Your DNS server is what translates the words that you type into a URL bar into the IP address necessary to connect you to the internet. DNS stands for Domain Name System, and when it’s working properly, it’s part of what allows you to use internet-connected services, such as email or your web browser. When it’s not working as it should – you’re likely to get a message that says “DNS error.” This can be extremely frustrating for colleagues or clients, especially if they aren’t tech-savvy and can’t work out why it’s happening! This article will look at how you can fix this problem, or teach IT users what to do when a DNS error pops up on their screen.

How to diagnose a DNS error

What happens if the internet doesn’t seem to be working, but you haven’t been explicitly told that a DNS error is happening? There are a few ways to make sure that you’re dealing with a DNS error and not something else. First, as your Domain Name Server is used to translate your words into the correct IP address for the website or web service, you can try skipping the DNS function to see if the web page loads. Simply type the IP address in numbers directly into your web browser. If you don’t know the IP address, test it with Amazon’s, which is 54.239.28.85. If the page loads – you have a DNS error.

You can also complete what’s known as a ping test to find the IP address you need. Just type cmd into the Windows Start menu search bar, and then click Open Command Prompt. Now type ping, and the website name you’re looking for, for example “ping Amazon.com” and the IP address will be shown below.

Working out if your DNS error is to do with your internet service provider (ISP)

In some cases, a DNS error is the fault of the ISP, (Internet Service Provider), and you can spend hours trying to solve it locally only to realize it’s not within your control! You can simply call your ISP and find out if they are having any issues, or if you know the IP addresses of the servers themselves – use the ping test above to check if they respond. If they don’t respond, you can remove them from the list of DNS and try connecting again.

It could also be that the problem is to do with the website itself, so make sure that you attempt browsing to a new location, or check out tools such as DownForEveryoneOrJustMe which can help to put your mind at rest.

Steps to troubleshoot a DNS error

Ok – you’re sure you have a DNS error, and you want it sorted already! First, run the troubleshooting wizard and see if there is a networking problem or if restarting your modem or router could fix the problem. You’d be surprised how often this works! You can also take a quick look at all of your cables and connections, ensuring that hardware is plugged in properly and hasn’t been knocked or meddled with, and that the WiFi and router are both on. Another quick fix could be to look at your power settings, as energy-saving might be the reason why your connections are behaving strangely. Just head to Power Options under Hardware and Sound, and after clicking on “Change Plan Settings”, make sure that the options for On battery and Plugged in are toggled to “Maximum Performance”.

It’s also great practice to run a malware scan with your Antivirus software, just in case there’s something malicious going on.
Once you’ve done all of these, here are some more in-depth options that you can take to solve the problem.

Flush DNS cache

You might need to simply refresh the DNS cache to delete any inaccurate information and force the DNS to use the new information. Head back to Command Prompt and enter “ipconfig/flushdns”. You can also reset the Winsock API (that handles registry and catalog settings) by using the command “netsh winsock reset”. Remember you might need to restart your computer to see the impact of these commands.

Consider TCP/IP settings

One of the most common issues that causes DNS errors is the TCP/IP settings. You can check these by going to the control panel, and choosing “Manage network connections.” You can then look in the Local Area Connections properties, and look at the IPv4 and IPv6 properties. See what’s written under these items, which should be that the IP addresses and DNS server addresses are obtained automatically. You should also check that DHCP is enabled on your device and also on the router.

Try a clean reboot

A clean reboot is a more extreme restart, and it ensures that only the really important services start up, which can often weed out buggy software or a glitch. You can create a clean reboot by going to the System Configuration app, and clicking on “Hide all Microsoft Services”, and “Disable All.” Then, open Task Manager, and disable all of the applications individually, before restarting your computer. Once your computer starts up again, try your DNS server, and if it works, add the applications back one at a time until you see which one is the guilty party!

My DNS error is still happening!

If you’ve tried all of the above fixes, and you’re still experiencing a DNS error, you can try using a product like OpenDNS, or manually changing your DNS servers to Google’s DNS servers, in the properties of your TCP/IPv4. You’ll find this under Change Connection Options, and you can simply type 8.8.8.8 into Preferred DNS server, and 8.8.4.4 into Alternate DNS Server.
If problems persist,  make sure to speak to your ISP, or you might want to consider a new router or other hardware fixes such as updating or even reinstalling network adaptors and drivers.

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