The web is a wild west where almost anything goes and there are security, privacy and speed problems. NextDNS alternative DNS servers aim to solve the problems with a fast and safe service.
I have looked at alternative DNS servers before, in Clean up the web by switching to a DNS server that hides ads and in Add Cloudflare 220.127.116.11 to Android phones for speed, privacy. Read those articles if you want some background information on why alternative DNS servers are useful.
Basically, each device on the internet has a unique set of numbers to identify it. DNS is an internet service that turns the domain names that we use, like facebook.com, apple.com, google.com and others into the set of numbers like 18.104.22.168 that computers, phones and tablets use to communicate with each other. It’s a sort of url-to-numbers service.
The DNS service that you use partly affects what you can access and how fast. If a DNS service is slow, it slows down web pages, if it is fast, it speeds them up. Without DNS, you could not access anything and by restricting DNS queries, you can block certain web content. For example, adverts, trackers and other web irritations can potentially be blocked by a DNS server if desired.
NextDNS alternative DNS server
I have looked at AdGuard and Cloudflare, but there are many more alternative DNS servers and NextDNS has more configuration options and features than most.
Go to NextDNS in a browser on a computer, phone or table, click the Try it now button and there are instructions for setting it up. There are instructions and apps for Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, Linux, Chrome OS, browsers and routers.
I found the Mac, iPhone and iPad apps to be easy to use and they are basically simple on/off switches. This is great, because for various reasons, you might not want NextDNS on all the time and it is easy to switch off.
The Windows app did not install properly and did not work properly. The Android app has a poor rating and similar comments about it not working properly in the Google Play Store. I did not try Linux or Chrome.
Manual setup of NextDNS servers
Fortunately, the apps are not needed and you can manually configure DNS servers on any device if you know where to enter the numbers. If you have done it before, you will be fine. Here is a brief guide in Windows:
- Open the Control Panel
- Click Network and Sharing Center
- Click Change adapter settings
- Right click the Wi-Fi connection and select Properties
- Double click Internet Protocol Version 4
- Select, Use the following DNS server addresses
- Enter 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199 as listed on the NextDNS site
On the Mac, go to System Preferences > Network > Advanced > DNS and enter the DNS server numbers shown on the NextDNS Setup page.
On an Android phone, open Settings > Connections > More connection settings > Private DNS. Copy and paste the NextDNS server URL from the setup section near the bottom of the page when you visit in Chrome on your Android phone, it looks something like 995a57.dns1.nextdns.io.
Don’t copy my settings, you will be given settings unique to you. Refresh the NextDNS Setup page and it should say that NextDNS is being used.
Create a NextDNS account
You do not need to create an account with NextDNS and you can simply enter the DNS servers and that’s it. Nothing to pay, no account to set up. Default settings for everything will be used.
If you want to change any of the multitude of configuration options, and this is the best part, then an account is necessary. Your settings are saved to it.
This caused a lot of problems and confusion for me until I worked out what was going on. There are lots of instructions, but also a lot of confusing information on the site that didn’t help much. Basically, you are given a temporary ID when setting up NextDNS. If you decide to create an account, which is free, you are then given a personal and permanent ID.
Configure NextDNS, create an account, get your personal ID then configure NextDNS again, replacing your temporary ID with your personal permanent ID.
Set the NextDNS servers or use the app to turn it on and default settings are applied. There is a lot of security, like threat intelligence feeds, AI-driven threat detection, Google safe browsing, cryptojacking protection, and the list goes on and on.
Basically, you get a lot of extra security and privacy options that some DNS servers do not provide. DNS queries are encrypted for privacy too, which not all DNS servers provide.
There are many privacy features too, like blocklists for trackers, native tracking protection, disguised third party tracker blocking, and more. There are parental controls that enable you to restrict access to specific websites, apps and games, or whole categories. There is a Recreation Time option where blocks are lifted. And there is a lot more.
Using the web is much faster and cleaner because adverts and trackers are blocked. It makes a big improvement to ad-heavy websites and to slow computers, phones and tablets.
I once visited a cafe that blocked Wi-Fi unless you used the hotspot’s default DNS servers, so it had to be turned off on my phone. That was the only occasion when it didn’t work and on all other occasions, from home or out with a phone and laptop, it worked fine, speeding up the web and making it more secure and private.
The NextDNS setup is confusing and some people have problems with the apps provided. If you have some technical knowledge and have used alternate DNS servers before, you will be OK. Just add NextDNS servers and away you go.
You do not need to create an account, but one is necessary if you want to configure the many settings and save them as your personal configuration. This adds a bit more complexity and confusion to the setup. Set up NextDNS, get your personal account ID and set it up again.
Once set up, it works very well, speeding up the web and making it more private and secure. There are many options you can customize. You can even log every DNS query from your devices and analyse them. You can choose where logs are stored in the world, clear them, download them, or disable them as you prefer.
A free account offers 300,000 DNS queries and unlimited queries is a cheap monthly subscription (£1.79). What happens if you exceed 300k queries on a free account? Your filter rules and configuration settings are not applied and NextDNS becomes a basic DNS server. Adverts and trackers are not blocked.
I like all the configuration options provided by NextDNS and it seems like a good service.