OpenDNS Smart Caching Displays Websites Even When They're Down


DNS stands for Domain Name System (explained here). Basically, your DNS provider is responsible for translating the URL strings you see in the address bar into the numerical IP addresses used by the World Wide Web. By default, this chore is normally handled by your own Internet Service Providers (ISP). However, a range of alternative free DNS providers are available, some of which are likely to provide superior performance and security. This article very briefly outlines some potential advantages of some main free DNS players: OpenDNS (Basic) and DNS Advantage.


In early 2009, OpenDNS announced a smartcaching service that lets you see the contents of website pages even when the site is temporarily not working. At that time, OpenDNS was widely recommended as the leading alternative DNS provider. Since then, the protection from malware sites previously provided by the free version of OpenDNS has been cut. However, a similar malware blocking feature is currently freely available with DNS Advantage - a highly recommended free DNS option at least from the security standpoint.

NB: Other free DNS options, including Google DNS and Comodo Secure DNS, are discussed in forum threads here and here.


Advantages of switching to DNS Advantage or OpenDNS:
  • Security - OpenDNS Basic is strongly recommended by Steve Hargreaves - editor of Gizmo's Best Free Adware / Spyware / Scumware Remover - as an effective proactive defense against Internet baddies. By default, the free version of OpenDNS (ie Basic) blocks phishing sites and also corrects common url typos in your address bar. DNS Advantage blocks malware as well as phishing sites, but doesn't yet comprehensively correct url typos.
  • Speed - Servers such as DNS Advantage or OpenDNS may reduce the time it takes for web pages to open, especially during peak hours. For indications on how to conduct speed comparisons between different DNS servers in your geographic area, see this TechTreat article. If rapidity is your top priority, you might prefer to select a different free DNS server based on your local speed tests.
  • Child safety - OpenDNS also wins Gizmo's top pick Best Free Parental Filter - for this service, you'll need to register for a free account ("dashboard").


How to switch to DNS Advantage or OpenDNS:

If you're a private user, you don't have to be particularly tech-savvy to switch to an alternative DNS server. Tutorials for activating DNS Advantage are available here. The basic procedure is the same with other DNS services, such as Open DNS Basic (details here)* - you just need to insert the appropriate IP addresses for your chosen DNS server. Other free DNS options include Google DNS (discussed here) and Comodo Secure DNS (discussed here).

Before you start, do jot down your current DNS server addresses/settings as a backup in case you wish to revert to your ISP's server. It could also be a good idea to create a system restore point (or backup your registry) just in case you get lost.

*(Note that OpenDNS now invites you to take out free registration, even if you do not require content filtering.)

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by rfrees (not verified) on 5. June 2011 - 13:05  (73273)

According to the Sunbelt website Clear Cloud DNS will be dicontinued on Sept 1st 2011.

by Bob on 5. June 2011 - 15:14  (73282)

Thanks for posting. I'll be watching out with interest for Remah's top recommendations in his upcoming Best Free DNS Resolution Service review.

It's a challenging topic and I know Remah's meeting it head on. :)

by Bob on 6. May 2011 - 12:33  (71522)

Update: A full Best Free DNS Service review now being planned on Gizmo's :)

by goodjohnjr (not verified) on 1. May 2011 - 20:47  (71254)

You might want to also check out/test/add DynDNS and Norton DNS to this list. :)

They both offer Malware Blocking, Web Filtering, and a Software Client for Free; and I think they have better malware blocking than Comodo DNS. ;)


Norton DNS

Thank you,
-John Jr :)

by Bob on 6. May 2011 - 12:26  (71520)

Hello John

If I haven't replied before to your suggestion, that's really because I wasn't at all sure how to respond in the context of this rather 'old' article... One which doesn't really pretend to be a review, and which certainly can no longer be classified as a Hot Find, as it originally was.

The good news is that I've just heard that a brand new Gizmo's Best Free DNS Service review should be in the pipeline fairly shortly. You may like to know that your suggestion helped trigger the initiative. Now we need to give the incoming editor time to work up the full review.

Thank you for your patience, Bongiovanni :)


by goodjohnjr (not verified) on 7. May 2011 - 1:46  (71560)

Thank you, that is good to hear. :)

by castiel (not verified) on 28. February 2011 - 2:51  (67177)

with the entry of Clearcloud DNS into the scene which provide malware protection for free, hope OpenDNS will offer the same.

by Bob on 28. February 2011 - 11:43  (67189)

A very good point! And one which also reminds me to update this article to include ClearCloud DNS...

by Anonymous on 29. May 2010 - 14:34  (50557)

the protection from malware sites previously provided by the free version of OpenDNS has been cut.

Is it true??
I think its still protects malware site.

by Bob on 29. May 2010 - 18:09  (50570)

OpenDNS currently says it provides antimalware protection only for purchasers of the costly Enterprise option. The free version of OpenDNS continues to provide anti-phishing protection.
Details here:

by 12321 (not verified) on 22. August 2010 - 3:50  (56499)

Thanks good information.

by Anonymous on 21. May 2009 - 14:55  (22055)

Just to be clear, this is a DNS cache, not a site cache. If the site itself is actually down, you won't be able to see anything that you wouldn't normally be able to see. OpenDNS just caches the DNS records while the site's own DNS is down. So if there's a DNS failure somewhere, this will keep you surfing for a while until that's fixed. If the site web host is offline, this won't help.

by Bob on 21. May 2009 - 16:02  (22067)

Yes - Thank you for clarifying this point.

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