A simple tweak to the computer’s DNS server settings can clean up web pages and remove a lot of the irritations. Whether you have an Apple Mac or Windows PC, try an ad-blocking DNS server.
Adverts on the web are controversial and few people like them, but they do support a lot of websites and services and they make online content free. Adverts are necessary, but do there have to be so many? Some websites are just advertising hell and they spoil it for the responsible sites that keep the ads to a minimum. Ads can be blocked by switching DNS servers on your computer, but it isn’t without its problems.
What is DNS for?
Every device connected to the internet has an IP address, which consists of a set of numbers like 126.96.36.199, but if we had to type those into the address box in our web browser we would find it difficult to remember more than two or three websites.
Instead, we use domain names like google.com, microsoft.com. apple.com, facebook.com and so on. DNS (Domain Name System) is a lookup service that converts domain names into IP addresses, so that a connection can be made with a remote computer, device or website.
Your computer, phone or tablet needs a DNS server to function on the internet and it would not work without one. ISPs (internet service providers) have DNS servers so customers can easily access the internet with their computers, phones, tablets and other devices. When a device connects, it is gets the DNS server addresses from the ISP.
A device does not have to use the ISP’s DNS servers and usually only does so because it is automatic and does not require the user to do anything. Switch on your device and it just works because DNS is automatic.
However, it is possible to manually configure computers, phones and tablets to use a different DNS server, but why bother? An alternative may be faster, more private, more responsive, more secure, or may provide other benefits that make it worthwhile switching.
Block ads with AdGuard DNS
AdGuard provides free public DNS servers that come in that ‘other benefits’ category and after configuring your computer to use AdGuard DNS, adverts magically disappear from web pages. The DNS servers block ads, which makes the web faster, makes web pages cleaner, and makes the internet a lot less annoying.
When a computer, phone or tablet is configured to use a DNS server, it is used for all internet access by every program, and that includes all web browsers, email clients, and apps. All internet traffic uses the DNS server settings and so adverts are blocked in everything, everywhere.
It does not matter whether you are using an Apple Mac, Windows PC, or Linux PC, all can be configured to use an alternative DNS. Here is how to switch DNS on an Apple Mac, but Windows isn’t that hard.
- Open System Preferences and click Network
- Select the connection on the left – usually Wi-Fi
- Click the Advanced button at the bottom
- Select the DNS tab
- Click the plus at the bottom
- Enter a DNS server IP address
- Click OK and then Apply
DNS servers often, but not always, come in pairs and to use AdGuard, enter these two IP addresses:
These will be fine for most people, but if you want the internet to be ‘family safe’ and to automatically block adult content as well as adverts, use these addresses instead:
Once added, they will be used straight away and there is no need to reboot the computer. They will continue to be used until you either delete them or enter an alternative. Deleting them and emptying the list of DNS servers means that the default servers are used, which are automatically provided by the ISP.
AdGuard DNS advantages
Browsing the web with AdGuard is great because the DNS servers block most adverts. It cannot block all adverts, but it does work very well. The web is faster and cleaner and mostly ad-free. Less data and bandwidth is used and sites load faster because adverts are often the slowest components of a web page to load.
There are also some security features with AdGuard DNS and bad websites associated with fraud are blocked too.
AdGuard DNS disadvantages
Blocking adverts may leave empty space on the web page. It isn’t really a problem, but it may look a bit odd, depending on the site design. Just ignore it.
The main problem is that websites cannot be whitelisted to allow adverts. Some websites are just advertising hell with huge ads, pop-ups, videos that can’t be stopped and more irritations. They are driving the rise in ad blocking and making it worse for everyone.
With AdGuard DNS, good websites that only have minimal advertising that does not get in the way will also be blocked along with the bad sites and the owner may depend on ads to keep the site running. If you deprive a site of its income then its future must surely be in doubt.
For this reason, I don’t personally use AdGuard DNS. I don’t like ads and really don’t like sites that plaster them all over their site, but I want to support smaller sites that rely on ad income and show only minimal advertising. I therefore allow ads and just avoid going to ad-heavy sites as much as possible.
Not only can you not whitelist sites, you cannot easily switch between using AdGuard DNS and using normal DNS servers that allow ads.
Switching can be made slightly easier by adding more DNS servers. Add 188.8.131.52 to the DNS list for example, which is Cloudflare’s fast and private DNS server that does not track you or sell your data. (Your ISP could track the sites you visit using DNS if it wanted to, and maybe some do.)
DNS servers are always used in the order in which they appear in the list, so with AdGuard at the top, adverts will be blocked, but if Cloudflare is at the top, adverts will be allowed.
Click and drag DNS servers up or or down the list to change the order.
AdGuard offers apps and browser extensions that get around the problem and they enable sites to be whitelisted to allow ads, but I’ll look at those at another time. For now, just add these three DNS servers and drag Cloudflare or AdGuard servers to the top of the list to switch ad blocking on or off.