The “DNS Server Not Responding” error is a common issue that can prevent you from accessing websites and other internet resources on your Windows PC. This error occurs when your computer is unable to contact the DNS server which translates domain names into IP addresses.
Fortunately, there are a number of troubleshooting steps you can take to resolve this error and restore full internet connectivity. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through all the potential causes and solutions for fixing the DNS server not responding problem in Windows.
What Causes the DNS Server Not Responding Error?
Before we get into the specific fixes, let’s first understand what causes this error in the first place. Here are some of the most common reasons your Windows PC may show the DNS server not responding message:
DNS Server is Down
The most straightforward cause is that the DNS server your computer is configured to use is down or unreachable. This could be your ISP’s DNS server or a public DNS server like Google or Cloudflare. If the server is offline or experiencing an outage, your PC won’t be able to resolve domain names.
Network Connectivity Issues
Problems with your internet connection can also lead to a DNS error. An unstable Wi-Fi signal, faulty network hardware, or ISP outage can interrupt the connection between your PC and the DNS server.
Incorrect DNS Settings
If your DNS server settings are invalid or point to a non-working server, the DNS query will fail. Incorrect DNS server IP addresses configured manually or by your router’s DHCP server will cause this issue.
Malware or Viruses
DNS settings and traffic can sometimes be hijacked by malware or viruses designed to redirect your traffic for malicious purposes. If infected, your PC may be unable to reach the intended DNS server.
Firewall Blocking Access
Overly restrictive firewall settings either on your local machine or network can block access to DNS servers. Windows Firewall or a third-party antivirus software misconfiguration are common culprits.
System File Corruption
Corrupted Windows system files, registry issues, or malware infections can lead to name resolution failures. The DNS client, Winsock, TCP/IP stack, and related files help facilitate DNS queries.
Now that we know what’s behind the “DNS server not responding” error, let’s go through the top solutions for addressing it on Windows machines.
How to Fix the DNS Server Not Responding Problem
1. Flush the DNS Resolver Cache
Flushing the DNS cache forces your PC to discard any stored DNS records and re-query the DNS server. This can resolve issues caused by invalid entries in the cache.
To flush the DNS cache in Windows:
- Open the Command Prompt as administrator
- Run the command
- Restart your computer
Flushing the DNS cache resets Windows DNS client settings which may fix name resolution problems if they were caused by corrupted cache data.
2. Renew IP Address and Reset Network Adapter
If the problem stems from invalid network configurations or instability, renewing your IP address and resetting the network adapter is worth trying:
- Open an elevated Command Prompt
ipconfig /releaseand press Enter to release current IP configuration
- Now run
ipconfig /renewto request fresh IP address from the DHCP server
ipconfig /flushdnsagain to flush any records retrieved with old configuration
- Finally, reset your network adapter with
netsh int ip reset
- Reboot computer
This will wipe out any problematic IP settings, force renewal from the DHCP server, clear the DNS cache, and reinitialize the network adapter.
3. Set DNS Server to Google or Cloudflare Public DNS
Using a public DNS server like Google (22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199) or Cloudflare (188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206) can bypass issues with your ISP’s DNS server.
To set Google or Cloudflare as the DNS server on Windows:
- Go to Network Connections settings
- Locate your network adapter and open Properties
- Select Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4)
- Click Properties and use Google or Cloudflare DNS under ‘Use the following DNS server addresses
- Restart your computer
This will configure your system to use free public DNS servers which often resolve connectivity problems caused by ISP DNS server outages.
4. Disable VPN or Proxy Settings if Configured
VPN services and proxies often perform their own DNS resolution which can lead to conflicts. If you have a VPN or proxy enabled, try disabling it temporarily to see if this fixes the DNS issue.
- Open Settings > Network & Internet > VPN
- Switch the toggle Off for any active VPN connections
- Go to Settings > Network & Internet > Proxy
- Make sure Automatically detect settings is selected
After disconnecting the VPN and proxies, restart your computer and test if DNS queries now succeed without these extra network layers interfering.
5. Reset TCP/IP Stack with Netsh Commands
Resetting the TCP/IP stack will reinitialize all network protocol settings – this can resolve DNS problems caused by corruption.
Follow these steps to reset TCP/IP in Windows:
- Open an elevated Command Prompt
netsh int ip reset
- Next run
netsh winsock reset
- Restart your PC
This will reset TCP/IP configurations, refresh the network component’s state, and restart associated services.
6. Scan for Malware and Run Antivirus
As mentioned before, malware and viruses can sometimes modify DNS settings or tamper with DNS traffic for malicious intent. Running a malware scan and antivirus check could identify and remove any infections responsible for the DNS issues.
- Run a full scan with your installed antivirus software
- Download and run the Malwarebytes Anti-Malware tool
- Restart after scans to clear any detected infections
Take action to address any threats found during the scans that could be interfering with DNS functionality on your system.
7. Update Network and DNS Driver Software
Outdated or buggy network adapters or DNS client drivers can trigger connection issues like DNS failure. Updating to the latest driver versions often resolves these problems.
- Open Device Manager
- Expand ‘Network adapters’ and right-click your adapter
- Select ‘Update driver’ and choose to automatically search for updated driver software, then install updates
- Expand ‘Other devices’ and update any devices marked with yellow exclamation alerts
- Download and install the latest DNS Client service update for your Windows version
Updating your network adapter, Windows components, and DNS client software can help fix DNS query failures caused by bugs or incompatibilities.
8. Change DNS Server Settings on Router
In many home and office networks, the DNS server settings distributed to connected PCs are configured on the router level. Check your router’s admin interface to validate that proper DNS servers are set:
- Log into your router admin page (192.168.1.1 or check manual)
- Navigate to DNS server or DHCP settings
- Verify working public or ISP DNS servers are entered (220.127.116.11 or your ISP’s preferred servers)
- Save settings and restart the router
Double check the router is handing out valid DNS server addresses to connected devices. Set static DNS servers if the router’s dynamic assignment is malfunctioning.
9. Disable or Allow DNS Port on Firewall
If a software firewall on your Windows machine or network is misconfigured, it could block access to DNS servers. Ensure TCP and UDP port 53 access is allowed:
- Open Windows Firewall settings
- Click ‘Allow an app or feature through firewall’
- Ensure ‘Domain Name System (DNS)’ is checked under allowed apps/features
- For advanced firewalls, create rules to allow TCP/UDP 53 inbound/outbound
Additionally, you can temporarily disable the Windows firewall entirely to isolate whether it is interfering with DNS queries.
10. Modify Hosts File and WINSOCK Settings
In some instances, hardcoded changes to DNS or network settings can cause “server not responding” errors. Undo any manual hosts file or interface modifications:
- Open Notepad as admin and navigate to
- Open the ‘hosts’ file and remove any custom entries
- Delete the entire contents if corrupted
- Restore backups or default hosts files as needed
- Reset TCP/IP stack and network adapters as described in earlier tips
Reverting any incorrect manual DNS or WINSOCK configurations can restore proper name resolution functionality on Windows.
Advanced DNS Server Troubleshooting
If you’ve tried all the basic fixes but are still unable to resolve the DNS server not responding error, some of these advanced steps may be needed for troubleshooting the issue:
Use nslookup to Test DNS Resolution
The nslookup command lets you verify DNS query functionality for a specific domain. Open Command Prompt and run:
If it fails to resolve, there is still an issue with DNS lookups on your system. nslookup can also be used to query specific DNS servers to isolate the problem:
nslookup example.com 18.104.22.168
Change TCP/IP DNS Properties
In the TCP/IP settings for your network connection, try changing ‘Append these DNS suffixes’ to your ISP’s domain and ‘Append parent suffixes of the primary DNS suffix’ to the end.
Manually setting the proper DNS suffix search lists can fix resolution for local domains.
Flush the DNS Using the ipconfig Command
The ipconfig utility provides a way to flush DNS independently from Command Prompt:
You can also register DNS records again with ipconfig:
And refresh all network component operations:
ipconfig /registerdns ipconfig /flushdns ipconfig /renew netsh int ip reset netsh winsock reset
Contact ISP if DNS Server Unreachable
If you can confirm the DNS servers specified by your ISP or router are not responding, contact technical support to have them investigate and resolve the DNS outage.
Problems with ISP DNS infrastructure must be addressed at the source. A DNS server failure or misconfiguration on their side can cause connectivity issues for all customers.
Reinstall Network Adapter Drivers
A corrupted network adapter driver may need to be completely uninstalled and reinstalled, rather than just updated to the latest version. Download the latest drivers from your manufacturer and:
- Open Device Manager
- Right click your network adapter and select Uninstall
- Restart your computer
- Install the network adapter drivers you downloaded
- Reboot again
This will fully refresh the adapter’s driver files which could fix the DNS error.
Troubleshoot with Microsoft Network Monitor or Wireshark
Advanced tools like Microsoft Network Monitor or Wireshark can capture DNS traffic and analyze what is occurring when DNS queries fail. They can decode where requests are going and what responses come back to help isolate the cause.
Microsoft Network Monitor comes pre-installed on Windows Server platforms. Wireshark can be installed on both client and server versions. Both are complex tools but can provide in-depth DNS debugging capability.
Test with Third-Party DNS Servers
Troubleshoot DNS connectivity by testing with some alternative third-party public DNS servers:
- Quad9: 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199
- OpenDNS: 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206
- Level3: 220.127.116.11 and 18.104.22.168
- Comodo: 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199
If DNS works properly when pointing to one of these but not your ISP’s server, it confirms an issue with your configured domains rather than the local PC.
Key Takeaways and Next Steps if Issue Persists
Some key takeaways to keep in mind when dealing with the DNS server not responding error:
- Flush the DNS cache and renew your IP address/adapter to reset configurations
- Use public DNS servers like Google or Cloudflare as alternates to test connectivity
- Check VPN, proxies, firewall for interference with DNS traffic
- Scan for malware and update networking drivers
- Validate router DHCP settings are handing out proper DNS server addresses
- nslookup, Network Monitor and Wireshark help advanced troubleshooting
- Contact ISP support if they can confirm an outage with their DNS servers
If you still can’t determine the cause of the DNS failure after exhausting all these steps, a few next actions include:
- Trying a different network such as tethering your phone, public Wi-Fi or even reinstalling the OS as a last resort
- Posting details on tech help forums for external troubleshooting ideas
- Engaging professional support technicians who can inspect your network
- Testing on multiple machines to isolate the issue to an adapter or the network
Often the DNS not responding error can be resolved with one of the easier fixes like flushing the DNS or changing servers. But for persistent issues with no clear cause, deeper troubleshooting is required working through both software and hardware scenarios. Withocused trial and elimination of each potential failure point, the source of the DNS problem can eventually be uncovered.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does my DNS server keep failing?
Some common reasons a DNS server fails repeatedly include:
- Unstable internet connection causing intermittent DNS outages
- Incorrect DNS configuration on the router providing invalid DNS server addresses
- Local network firewall blocking TCP/UDP port 53 access to DNS servers
- DNS cache getting corrupted and needing frequent flushing
- Persistent malware redirecting DNS traffic or altering settings
How do I know if my DNS server is down?
Ways to confirm DNS server failure:
- Get “DNS server not responding” error when opening websites
- nslookup unable to resolve domain names to IPs
- Internet connection works but most sites time out
- Traceroute shows timeouts when contacting DNS servers
- Provider confirms outage of their DNS servers
What port does DNS use?
DNS primarily uses TCP and UDP port 53 for requests from DNS clients to DNS servers. This port needs to be open for successful name resolution.
Can multiple DNS servers be used?
Yes, you can configure multiple DNS servers with one set as primary and others as secondary servers. Windows will query the primary server first and failover to secondary servers if the primary is unresponsive.
What is the most reliable public DNS server?
Google (188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206) and Cloudflare (220.127.116.11 and 18.104.22.168) are among the most reliable and fastest public DNS resolvers. However, your ISP’s own DNS servers normally provide optimal performance for your network.
DNS server errors can disrupt your internet connectivity and prevent access to websites and networked resources. There are many potential causes – from server outages to firewall misconfigurations – that should be investigated through systematic troubleshooting.
Quick fixes like flushing the DNS cache and changing to public DNS servers can provide temporary relief. For permanent resolution, settings like router DHCP, VPNs, network adapters and Windows DNS client configurations need to be optimized based on the identified root cause.
Taking the time to thoroughly test each factor and rule out variables will avoid wasted effort and lead you to the real issue. Patience and persistence is key when faced with “DNS server not responding” errors. Careful attention to detail during troubleshooting will ultimately uncover the culprit and lead to stable DNS resolution.