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Want to browse the web faster?

In our day-to-day activities, browsing the web is one of the most important aspects of our job.  Whether researching for an answer to a problem, reading our favorite blogs, checking LinkedIn, or using a web application, it’s used so much that increasing the speed at which pages display will increase our productivity.

With that in mind, I wanted to relay how I was able to boost my web browsing speed.  Over the past few weeks I have noticed web pages were not pulling up as fast as usual.  And sometimes I would even get a browser timeout error after a site would not pull up after a couple of minutes.  The problem was intermittent: sometimes a site would pull up fine, sometimes it would time out.  It was a similar to a problem I recognized from a few years ago.  During that time, after spending a week or so researching what the cause could be, I was convinced it was a problem with the DNS server I was using.  My local ISP had its own DNS servers, and pinging the primary DNS using the tool VisualRoute showed a bunch of errors in one of the hops from my house to the DNS server.

So I contacted my ISP, and lets just say the “best and brightest” where not among the tech support people I talked to.  When I told them I was experiencing slowness when I was browsing the web, they said it was because I had a computer virus.  When I told them I had five computers all with the same issue, they said all of them had a virus.  When I said I just got a new computer and the first time I plugged it in I immediately proceeded to browse the web and it also had the problem, they said it must have got a virus already.  I kept pleading with them that it was an issue with my DNS requests, but they would not listen.  Even talking with the person in charge of the whole tech support got me nowhere, as he gave me the same virus story.

I eventually got them to agree to send a network technician over a few days later.  And guess what?  He said he found a problem with the network box a block over that was causing dropped packets to the DNS server.  He fixed it, and my web slowness disappeared.

So when I decided to investigate why my web browser experience was having issues, the first thing I decided to check was the DNS requests.  First I checked other computers at my house, and saw they were also having web browser slowness.  Then I opened up a command prompt and entered “ping www.google.com”.  Doing it a number of times would eventually return one that gave a timeout.  But if I pinged the IP address of Google (bypassing the DNS server), I never got a timeout.  Both of those pointed to a DNS problem.  They I entered “nslookup www.google.com” to query the DNS server so it would return the IP address of google.com, and sure enough I would see timeout errors.  And one final test: there is a great program called DNS Benchmark by Steve Gibson that reports any issues with any DNS server you wish to track.  Running his benchmark revealed the DNS servers I was using were dropping lookup requests.  So that left no doubt the DNS servers that I was using either had a problem with the server itself or there was a problem with a hop from my house to these DNS servers.

So, I decided to use other DNS servers.  Using DNS Benchmark and the feature to build your own customer nameserver list, I picked the two fastest DNS servers and proceeded to Change your DNS Server in Windows 7 [How to].  And as expected, my web browsing became notable faster, with no timeouts.

Since I have a router at my house, instead of having to manually change the DNS server for each computer, I updated the DNS settings in my router to use the two fastest DNS servers (my router has a “DNS Relay” option in which DNS requests sent to the router are forwarded to the ISP’s DNS server.  I had to disable that option and then enter the two IP’s of the fast DNS servers).  Doing this, the router then updated all my computers to use the DNS servers I specified.

I made this change a week ago, and my web browsing has never been faster!

James Serra's Blog

James is a big data and data warehousing technology specialist at Microsoft. He is a thought leader in the use and application of Big Data technologies, including MPP solutions involving hybrid technologies of relational data, Hadoop, and private and public cloud. Previously he was an independent consultant working as a Data Warehouse/Business Intelligence architect and developer. He is a prior SQL Server MVP with over 30 years of IT experience. James is a popular blogger (JamesSerra.com) and speaker, having presented at dozens of PASS events including the PASS Business Analytics conference and the PASS Summit. He is the author of the book “Reporting with Microsoft SQL Server 2012”. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.


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