Why you should use a custom DNS server even if you use a VPN

As a VPN user, you may be tempted to think that you’re protected from online threats and hackers when your VPN connection is active. While using a VPN is an important part of staying secure online, it’s not enough to fully protect your data.

In fact, the DNS server that you use is much more important than your VPN service. It’s also why most of VPN companies offer their own DNS servers alongside the VPN service.

Let’s dive into what makes the DNS servers so special and why you should combine a private DNS service with your VPN connection.

This post may include affiliate links, and I may get a commission if you buy through the links on my website (at no additional cost to you).

What is a DNS server?

A DNS server is like a big address book for the internet. It helps us find websites and any other information we need when we are online.

Think of it like a librarian – it knows where to look for the answer to all our questions! When you go to type for a website, the DNS server quickly looks up that website’s information and then helps connect you so that you can view the website.

Without this helpful resource, we wouldn’t be able to access any of the outstanding things that are available online these days.


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Your default DNS server is bad

Using the same DNS server that your internet provider gives you can be really bad for your online security.

This is because all your requests, like what websites you visit, are monitored and stored by them. And this is the last thing you want – someone looking over your shoulder and tracking all your online activity.

Also, these servers can save resources so that websites load faster, which might sound okay at first — but it also means sites or services that you want to use may be blocked from you!

That’s why it’s important to choose a different DNS server that protects your online activity and keeps the sites you would like to use accessible.

DNS Servers

What is a custom DNS server?

A custom DNS server provides a layer of encryption and privacy that is not available with the default public DNS services, like Google Public DNS, OpenDNS or NextDNS.

When you use an alternate DNS server, your internet traffic is routed through its secure servers instead of being sent directly to the websites you visit. This makes it much more difficult for anyone to track or monitor your activity!

Plus, third-party DNS services are usually much faster and more reliable than the default public ones — so you can access the content and services that you need without any issues.

Setting up NextDNS on an iPhone

How to set up a custom DNS server on your device?

Setting up an alternate DNS server on your device may sound a bit intimidating, but it’s quite easy.

All you need to do is go into the network or Wi-Fi settings of your device, and then change the DNS server address to the one for the DNS provider you’ve chosen.

This will essentially make sure that all requests sent from your device will be routed through secure servers – making your online experience much safer.

And even better, third-party DNS services provide certain benefits like reduced lag when gaming or streaming, prioritization of service, and increased uptime. It’s almost as if they give you superpowers!

Malware alert on a phone

Can a custom DNS protect me from malware?

If you would like to be protected from malicious software like hackers and viruses, one of the best solutions available is a custom DNS.

By using a service like NextDNS, you can enable an extra layer of protection that actively keeps them out!

It’s like having a guard constantly watching your door to make sure nothing bad gets in. They have lists full of malware that they update regularly, so it’s almost impossible for anything dangerous to slip through.

Imagine it as if NextDNS has a powerful magnet that helps keep all the bad stuff away from you – easy as that!


NextDNS protects you from all kinds of security threats, blocks ads and trackers on websites and in apps and provides a safe and supervised Internet for kidson all devices and on all networks.

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Can a custom DNS block inappropriate websites?

Having a third-party DNS server is like having your own personal security guard looking after your network.

It can help make sure you don’t stumble onto any shady or unwanted websites because it will automatically block any sites that are on its pre-approved ‘no-go’ list.

Setting up an alternate DNS means you have the ultimate power to decide which websites should and shouldn’t be allowed in – giving your family or business added peace of mind online.

So now you don’t have to worry about coming across inappropriate content, as your DNS server is watching over it all!

Mom browsing the web with a child

Can a custom DNS force Google and YouTube into safe mode?

Yes, indeed. Custom DNS servers can also be useful when it comes to setting web browsers and search engines to be in safe mode.

Rather than manually adjusting settings within the browser or app, a custom DNS server can help set certain filters which restrict access to potentially harmful content.

For example, with a third-party DNS server, you can change the settings of your preferred search engine to only show safe results.

You can also make sure that YouTube is kept in safe mode so that nobody viewing the videos available has access to inappropriate material.

With an alternate DNS server, you can have greater control over what people on your network are accessing online and ensure that everything remains safe for everyone involved.

Privacy warning on a phone

Can a DNS block child sexual abuse material?

Using a third-party DNS server is a great way to help protect children from seeing sexual abuse material online. Project Arachnid, run by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, is a service that allows organizations to block any domains hosting such content.

When you set it up, any requests for such domains will be blocked before they reach your browser or app – so you don’t have to worry about it. Plus, Project Arachnid won’t even know who attempted to access the content – your privacy is kept safe.

Thanks to custom DNS servers and services like Project Arachnid, it’s never been easier or more secure to protect children from potentially harmful content.

Tracker using ads data

Can you block ads with a custom DNS?

You sure can! It uses the same principles as I’ve outlined above. These custom DNS services maintain or use known advertisement services, and they just block these requests. You end up saving a lot of bandwidth, which is great when you browse using your mobile device.

Plus, blocking ads also means that you don’t get tracked by the companies who are running them. It’s like having an extra layer of privacy when you’re browsing the web – it helps keep your data safe and secure.

Granted, some VPN companies offer similar services, but alternate DNS servers are a great way to have more control over your browsing experience. You decide what you want to block and what you don’t, so you know that everything is precisely the way you want it to be.

Government Hacker

Can a custom DNS minimize government surveillance?

It certainly can, but not perfectly. Still, here’s what NextDNS can do for you regarding this:

In the privacy tab in the NextDNS account, among multiple other options, there is one called “NSA Blocklist”. It’s based on the 2007 WikiLeaks documents and includes updates up to 2015. While it’s not actively maintained, the list is still relevant and can block some of the known US government agencies that are known to do surveillance.

This option is also customizable, meaning you can add more IP addresses and entities to it as you wish. Plus, with the “DNS over HTTPS” feature, all your DNS requests will be encrypted – making it harder for anyone to track them.


NextDNS protects you from all kinds of security threats, blocks ads and trackers on websites and in apps and provides a safe and supervised Internet for kidson all devices and on all networks.

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Does a custom DNS provide parental control features?

A third-party DNS service can be an incredibly helpful tool if you’re looking to add some parental control features to your browsing experience.

With it, you can easily block certain types of websites like social media, chat services, and entertainment sites, as well as entire categories such as porn, dating, and gambling.

You can also set up schedules for when these rules should be enforced. This system works well with the offerings from companies like Microsoft Family or Apple’s Screen Time service – so it’s worth looking into!

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The best free DNS services

Two of the best and most popular options available to you are Google Public DNS and Cloudflare. With Google Public DNS, users get an easy setup with high performance.

And Cloudflare offers more advanced features such as improved performance, malicious content protection, and extra security.

Additionally, OpenDNS is also a great choice if you’re looking for further customization of your DNS options. All three helps ensure you have reliable access to websites at all times with few technical snags or headaches.

Should you use a free DNS service?

When deciding whether to use a free DNS service or a free VPN, it is important to consider the value and security of your data.

While a free DNS service may sound attractive for its low barrier to entry, you should be aware that with such services, there are often limitations around the amount of data it can store, control over customization, and third-party access.

In short, I do not believe you can fully trust any free service with your data.

Paid services on the other hand offer plenty of extra features and improved privacy – so why not invest in keeping your information secure?

With the right choice, you can ensure peace of mind when browsing or engaging in various online activities.


NextDNS protects you from all kinds of security threats, blocks ads and trackers on websites and in apps and provides a safe and supervised Internet for kidson all devices and on all networks.

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What paid DNS service do you recommend?

For the best in online security and performance for DNS, I highly recommend NextDNS.

Not only does it offer total control over DNS settings with an intuitive dashboard and customizable options, but it also provides powerful block lists to protect from malicious domains and advanced security settings such as DNSSEC, DNS over TLS, and encrypted upstreams.

Its intelligent traffic routing ensures fast, reliable performance with minimal latency, so you don’t have to worry about traffic slowdowns or downtimes.

With detailed real-time analytics giving clear insights into traffic patterns and user behaviors, as well as strict opt-in consent for data usage, you can have complete confidence that your network is protected while also respecting user privacy.

Additionally, it includes useful parental controls to help keep your children safe online.

All in all, NextDNS offers a comprehensive package of features that truly sets it apart.


In conclusion, there are plenty of great options when it comes to custom DNS services.

While the best free options offer plenty of features and reliable performance, if you’re looking for even more control and security, NextDNS is worth considering.

Not only does this paid service offer all the features you’d expect from a good DNS provider (including advanced security settings, traffic routing customizations, detailed real-time analytics, and strict opt-in consent), but it also includes parental controls, so you can keep your family safe online.

So if you value your online security and want to enjoy the benefits of a fast and secure connection, NextDNS might be the perfect solution for you.

Thank you for reading and happy browsing!

Radu Negrean
Radu Negrean

Radu Negrean is a UX designer with a strong passion for online privacy. He contributes to the Privacy Tutor blog, advocating for enhanced security and privacy for all online users.