What are VPN Custom DNS servers and do I need them?

Custom DNS

If you were wondering whether you should use custom DNS servers from your VPN provider and what the potential benefits of using them are, then you're in the right place.

In this guide I'll be explaining all to help you decide if it's a feature you should be enabling or giving a miss.

Custom DNS servers may sound intimidating at first, but you will soon realise that they are not.

In fact, they are handy for several reasons which we are going to explore soon enough.

Before we do, however, let's start by explaining what they are.

What are custom DNS servers?

DNS servers, or Domain Name System servers, are powerful computers that are in charge of translating a human-friendly website address such as “vpncompare.co.uk” to an IP address.

Help

An IP Address is a set of computer-readable numbers unique to each internet connection. Similar to a phone number or postal address.

As a result, your browser knows where to send you, and you get to quickly and easily navigate the internet.

Basically, DNS acts as the internet's phone book.

How DNS works

Now, custom DNS servers, such as the ones offered by VPN services, are used for those who wish to protect their online privacy.

This is necessary because all of your requests usually go through the DNS set up by your ISP (Internet Service Provider).

What this means is that, in theory, your ISP can track at least the name of every website you visit.

How can VPN-owned custom DNS help?

As mentioned, many VPNs offer their own custom DNS servers these days that are protected from any such surveillance thanks to the VPN security and privacy features.

VPNs use technology such as VPN protocols to create a secure tunnel for your data to flow through. In addition to that, it uses a second layer of protection, such as encryption, to make your data unreadable to anyone other than yourself.

Finally, VPNs, at least the good ones do not keep logs of your activities, meaning that your online actions will not be recorded, and no one will know which websites you visit or what you do while visiting them.

Custom DNS servers from your VPN provider are not ISP owned, nor owned by an outside third party.

This allows your VPN service to funnel all of your request, such as the websites you're accessing through their own, encrypted tunnel.

The result, your ISP, Google or whoever else can't record what websites you're visiting.

Why should you use a custom DNS server?

Increased privacy is without a doubt the number one reason but there are many other reasons why you should consider using your VPN provider's custom DNS servers.

One reason is accessing blocked websites.

As you may know, online censorship and geo-restrictions have limited the internet for many of us around the world, and some countries are fairing worse than others.

However, while no country has access to everything, different countries allow access to a range of different websites.

There is also the added benefit that you can avoid specific access issues. Often when one website is inaccessible via your ISP, it's because of DNS issues.

By using the DNS servers of your VPN provider, you can skip around these and continue to access.

How to enable your VPN's DNS server?

If you want to make use of your VPN provider's DNS servers than thankfully they've made it exceedingly effortless to do.

First, you need to make sure that your VPN has custom DNS servers.

Most do and it's often mentioned on their ‘Features' page or even the homepage of services they do offer.

VyprVPN DNS

VyprVPN list it under their features and call it VyprDNS.

Some enable it automatically but others offer it via their app and it may come pre-selected or you may need to select it yourself.

Usually you'll find the option in the ‘Settings' area of the app. Where it's located in each provider's app will differ.

ExpressVPN, for example, have it in ‘Settings‘ and ‘Advanced‘.

ExpressVPN custom DNS servers

Ensure that this option is enabled, and you will connect through the DNS owned by your VPN whenever you have your VPN activated.

This is a quick and short way of ensuring all of the mentioned benefits, including additional security and the ability to unblock censored or geo-restricted content.

Which providers offer custom DNS servers?

Most reputable and leading VPN services now offer their own encrypted DNS servers.

Some include:

Let's Summarise

Using a custom DNS server for your online navigation can be a much safer way to move around the internet, as well as a more private and faster one.

Not to mention that you will be able to avoid some of the major problems that the internet is facing, which is censorship.

Doing so is easy with a VPN, which is one of the most secure ways to use the internet from any device.

I would highly recommend enabling the option if it's available on the VPN service you use as it only increases your privacy and there are very few reasons against it.

Illustration © Lukaves & Ernest Akayeu | Dreamstime.com

Ali Raza

Author: Ali Raza

Ali is a journalist with a keen interest in VPN usage. He is an expert in the field and has been covering VPN related topics for VPNCompare and numerous well-respected publications for many years.

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