Print this article

What are proxy settings?

Image of ethernet cables

Proxy settings allow an intermediary to come between your web browser and another computer, called a server. A proxy is a computer system or program which acts as a kind of middle-man.

Andrew Stucken | 9th September 2010

You need proxy settings on your computer to access the proxy server.

Your internet service provider (ISP) runs servers – computers designed to deliver information to other computers. To speed up the transfer of information between the server and your computer, it uses proxy servers.

The proxy server stores data and sends it to your computer without going though the main server. You could use the analogy of a teaching assistant who can handle certain questions without the pupil having to ask the teacher.

As an example of how proxy servers work, two users with an ISP want to look at the same web page. User A has just requested it and now user B wants it. Instead of retrieving the data from the main server, the proxy has stored – or ‘cached’ – a copy of the page and sends it to User B without burdening the main server.

Accessing proxy settings

ISPs tend to supply you with an installation CD-ROM to automatically take care of the niggly work of entering proxy settings.

Problems sometimes crop up anyhow, and you may need to speak to your ISP’s technical support team at some point to change or restore the settings, so it is useful to know where to look.

To access proxy settings, follow the steps below. You will need to contact technical support for the address and port.

For Internet Explorer Versions 7 and 8

  1. Go to the ‘Tools’ menu.
  2. Click ‘Internet Options’
  3. Click on the ‘Connections’ tab
  4. You will now bring up a box – ‘dialogue box’ to give it its full name. In the bottom right-hand corner there is a button marked ‘LAN settings’. ‘LAN’ stands for ‘Local Area Network’.
  5. Check the two boxes below the heading ‘Proxy Server’.
  6. Enter the address and port in the boxes. Technical support should let you know exactly what information is needed.
  7. Click ‘OK’
  8. Click ‘OK’ again.

Proxy servers aren’t just about speeding up the transfer of information between the server and your computer. They have other uses, including providing enhanced security (by keeping machines behind them anonymous) and performing malware scans (to block viruses, spyware and other nasties). You should, however, still install your own anti-virus and spyware protection to be on the safe side.

Andrew Stucken

Andrew Stucken

Andrew cut his journalistic teeth with the local press, and has since moved on to writing for major national websites specialising in technology and money-saving. He has also written for The Times and other national newspapers.