Your DNS Server Might Be Unavailable: Here's Why

“Is anyone else’s internet not working?” is the modern office’s equivalent to pulling the fire alarm in a high school—the quickest way to cause hell to break loose. Around half of the time, it’s just the one person who cries wolf that’s having issues—typically solvable with some browser troubleshooting techniques. However, if you run a network diagnostic and are greeted by this message: “Your DNS server might be unavailable,” additional troubleshooting may be in order.

There are a few possible reasons as to why your DNS server might be unavailable. It could be that your browser’s cache needs to be refreshed, or perhaps your router is malfunctioning. The DNS server you are using could be acting up or maybe your firewall is causing problems. All of these issues can lead to that same annoying error message, which means there are also a list of different solutions. But don’t worry, we’re here to talk you down from the ledge and walk you through some DNS troubleshooting.

How DNS Servers Actually Operate

Before we get into how to fix your DNS issue, it might help to know how DNS servers work. When you type a domain name into a web browser, such as, your computer communicates with the nearest DNS server and asks for the website’s IP address. The DNS server responds back with the IP address and your web browser connects to the webpage, which will then pop up on your screen.

DNS servers are not only used for the web, however. Any online application, such as your email client, Slack, or Skype, also use DNS servers for connectivity. So, it’s no wonder that the world feels like it’s falling apart when your DNS server is unavailable.

Browser Solutions That Just Might Work

Before you start pulling your hair out in frustration or begin hacking away into your computer’s system, make sure the issue isn’t browser related. If it is, then that’s great news! Browser-related issues have a few easy fixes:

Reset Your Browser: Sometimes, the solution to all of your IT problems is as easy as turning it off and on again. In the world of DNS servers, this means completely closing (quit or force quit) and reopening your browser.

Clearing Web Browser’s Cache: Computers locally cache information from webpages visited in the past to reduce the load time when you visit the webpage again in the future. If refreshing or resetting your web browser doesn’t work, you can try manually clearing the browser’s cache through your web browser’s settings.

Try a Different Web Browser: If your current web browser is still showing up with the same error message, try opening up a different web application to rule out browser problems. So, if you’re using Google Chrome, try opening up Safari or Mozilla Firefox. If other browsers are working, then it may be a matter of updating your current web browser. You can also try uninstalling and reinstalling the web browser to fix the problem.

Solutions That May Cause More Problems, But Are Worth a Shot

If the browser isn’t why your DNS might not be available, then it’s time to start looking at your router or computer settings.

Check your DNS Settings: If you’ve changed your DNS setting to use a service such as OpenDNS, for example, your DNS settings may be incorrect for your ISP or network. Find out from your ISP or network administrator what your DNS settings are supposed to be or check the OpenDNS site (or another DNS service) for their server settings. Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to make sure that you’ve entered the DNS settings properly.

Deactivate the Firewall or AntiVirus Programs: The next easiest solution to try is to temporarily deactivate your firewall or any antivirus programs that are installed on your computer. You can do this through your computer’s settings or control panel. If this fixes your internet, then double check the DNS configurations in your firewall or antivirus program settings.

Connect to the Ethernet: Your router could be the reason why your DNS server might be unavailable. Try connecting your computer to your router with an ethernet cable. If using an ethernet solves the problem, then the issue probably lies within your router. If you are still experiencing problems, then your DNS settings might be the problem.

Restart Your Router: If you suspect your router as the culprit to your DNS problems, try resetting your router. This will refresh your router’s cache and may help resolve the issue. You can restart your router by simply unplugging and replugging the power cables of your modem and router, and waiting for them to come back online.

Find Out If Your ISP is the Problem: Your ISP could be the source of the problem. One possibility is that one of its DNS servers is down and you’re trying to access the downed server. If you know the addresses of the DNS servers, ping each of your ISP’s DNS servers, and if any of them don’t respond, remove them from your DNS list. If you don’t know the address of the DNS servers you’re supposed to use, choose the “Obtain DNS server address automatically” setting—you’ll have to call your ISP to see whether its DNS servers are having problems.

Change Your DNS Server: It’s possible that your DNS server might be unavailable because it is overloaded or malfunctioning. If that is the case, try switching to another DNS server.

How Electric Handles DNS Issues (Before They Even Occur)

This one-sentence problem has a whole array of causes and solutions—many of which can be addressed before they start to impact your day-to-day at the office. At Electric, not only do we provide real-time IT support at your fingertips, but we can troubleshoot and proactively address DNS issues—sometimes before you notice the issue. Here’s how:

Before DNS issues occur:

  • Alert you when your browser needs to be updated, and implement that update pending your approval

  • Monitor your computer health and security

  • Monitor network cloud controller as well as all associated devices with MDM

  • Provide network diagnostics with regular speed tests, patching, and optimization

While DNS issues are occurring:

Step 1: You Slack Electric and tell us what’s up.

Step 2: In less than ten minutes, our IT experts will use an MDM (Jamf or Kaseya depending on your device) to dig a little deeper into the issue—basically see the issue from your perspective.

Step 3: We’ll discover the source of the problem (browser, router, etc.) and take the appropriate steps to troubleshoot the issue—rather than take shots in the dark.

Step 4: If troubleshooting from our end doesn’t solve the problem, we’ll sit on the phone with your ISP, DNS service and/or hardware manufacturer so you don’t have to.

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