Content filtering is an important part of securing your network. Visiting shady websites on the Internet can plants viruses and malware on your computer (or network), potentially causing a lot of heartache. On top of that, you may just want to filter content to keep members of the family or friends off of sensitive content while they’re on your home network.
Thankfully, you can easily filter content (and keep your network secure) through a custom DNS. Recently, we showed you how to setup Quad9 DNS, but if you need something with a little more customization and control, OpenDNS is the DNS system you’re going to want to go with. Today, we show you how to set it up on your home network.
What is OpenDNS?
To understand OpenDNS, you need to understand what DNS (Domain Name System) system is. You could think of a DNS system as an address book or database of all the sites on the Internet. Website addresses are basically a string of numbers, also called an IP address, but a DNS system will translate that into something the user can understand. For example, the OpenDNS website has this IP address: 184.108.40.206. If you were to type that address into your browser, it would change to www.opendns.com. The IP address is necessary for the computer to understand (and to communicate with the web browser), but a DNS system will not only translate it into something more user friendly, but also find that website’s server, and then take you to that website.
It’s worth noting that, in most cases, you can’t just type an IP address into your browser to go to that website. This is something that has to be enabled or allowed on that IP’s web server for it to happen. On top of that, if you were to type in an IP address blocked by OpenDNS, you still wouldn’t be able to go to that webpage because, whether you type in the IP address or the user-friendly address, that domain is still blocked by OpenDNS.
Even right now you’re using a DNS service — that’s how you got to www.pcmech.com in the first place! However, not all DNS services are fast and secure. OpenDNS offers a solution that is fast, reliable (without outages) and one that will keep you away from phishing and malware sites.
Setting up OpenDNS on your network is easy. We’re going to show you to do it on a Netgear router, but the process is pretty much the same for any other router. The only difference is that your DNS settings might be in a different menu location than Netgear.
To install OpenDNS on a Netgear router, head to your router’s IP address in your browser’s address bar. Alternatively, Netgear routers will let you access your configuration by going to www.routerlogin.net.
Once you’re logged in, click on the Internet tab on the left navigation pane.
Once you’re there, you’ll want to find the section that says “Domain Name Server (DNS) addresses).” In this section, you’ll need to add in three IP addresses for OpenDNS. They are as follows (in this order):
- 220.127.116.11 208.
Save and apply your settings. Congratulations, you’re now routing your traffic through OpenDNS’ Domain Name System servers. If you’re looking to change your DNS server on your phone, we show you how here.
Do keep in mind that some routers will only have two DNS options — a Primary DNS option and a Secondary DNS options. In this case, you’ll want to enter 18.104.22.168 as the primary and 22.214.171.124 as the secondary.
Once OpenDNS is up and running on your network, you can start configuring your own custom settings with the DNS service at www.dashboard.opendns.com. Before you start doing this, remember to clear the cache in every browser you use. You’ll also need to create an account over at www.opendns.com.
When you first access the configuration page, you’ll need to add your home network’s IP to it. If you’re connecting from a computer that is connected to your home network, OpenDNS conveniently shows you your IP address at the top of the page (as shown above).
Once you’ve got your IP, enter those numbers into the Free OpenDNS IP box and press “Add this Network.” Now, you can finally start configuring your OpenDNS content filtering settings (sometimes that IP is added automatically).
OpenDNS offers content filtering throughout three categories — High, Moderate and Low. You can choose which category is right for you, but keep in mind that the strictest filtering is “High” and may block some sites that don’t need to be block. On the other hand, the loosest content filtering is “Low,” and quite a few sites that should be blocked might fall through the cracks. Play around with these settings and see what works for you.
Since there are sites that always fall through the cracks — whether they should be blocked or whitelisted (approved) — you can manually add websites to your approved or denied list with the above box. You can choose to always block a domain or to always approve a domain.
Keep in mind that, when you block a domain, you’ll want to block it at the root level. For example, if you were to block Google, you would want to type it in as google.com and not www.google.com. This ensures you’re blocking any subdomains that might come of that site, too.
OpenDNS on your computer
You might not want to setup OpenDNS on your entire network, but maybe a couple of computers. We’ll show you how to do that in Windows 10 as well, as it’s quite easy.
First, head into Control Panel in your Search bar. From there, you’ll want to head into the Network & Internet category.
Now, you’ll want to navigate to the Network and Sharing Center category.
Next, you’ll want to click on the link on the left-hand navigation menu that says “Change Adapter Settings.”
From here, we want to select the network interface that we’re connected to. Interfaces you aren’t connected to will show a big red “X” and will say something along the lines of “Not connected.” Find the one you are connected to, right-click that module, and select the Properties option.
Under the Networking tab, you’ll want to highlight the option that says Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) and then select the Properties button.
In this menu, we can add our OpenDNS servers. You’ll want to select the radio button that says Use the following DNS server addresses.
You’ll want to enter the same two numbers we talked about earlier: 126.96.36.199 as the primary or “Preferred DNS Server” and 188.8.131.52 as the secondary or “Alternate DNS Server” in this case. Now, OpenDNS is all setup on your individual PC, and you can head to the same website to configure the content filtering — www.store.opendns.com/settings.
What about using multiple DNS?
Sometimes you can use one DNS service as your preferred DNS and then put another, separate service in there as an alternate option to connect through. Businesses might find it useful to have multiple DNS providers, but for home use, it can be a mixed bag.
In most cases, you wouldn’t want to use multiple third-party DNS providers alongside OpenDNS. This is because modern operating systems and router firmware usually chooses which DNS server to use at random. That said, by using another third-party DNS, you might have some holes in your content filtering system and protection against phishing and malware sites on the Internet.
Flush your DNS
Once you have everything setup, you might want to flush your DNS to make sure that you’re using the OpenDNS servers, as caching can prevent things from starting operation right away on your PC. As we mentioned earlier. you should flush your browsers’ cache, but you should also flush your DNS resolver cache.
To do this, click on the taskbar Search box in Windows 10 and type in “cmd.” Open Command Prompt.
Next, type in the command ipconfig /flushdns. Once it’s finished, your cache has been flushed, and you should be using your newly configured OpenDNS.
When OpenDNS blocks a website, it’ll look like something in the above image.
If you followed all of the above steps, OpenDNS should’ve been successfully installed on your network (or computer). In addition, be sure to check out our article on maximizing content filtering within your home network, as well as some other things you should know about it (i.e. just how easy it is to get past a DNS server).
Remember that, if you ever want to stop using OpenDNS, it’s as simple as removing the IP addresses we entered in the router and computer earlier. When you do that, make sure you’re switching to your router’s default DNS settings or even Google’s Public DNS, which is 184.108.40.206.
If you need some additional assistance setting up OpenDNS on your network, be sure to leave a comment in the comments section below.