I’ve used Pi-Hole for longer than I can remember, so it’s time to test drive another solution, AdGuard Home, to see how it compares on my network.
To start, as the title suggests you’ll need a RaspberryPi. While not required, I recommend starting with a new fresh image of the RaspbianOS on it. The next thing you’ll want to do, which I won’t cover in this article, is set up your RaspberryPi with a static IP address and then enable SSH on it so that you can connect to it.
Install AdGuard Home
Before you get started make sure to update your RaspberryPi using these two commands. After that you will be ready to get started.
sudo apt-get -y update
sudo apt-get -y upgrade
The easiest way to begin the installation of AdGuard Home and get it ready to go is to copy and paste the command below and then run it. It will take care of everything; downloading the proper version for your RaspberryPi, installing it, starting it as a service on boot.
curl -s -S -L https://raw.githubusercontent.com/AdguardTeam/AdGuardHome/master/scripts/install.sh | sh -s -- -v
After a few minutes, the installation completes and you are ready to proceed. Towards the bottom of the output from the install, there are a few lines that tell us what IP the RPi is listening on, on port 3000. Open your browser and go to the third entry which should be the same as the static IP address you applied to your RaspberryPi before we got started. Referencing the example in my image above, I would be going to: http://192.168.1.2:3000. You should be greeted by a five-step getting started wizard.
Using my RaspberryPi 3, I prefer to only use my wired ethernet connection. I usually go into the OS and disable the WiFi. So on this page, I will select my ‘eth0’ interface as the one that I want to listen to for DNS calls on.
Create your username and a password.
Time to set up your devices to point their DNS to your “new” AdGuard Home.
At this point, this is when you should be repointing the DNS in your router to now be pointing at your RaspberryPi’s IP address. This will make all of the devices on your network that is pulling a DHCP address from your router start to use AdGuard Home.
Note: This is also when I like to go back into my RaspberryPi’s NIC to statically repoint it’s DNS setting to its own IP address since it is now able to resolve DNS.
The last step is to open the dashboard and login.
The dashboard is what you see as soon as you log into your AdGuard Home. It is where you get to see at a single glance the summary of all of the statistics it has collected. From the number of allowed and blocked DNS queries, to what the top queried and blocked domains are, you can even see which clients are being the “chattiest” and making the most DNS requests. Being the summary page, you can use it as the launchpad to click around and dive deeper into what the devices on your network are doing and who they are talking to.
The only other thing really worth mentioning on the dashboard is the “Disable Protection” button that is near the top of the page next to the ‘Dashboard’ title. If you ever need to troubleshoot an issue with one of the devices on your network, this is how you can easily disable all of the DNS blocking/filters that AdGuard Home is doing so that you can [hopefully] rule it out as the culprit.
Under ‘General Settings’ I like to enable the longest log and statistic retention. Being that this is for a home network, I’m not too concerned about anonymizing the client IP info.
Under the ‘DNS Settings’ I like to set my upstream DNS servers. I personally use Cisco’s OpenDNS. Here is a link to known DNS providers that you could choose from if you don’t want to use Cisco. I also have it run the requests in parallel for faster results. However, I tend to leave almost everything else set to its default values.
Examples you can set as your Upstream DNS Servers:
- regular DNS (over UDP) –
- regular DNS (over TCP) –
- encrypted DNS-over-TLS –
- encrypted DNS-over-HTTPS –
- encrypted DNS-over-QUIC (experimental) –
- DNS Stamps for DNSCrypt or DNS-over-HTTPS resolvers –
- an upstream for specific domains –
- a comment –
One of the final ‘DNS Settings’ I like to apply is at the very bottom of the page. I want to limit the use of my DNS to only machines that are on my home network. To do this, under “Allowed clients” I’m adding the CIDR notation for my home network.
I’m adding “192.168.0.0/16” so that it will apply to every address from 192.168.0.0 thru 192.168.255.255. However, while not wrong, this is probably going to be overkill for most home networks that only use a single subnet.
So depending on your home network’s IP address space, you could probably choose to just use a /24 – so it would look more like 192.168.0.0/24. In this example, it would allow all the addresses from 192.168.0.0 thru 192.168.0.255. Again, match up that address space (ie the third octet) to what is in use on your network if you use the /24. If your home network uses a different
Filters are an easy way to quickly block or allow, many different popular sites and services. For example, if you had a hatred for social media, by flipping a toggle in this menu, you could completely cut off and block all services from Facebook on your network.
Note this is not blocking applications, aka Layer 7, it is simply blocking a list of know domains that are owned and/or used by the specific service or website.
The ‘Filters’ is also where you can add/remove DNS blocklists. AdGuard Home comes with quite a few pre-defined lists that you can choose to enable if desired. To get there, click on ‘Filters’, then ‘DNS blocklists’, then click on the ‘Add blocklist’ at the bottom of the page.
Next, you will click ‘Choose from the list’ to start adding the pre-defined blocklists. Alternatively, if you had a custom list you wanted to add, you could do so right here using the ‘Add a custom list’ button.
Here is where the magic happens. This is where you can select any or all of the pre-defined block lists. When you are done, click the save button.
This page is a comprehensive log of everything that AdGuard is doing. You can see what client on your network is making what DNS query. You can filter to see what DNS queries are getting processed or blocked. It is also here that you can see what external resolver answered a particular DNS query. It’s not as snazzy or flashy as the graphs and top charts on the dashboard, but if you are trying to look for the dirty details of whats going on, then your answer is definitely going to be here in this query log.
AdGuard Home service – Start/Stop/Restart/Status
To control the AdGuard Home service and manage it from the command line of your RaspberryPi you can use the following commands.
sudo /opt/AdGuardHome/AdGuardHome -s status
sudo /opt/AdGuardHome/AdGuardHome -s start
sudo /opt/AdGuardHome/AdGuardHome -s stop
sudo /opt/AdGuardHome/AdGuardHome -s restart
Likewise, if you need to you could also uninstall or re-install the AGH service.
sudo /opt/AdGuardHome/AdGuardHome -s uninstall
sudo /opt/AdGuardHome/AdGuardHome -s install
Test if AdGuard Home is working
So your devices should be pointing to AdGuard Home. To test if the ad-blocking is working you have a couple of options.
On your Windows machine open a command prompt, then type this command.
If AdGuard Home is working, it should return “0.0.0.0” as the answer. Meaning that it can not lookup the IP address of the domain “doubleclick.net”.
The other way that you can test your new ad-blocking abilities is by going to a URL and checking how well it blocks ads. A quick google search returned this site as one option to test ad-blocking: https://adblock-tester.com/ I’m sure you can find others…
What is AdGuard Home missing
- No Layer 7 Application filtering capabilities
AdGuard does not have any packet inspection capability. Because it can not inspect packets it can not actually block or filter based on content or applications. AdGuard relies completely on DNS and the reputation of the actual domain/URL that is being called. Instead of blocking the content itself, it blocks the IP address lookup for the domain being requested. If you need to block/filter content you will need to look into some sort of Next-Gen Firewall as a solution.
- Blocking all Ads
AdGuard and Pi-Hole both suffer from the inability to block ALL ads. This is because sometimes the advertisements, and the content you are actually wanting, come from the same domain. Because they are coming from the same place we are unable to block the actual domain name.
Some examples of a few sites that serve ads and content from the same domain name include: