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How to Fix a DNS Server Problem for a Windows XP or Vista PC

Updated on May 01, 2016

Thinking your Windows XP or Vista computer may be experiencing a DNS server problem?

DNS Server problems can cause issues such as some web pages not loading or it cause all web browsing to fail completely. After reading this hub, you should be able to:

  • Understand the purpose of DNS Servers.
  • What causes DNS problems.
  • Determine if a DNS Server problem actually exists.
  • How to fix a DNS Server problem on your Win XP or Vista PC.
  • Learn about a non-DNS issue that may affect browsing to specific or all web pages.

Websites and associated IP's

Website Name
IP Address
google.com
173.194.37.136
 
74.125.229.230
You can visualize that, at minimum, this is what a DNS Server database contains. Websites names and the IP addresses. In this example, these are actual good IP's for Google.

Think of a DNS Server like a phone book.

Phone books cross reference names to numbers. DNS servers do the same.
Phone books cross reference names to numbers. DNS servers do the same.

Understand the purpose of DNS Servers.

DNS stands for Domain Name System or Domain Name Server. It's only real purpose is to make browsing the Internet easier for people.

People like to pull up websites using names. Computers like to pull up websites using IP address numbers. Names, unlike numbers, are easier for people to remember. That does not change the fact that computers networks still insist on IP address numbers.

The solution is DNS Servers. DNS Servers are servers on the Internet to do the cross referencing between the two to satisfy both the network and people. DNS Servers are like the phone books of the Internet. DNS works out of your view, behind the scenes.

What can cause a DNS Server problem on my Windows XP or Vista PC?

The most common reasons DNS can fail:

  • Your DNS settings are pointing to an IP address where no DNS server exists.
  • The DNS server itself lost connectivity to the Internet or is offline.
  • The DNS server has a corrupted database.
  • The DNS cache on your computer is corrupted.

Am I truly having a DNS Server problem?

Determining if a DNS Server problem actually exists

Remember, all DNS does it cross-reference website names to IP address numbers.

To determine if it is a DNS problem, lets just go directly to the IP address (bypassing the DNS Server) to see that works. Before we do, just for good measure, verify that you can not pull up google.com by name. If it does not pull up, now try pulling up Google by keying in one of its IP addresses (In the chart above) instead of its name in the address bar.

Does Google pull up by IP but not by name?

Yes: You simulated what the DNS server was supposed to do and it works for you. It is definitely a DNS server problem.

No: Then DNS is not a factor. You manually did the dirty work that the DNS server would normally do and it made no difference. It is not an issue with the DNS server and the problem lies elsewhere.

If you want to try this with other websites other than Google:

You would want to find out the IP addresses of those sites. One way to find out the IP address of a web server that is hosting the web site you are trying to access is by using the PING command from any computer that can view web pages (does not need to be in your house).

To find the IP address of a website in WIndows XP or Vista:

  1. Start button.
  2. Click Run. (In Vista: There is no Run. Instead there is a Start Search box you can type in.)
  3. Type in CMD.
  4. Press Enter.
  5. Type PING WebSitesNameHere.com and press Enter.

Example: PING ABC.COM

Note: It is not case-sensitive.

Using the Ping command with the name of the website gives us the IP address. The "Reply from..." statements is the web server saying it hears us.
Using the Ping command with the name of the website gives us the IP address. The "Reply from..." statements is the web server saying it hears us.

How to fix a DNS Server problem on your Win XP or Vista PC.

Now that we understand DNS, DNS servers and what can cause DNS Issues, let's get it fixed. The first step would be to check your DNS server settings.

How can I view my DNS server settings?

Windows XP:

  • Start button.
  • Click Control Panel.
  • Choose Network Connections.
  • Right click Local Area Connection.
  • Choose Properties.
  • Click on the words Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) so the background to the words highlight.
  • Click the Properties button.

Windows Vista:

  • Start button.
  • Click Control Panel.
  • Choose Network and Internet.
  • Choose Network and Sharing Center.
  • Click Manage Network Connections.
  • Right click Local Area Connection.
  • Choose Properties.
  • Click on the words Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) so the background to the words highlight.
  • Click the Properties button.

The majority of Internet Providers use DHCP, or will automatically assign the IP and DNS server settings to your computer. If you find that it has a hard-coded specific IP address in your settings, try changing it to Obtain DNS server addresses automatically. After applying the change, see if your Internet web browsing works properly now.

If that did not work, you may want to try to specify a different DNS server or servers. Your ISP provides DNS servers you can use or there are some popular free DNS servers available on the web.

  • OpenDNS provides free DNS server's and is popular with schools, libraries and homes as they can provide free parental control's (their DNS servers limit entries for "inappropriate content"). Click on the link for the current OpenDNS Server IP addresses.
  • Google's Public DNS provides free DNS server's for you to use as well. Click on the link for the current Google Public DNS Server IP addresses.

If you are still not able to view web pages, it may be a problem with the DNS Resolver on your computer. To clear out the DNS Resolver Cache on your computer XP or Vista computer:

  1. Start Button
  2. Click All Programs
  3. Click Accessories
  4. Choose Command Prompt (In Vista, Right Click on Command Prompt and choose Run As Administrator)
  5. Key in ipconfig /flushdns and press Enter.

A non-DNS issue that may affect browsing to specific or all web pages.

If you were able to run the ping command on a specific website and received Reply from... statements as shown in the picture, but can not browse to the web site you did the Ping command on, it may be a proxy server issue and not a DNS issue.

The majority of home users do not use proxy servers. Sometimes spyware or malware may put server settings in there that can cause problems. If you are using Internet Explorer, inside of Internet Explorer:

  1. Click Tools (If you can not find the word tools, do ALT and T at the same time).
  2. Click Internet Options.
  3. Click the Connections tab.
  4. Click on the Lan Settings button.

Normally, no boxes need to be checked on this screen including any setting to use a proxy server. If this was checked and you unchecked it and applied the change, odds are your Internet browsing will work properly now.

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