following DNS server addresses.

change dns server in windows

8. Type in your “preferred” and “alternate” DNS server.

Use the following address for your preferred and alternate DNS servers if you use Cloudflare, Google Public DNS, or OpenDNS:

  1. Cloudflare: 1.1.1.1 and 1.0.0.1

  2. Google Public DNS: 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4

  3. OpenDNS: 208.67.222.222 and 208.67.220.220

9. Click the Ok and Close buttons.

Method 2: From System Settings

Another way of changing the DNS settings is through the system settings app.

1. Open settings and click on Network & Internet

change windows dns

2. At the right-hand side of your screen, click on Ethernet or Wi-Fi (depending on the nature of your connection) and select the connection.

change windows dns

3. Scroll down to IP Settings and click on the edit button.

change windows dnschange windows dns

4. From the "Edit IP settings" drop-down menu and select the Manual option.

5. Turn on the IPv4 toggle option.

6. Type your "Preferred DNS" and "Alternate DNS" addresses and click the save button.

Use the following address for your preferred and alternate DNS servers if you use Cloudflare, Google Public DNS, or OpenDNS:

  1. Cloudflare: 1.1.1.1 and 1.0.0.1

  2. Google Public DNS: 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4

  3. OpenDNS: 208.67.222.222 and 208.67.220.220

The new DNS will take effect once you’ve completed the steps above and restarted your computer.

 How to check DNS Cache on Windows

Like I mentioned before, your computer maintains a record of your recent DNS lookups to enable faster resolutions in the future. You can view these records from the command line by following the steps below:

1. Open your command line and type ipconfig /displaydns into the terminal.

check dns cache

Note the space before the backslash.

2. Press Enter.

How to Clear/ Flush DNS Cache on Windows

Despite the importance of the DNS cache, there are certain situations in which you may need to get rid of it at a regular interval. These include hiding your browsing history, resolving certain technical errors, and for security purposes. You can find this article by Techwalla helpful on the subject.

To flush your DNS cache on your Windows 10 machine,

1. Open the command line and type in ipconfig /flushdns into the terminal.

2. Note the space before the backslash.

3. Press Enter.

If the process has functioned as desired, the command prompt will confirm the success of the flush process.

How to Fix the 'DNS server not responding' Error

How do you solve a DNS server not responding error?

There are numerous reasons why you may be getting the error message above, including improper DNS configuration in your Windows machine which renders the internet inaccessible.

Fortunately, it's a common issue that can be fixed quickly with one or more of the methods below:

Method 1: Restart your Router or Modem

1. Power off your router or modem as the case may be.

2. Wait for about 30 seconds before powering it back on.

3. Reconnect and try accessing the internet again.

Method 2: Configure the TCP/IP Settings

1. Open your Control Panel

2. Click on Network and Internet

3. Click on Network and Sharing Center

4. Click Change Adapter Settings

5. Right-click on the network interface connected to the internet and click on the properties option.

6. Select the Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) option and click on properties.

dns server not responding error

7. Select Obtain an IP address automatically button.

8. Select Obtain DNS servers address automatically button.

Windows DNS error

9. Click ok.

10. Select the Internet Protocol Version 6 (TCP/IPv6) option and click on properties.

11. Select Obtain an IP address automatically button.

12. Select Obtain DNS servers address automatically button.

13. Click ok.

Restart your system and try accessing the internet again.

Method 3: Use the ipconfig command-line tool

To use the Ipconfig command-line tool, follow these steps:

1. Type in cmd in your search bar.

2. Right-click the command prompt and select run as administrator.

3. Type in the following commands into the terminal. Press enter after each command.

ipconfig /flushdns

ipconfig /registerdns

ipconfig /release

ipconfig /renew

This documentation by Microsoft provides more information about ipconfig commands and what they do.

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