Top 10 Public DNS Servers: Google DNS vs OpenDNS vs Level3 vs Verisign and Others
As you may know, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) will usually assign Domain Name System (DNS) servers that your router will connect to when accessing the internet. These servers translate written web addresses (i.e. - Google.com) into IP addresses (188.8.131.52) and vice versa, thus making the web more user-friendly. However, sometimes the DNS assigned by your ISP isn't the fastest one available in your area, and you do have the option of changing your DNS servers within your router or computer settings. We recently published a guide on how to use DNS Benchmark and Namebench to compare the best DNS servers.
Ultimately, the speed and overall performance of your DNS will depend on your location and other variables, so it's best to use a benchmarking application to determine which DNS is truly best before making your decision. With that said, if you've been wondering about the differences between the most popular options like Google DNS, OpenDNS, Level3, and Verisign, check out this comparison of the fastest and most reliable free public DNS servers:
NEW: Cloudflare's newly launched 184.108.40.206 DNS server claims to have faster speeds and better privacy than all of the options below. Check out our article on How to setup 220.127.116.11 as a DNS server to find out more about this privacy-focused, free, DNS service.
Google Public DNS
- Primary DNS server address - 18.104.22.168.
- Secondary DNS server address - 22.214.171.124.
Google Public DNS is easily the most commonly used and widely recommended third-party DNS services, most likely because Google is such a household name and their server addresses are easy to remember. Google also offers a premium paid DNS solution called Cloud DNS, which offers high performance, low-latency access to a global DNS network, although it is generally intended for business level users.
Overall, most users find that switching to Google Public DNS speeds up their web browsing, improves security, and minimizes unnecessary redirects. Still, benchmarking against the other DNS servers on this list is always recommended – sometimes alternatives can be faster, particularly Open DNS.
- Primary DNS server address – 126.96.36.199
- Secondary DNS server address – 188.8.131.52
OpenDNS is perhaps the second-most popular DNS service because in some cases it can be more than 150% faster than Google Public DNS and it also provides some extra filtering features. It's also typically faster than the default name servers assigned by ISPs.
Although speeds will vary and benchmarking is still recommended, it's worthwhile to try out OpenDNS because it has content blocking and web security options that aren't offered by other free DNS services. In fact, they have a Family Shield version that comes pre-configured to block adult content, as well as a Home version that is fully customizable.
Primary DNS server address – 184.108.40.206
Secondary DNS server address – 220.127.116.11
Level3 provides one of the most commonly used DNS services in the world, with many ISPs and mobile data providers relying on their DNS servers. Verizon's DNS servers are frequently listed as 18.104.22.168, 22.214.171.124, 126.96.36.199, 188.8.131.52, and/or 184.108.40.206, however those DNS servers are actually alternate addresses of the Level3 server addresses shown above.
Mobile carriers like Verizon usually try to balance DNS traffic by routing the requests through their server first and then to Level3 servers on a filtered basis. Many ISPs use Level3 in a similar manner, so the default DNS assigned to your router by your ISP may in fact be a Level3 DNS server.
Primary DNS server address – 220.127.116.11
Secondary DNS server address – 18.104.22.168
The Verisign Public DNS is a fully free DNS service that aims to provide a combination of stability, privacy, and security. It's commonly ranked as a top 10 DNS based on the reliability and uptime of its servers, which can be checked at any time on their Server Status page. They also make it easy to configure their DNS with a simplified configuration instructions page, so it's an ideal recommendation for a novice DNS user.
Of course, the process of switching your DNS servers to Verisign is the same as assigning any other DNS, but it helps to have guidance if you've never done it before. The company has pledged not to share user data or display ads, and also offers IPv6 public DNS servers.
Primary DNS server address – 22.214.171.124
Secondary DNS server address – 126.96.36.199
They also offer IPv6 DNS server at the following addresses:
Primary IPv6 DNS server address: 2001:1608:10:25::1c04:b12f
Secondary IPv6 DNS server address: 2001:1608:10:25::9249:d69b
DNS.watch, which is the service's actual home web address as well as its name, is a popular DNS provider that promises fast, uncensored and fully free public DNS servers. Their services uses no logging and uses the Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) protocol to ensure privacy and anonymity. This is essentially a philanthropic web company that aims to improve and preserve net neutrality by making high quality DNS servers available to the public free of charge.
Comodo Secure DNS
Primary DNS server address – 188.8.131.52
Secondary DNS server address – 184.108.40.206
Other DNS server addresses used by Comodo Secure DNS:
Comodo Secure DNS is a free service offered by Comodo Group. Many users find that this is the fastest DNS in heir area after performing benchmarking tests against several other competitors and their ISPs assigned servers. The key advantage of this GPS is that it is made by a leader in internet and computer security. The filtering features are also useful for parents or in workplaces where web moderation is a necessity. Strategically placed nodes and proprietary routing technology makes this one of the faster free public DNS servers available.
Primary DNS server address – 220.127.116.11
Secondary DNS server address – 18.104.22.168
Norton ConnectSafe is a free public DNS service from the creators of Norton Antivirus. Although the primary focus of the DNS is security, it also excels in reliability and availability, making it a top choice for many users, especially those who already have Norton installed on their machine. Norton's DNS blocks the user's computer from accessing sites that contain scams, malware, phishing schemes, pornography, and other cyber risks and categories considered by Norton to be unfriendly to families and/or and business. The filtering and categorization is based on the Symantec RuleSpace service. It's important to make sure you agree with all of their filtering policies before deciding to go with this DNS.
Primary DNS server address – 22.214.171.124
Secondary DNS server address – 126.96.36.199
SafeDNS is a free public DNS that specializes in content filtering. It aims to protect the user from botnets, malware, and other cyber threats and annoyances. The SafeDNS database contains profile on more than 90 million of the internet's top sites, with filtering capabilities separated into more than 55 categories. The network is also capable of blocking traffic form all sorts of advertising pop-ups and content, including contextual, audio, and video ads. Another interesting feature of Safe DNS is that it comes with free support, so it's a good solution for businesses or novice web users that need guidance when setting up and using the DNS.
Primary DNS server address – 188.8.131.52
Secondary DNS server address – 184.108.40.206
GreenTeamDNS offers a comprehensive web filtering and site blocking service that is great for businesses and families. The free version utilizes their moderate policy, but upgrading to a paid Premium account gives the user the ability to choose which sites and categories are blocked. One of the key advantages of using GreenTeamDNS is that it is compatible with every kind of devices, including smartphones, tablets, and even game consoles like the PS3. The filtering is separated into 47 categories to give the user maximum control over what their computer access through the DNS. It's ideal for parental or workplace monitoring and control as there are logs kept that allows you to view which sites were visited and blocked.
Primary DNS server address – 220.127.116.11
Secondary DNS server address – 18.104.22.168
OpenNIC is based on a very large network of volunteer-provided servers, so the above addresses are just the main portals, but there are actually a lot of DNS servers available on their All Servers page. However, clicking the large self-titled link above to visit their home page and you'll see a list of the fours closest server. NIC stands for “Network Information Center,” which describes the network of servers that comprise OpenNIC. The network is design to serve as a “non-national alternative” to Top-Level Domain (TLD) corporate registry systems such as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). It's an interesting topic to research when learning about anonymity, security, and DNS neutrality.
If you really want to be through the best way to determine which DNS is the best would be to use a benchmarking application to compare the two. However, if you frequently travel then it's good to know which services are typically the most ideal in the areas you most frequently visit.
Although conducting a comparison is important, in general here are some broad suggestions that can be made depending on what you're looking for in a DNS:
Speed and Reliability - In terms of server reliability, Google Public DNS, Level3, and OpenDNS are generally the most widely available regardless of where you are. However, in the minority of cases other DNS servers may perform more optimally. Since speed and reliability are the two most important performance factors, it's best to learn how to benchmark the top options quickly and effectively using a program like Namebench.
Filtering and Blocking - If you want an automated filtering or blocking solution, Norton ConnectSafe or GreenTeamDNS are some of the best options. OpenDNS is also excellent for this purpose. Some free public DNS servers offer paid premium services that allow you to control the types of categories and sites that are blocked.
Logging and Monitoring – If you're apprehensive about a company logging your internet activity the it's important to use a no-logging service like DNS.Watch. On the other hand, if you'd prefer to be able to monitor and investigate web usage in retrospect, then a service that keeps logs would be ideal. Businesses and families typically choose to keep logs, whereas someone concerned with anonymity and privacy would opt for a no-log DNS.
Finally, it's worth noting that the best DNS can vary and change from day to day, depending on server uptime and other factors. Thus, it's worthwhile to conduct daily benchmark tests to see which DNS consistently performs the best over a long period of time.