How To Speed Up Internet For Free On Mac

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It’s no surprise that all of us wonder from time to time how to get faster internet connection. Fast internet speed means instant file downloads, crystal-clear video calls, real-time HD movie streaming, seamless data backups, and less fighting over internet access priority among coworkers and family members. 

What’s more, fast internet speed comes at a price from our local internet service providers (ISPs), which use speed as benchmarks in their pricing strategy. But even if you pay a lot in an effort to increase internet speed, it’s not guaranteed, as your plan is usually marked as “up to … Mbps.” So if you’ve ever wondered and tested “how fast is my internet speed?” — you could be surprised to find out it to be much lower than advertised. 

So how can you see your real internet speed right now? And, even better, how to increase internet speed for free? Let’s explore.

How To Test Your Internet Speed Right Now

To find out how to make internet faster, you first have to know where you’re at in terms of speed today. There are plenty of websites that can accurately measure your internet speed, but one of the most trusted ones has always been speedtest.net: 

  1. Visit speedtest.net

  2. Click Go

  3. Wait for the test results

speedtest measure Internet speed Mac

Your internet connection will show both download and upload speeds. The former represents how fast your device is getting information from the web, and the latter how fast the information is being sent out from your device.

Note: Internet speed is usually measured in megabits per second (Mbps), which are different from megabytes (MB) that you measure, say, your hard drive capacity in. Every megabyte contains roughly eight megabits. So it would take 32 Mbps to download a 4 MB song in a second. This difference predates the internet, since the transfer speeds between computers used to be so slow that it made sense to use bits instead of bytes.

Now that you know how fast your connection is you might want to discover how to boost internet speed as well. The trick is to change your default DNS server to something faster (and more private). But what’s a DNS server anyway?

What’s a DNS server? 

Anytime you visit any website online, you likely type in a URL in your browser’s address bar, such as setapp.com. Your internet router at home records this request and then directs to a DNS server, which translates the domain name into its real IP address, such as 192.168.1.1, so it can ping that specific server, which reverses the process and shows you the website you were looking for.

By default, your router is set to use the DNS server of your ISP. The problem with this is not only can it be slower than other DNS servers out there but also it could record every website you visit (since its their server doing the redirection) and then sell this data to, for example, advertisers or anyone else. 

Good news is that there are various DNS benchmarks that can tell you what’s the best DNS server for your specific location. So knowing how to improve internet speed is largely based on finding the most suitable DNS server.

How to find the best DNS server

Once you start looking into it, you’ll find dozens of various services offering DNS servers. In fact, most big tech corporations tend to have their own DNS servers. Some are paid and packed with features, such as malware protection, DDoS mitigation, redundancies, etc. — you most likely need none of that.

Instead, scan through a few DNS benchmarks online and look for a free provider, with servers close to your location, and strong privacy guidelines.

Out of all the DNS servers with good coverage worldwide, two free options stand out the most: Google and Cloudflare. 

Google is a tech giant with thousands of servers all over the world, so there’s no questions about its speed — it’s nearly impossible to be faster. So if you like Google as a company, using its DNS server is not a bad idea. The only downside is having your requests being recorded by Google servers. As Google is an advertising company, it’s not 100% clear how they are going to use your data. 

Cloudflare is also a massive tech company that you might not actually know, since their business is providing protection and stability at the server level (bot management, DDoS protection, load balancing) to large enterprises worldwide. While the speed of their DNS server is comparable to Google’s, their stance on privacy has been outstanding. Cloudflare has publicly vowed to never log your IP addresses or sell your data. 

Cloudflare DNS server Mac

So between Google and Cloudflare, we’d probably recommend Cloudflare, but both options are excellent, and the choice is up to you. Now, how do you actually change your default DNS server?

How to change your DNS server on Mac

Once you’ve decided which DNS server you’re going to utilize, there are two options you can use to change it from the default one by your ISP to speed up internet: at the device level and at the router level. 

At the device level, you can change the DNS server right on your Mac and it should work with multiple WiFi connections, anywhere you go. But you’ll have to change it for every device you’re using. Here’s how: 

1. Open System Preferences ➙ Network

2. Click Advanced…

3. Switch to the DNS tab

4. Delete any numbers in the DNS Server column

5. Using the plus icon at the bottom, add the new DNS server addresses that you got from your new DNS server of choice. There might be anywhere from one to four numbers. For Cloudflare, for example, they are: 1.1.1.1, 1.0.0.1, 2606:4700:4700::1111, and 2606:4700:4700::1001.

6. Click OK

device DNS server change Mac

At the router level, you specify the new DNS server and it’d automatically apply for all the devices using its internet connection. But to connect to another WiFi on any of your devices, you’d need to specify the DNS server at the device level (you can do both!).

To change the DNS server on your router: 

1. Log in to your router admin settings. You can probably use the username–password combination written on your router, along with the IP address as a URL. 

2. Find the DNS server setting

3. Change the setting from automatic to manual and paste in the new DNS server, such as 1.1.1.1 and 1.0.0.1 for Cloudflare

4. Click Apply

router DNS change server Mac

If you do decide to go with Cloudflare, they have another special option for router DNS setting, which filters out all kinds of malware automatically and makes your home WiFi safer. The DNS server numbers to enable this are 1.1.1.2 and 1.0.0.2

How to master any change on your Mac

It’s likely that you’ve never even heard about the option to change DNS servers on your Mac, even though it’s relatively easy and can greatly improve your WiFi performance. Likewise, there are hundreds of tweaks you can do on your Mac to tailor it better to the way you use it, but they are mostly hidden behind the Terminal and UNIX commands. How can you find out the full extent of what you can do on your Mac? 

MacPilot is the expert navigator app you need. In a native, Finder-like window, it shows you over 1,200 great Mac features that could make your day flow much easier, from seeing hidden folders to resetting your DNS cache to screen sharing, and much more. Once you find a feature you like, it’s as easy as checking a box to enable it. 

MacPilot change Mac hidden features

How to monitor your WiFi connection

When it comes to all the best ways for how to increase internet speed, switching your DNS server is pretty high on the list. However, while your websites will load faster with the new DNS server (since it takes less time to translate domain names to their respective IP addresses), it won’t help you speed up internet overall (as in your Mbps bandwidth). The best way to do that is to monitor and troubleshoot your network. 

WiFi Explorer is a robust network monitoring and analyzing tool, which scans all the WiFi connections nearby and gives you precise data as to their signal strength, channel width, band, amount of noise, and much more. Then you can detect all the underperforming aspects and troubleshoot them one by one with a built-in helper guide. 

Wifi Explorer monitor WiFi connection Mac

NetSpot is another essential WiFi scanner that not only provides lots of real-time network information but also lets you upload or sketch out the map of your space, specify a few distances, and note down the exact reception level. Once you know where blackouts happen, you can, for example, adjust the positioning of your router (or buy router extensions) to accommodate accordingly. 

NetSpot scan WiFi map Mac

As you see, there are quite a few answers to how to boost internet speed at home. Changing your default DNS server is very easy, and you only need to do it once. But also make sure to look at other network and Mac features you can improve with MacPilot, as well as scanning your network with WiFi Explorer and looking at how your WiFi penetrates your space with NetSpot. 

Best of all, MacPilot, WiFi Explorer, and NetSpot are available to you absolutely free for seven days via Setapp, a platform with more than 180 useful Mac apps that help you improve your daily life. Now that you have truly fast internet speed, you can browse and try any that you like at no cost and see their benefits for yourself!

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