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How To Easily Access Your Home Network From Anywhere With DDNS

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Whether you’re hosting a web page or running a Minecraft server, it’s a pain to keep track of IP addresses. Using a free dynamic DNS, you can turn 174.45.19.242 into mygeekydns.dyndns.org and be free from changing IPs.

DDNS

Dynamic Domain Name System services can be found in many places online for varying costs, but they all work more or less the same way. We’ve talked about DNS before – mainly when mentioning OpenDNS, Google’s Public DNS, and NameBench –  but, essentially, DNS servers are like address books which convert IP addresses into host names. As you can imagine, this makes the web much easier to work with.

Getting your hands on a .com can be tough and expensive, but if you have your own server you can sign up with a dynamic DNS service. Signing up will get you a simple hostname, and by configuring your router, your ISP-assigned ever-changing IP will be updated automatically. No more looking up and writing down IPs!

There are a few different DDNS services out there, such as FreeDNS and No-IP Free, but we’re going to focus our article on DynDNS. Why? Well, it’s one of the more popular services, they have really great uptime and support, and I’ve never had to mess with it in the 6 years that I’ve been using it. They all more or less work the same, though, so if you decide to go with another provider, you should still be able to follow along or figure things out.

Signing Up WIth DynDNS

Head over to DynDNS.com.

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Click on Services & Pricing.

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You’ll see a more detailed group of options appear.

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Click on DynDNS Free, since we want a free account. You’ll see a page come up that asks you to pick a hostname. You’ll also see a list of possible suffixes for your free hostname.

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Be sure to click “Your current location’s IP address” or manually enter the IP address of your home’s router in the appropriate box. If you have a mail server configured with a different name and need to add an MX record, be sure to check the box. If you have no idea what that means, you’re safe to skip it. Click “Add To Cart” when you’re done. On the next page, you’ll have to create an account.

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Check and make sure your hostname is the correct one. Fill out the details for a new account, check the “I Agree” item, and uncheck the “Subscribe to DynDNS.com newsletter” item. When you’re all set, click “Create Account” and you’ll see a confirmation page come up.

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Click on the link in the email to confirm everything. You should then be able to log in to DynDNS.com.

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Under My Services, you’ll see a link for “Add Host Services.” That’s the one we want, so click it and you’ll see a host services list come up.

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The hostname you previously chose should be listed, so just click the “Checkout to Activate” link.

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You’ll see one more step where DynDNS advertises their pro package and where you can remove your hostname if you want to change it. Click the “Proceed to checkout” button. Note that the price here is still $0.00.

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And, you’ll see yet another confirmation screen. Luckily for us, this is the last one, so just click the “Activate Services” button, and you’re all set!

You can log out of DynDNS.com, and you really won’t have to log back in. Any important notifications like account expiration will be emailed to you.

Configuring Your Router

DynDNS’s free account requires at least one IP update a month, otherwise your hostname will expire automatically. Since your IP is changing anyway, this really shouldn’t be a problem. Most routers have a built-in method of updating to popular DDNS services, ours included, so the next step is logging into your router’s admin page.

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Depending on your router’s software, look under either Advanced, Tools, or Setup. You’re looking for an entry like “DDNS,” or “Dynamic DNS.”

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Click the above image to view it full size.

The Server Address field should be your provider’s main site. Again, most routers will have pre-configured entries for DynDNS and other popular services. The hostname should match what you chose earlier, and then enter your DDNS account’s username and password.

Depending on your router, you may see a “Timeout” or “Force Update Interval” option. If your IP has not changed, your router will update the IP anyway after this interval of time. Since DynDNS requires an update at least once a month, you can enter 29 days (or 696 hours). Save your changes, wait for your router to reboot, and you’re done!

If you have port 80 forwarded to a web server, pop in your DDNS address in a browser and you should see your web page. If you see the login page of your router, you may want to try it from an outside source, or you may have to check your router’s “remote administration” settings.

Using a Client

The vast majority of routers have built-in support for DDNS, especially because it’s becoming increasingly popular for home users. However, if yours doesn’t, you can run a DDNS updating client on a computer in your network. It’s best to have it running all the time, or at least often enough that it catches any IP changes on your router and updates properly. There are hosts of clients for all operating systems. Check out DynDNS’s Supported Clients page to see what software they support and how to configure everything properly. If that’s not enough, FreeDNS has a prodigiously populated list of more clients.

What Can I Use This With?

Now that you have access to your computer from anywhere, let’s take a look at some of the awesome things you do from outside of your network now!

There are plenty more we haven’t listed, but anything that offers functionality over your network is now accessible from outside of it easily! Just make sure you set up Port Forwarding in your router so that you get access to the right computer.

Have some ideas of your own? Want to share you own setup? Prefer a different DDNS service? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Yatri Trivedi is a monk-like geek. When he's not overdosing on meditation and geek news of all kinds, he's hacking and tweaking something, often while mumbling in 4 or 5 other languages.

  • Published 06/21/11

Comments (7)

  1. Simar

    thanks, this was a great article and it did exactly what i wanted.
    but i still need a little help, i don’t have a router and i use mobile broadband (tata photon).
    i followed each step and i was able to reach my pc first time i configured it, but next time when i got disconnected and connected again , i was not able to reach my pc (as my ip got changed).
    but the ip linked to my domian at dyndns did not change.
    can you tell me what can i do to automatically update my ip with dyndns domian.

  2. fengshaun

    @Simar

    If you use Linux (I don’t know how to do it in Windows), you can use ddclient. It’s one of the clients listed in DynDNS (http://www.dyndns.com/support/clients/unix.html). Setting it up is very easy, just follow the instructions in dyndns.com and your DynDNS IP will be updated automatically!

    And if you’re using Windows, it seems like DynDNS has its own updated client you can use: http://www.dyndns.com/support/clients/windows.html

    Have fun,
    fengshaun

  3. Keith

    @Simar – Look at the dyndns website and look for their information on an updater script or .exe. Install the updater, and configure it to work with your dyndns domain. It will detect when your IP changes, and update the IP with dyndns.

  4. Simar

    @fengshaun & @Keith
    thanks a lot.
    i use both windows and linux, and i made it work on both os.
    thanks.

  5. k

    we are gonna need a video for this

  6. Mark Bunner

    Be aware that your ISP may terminate your service if you run a server on a home account. From personal experience, if they (Comcast in my case) see incoming port activity on, for example, a web server on your ubuntu pc; they will shut off your ports. When you call to complain or for tech support, they will threaten to terminate your service. Then they will offer you a business account for more money for less speed.

    I argued with them about the” no server whatsoever” stance they took by informing them that technically anyone using an instant messenger runs a server. They were not to be convinced.

  7. how can i work from home

    You’ve got great insights about How can i work from home, keep up the good work!

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