IP Addresses: Everything You Need to Know

Every device that’s connected to your network has an IP address. Without it, it wouldn’t be able to reach the internet and other devices on the same network.

But what are IP addresses, and how do they work? Read on to find out the answers to these and other questions. For more articles like this, visit the NetSpot blog.

What is an IP Address?


The term IP address stands for Internet Protocol address. The Internet Protocol is a protocol that defines how data travels across the internet. When a device connects to the internet, it’s assigned an IP address that tells other internet-connected devices how to reach it.

Two different IP address formats are in use today. Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) defines IP addresses as a 32-bit numbers (such as 172.217.22.14), while Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) defines IP addresses as a 128-bit sequences of numbers and letters (such as 6f28:cb63:0ab7:53b9:a991:7c90:af74:8036).

Every website that can be accessed over the internet is served by a server that has a unique IP address. In practice, however, the IP addresses of web servers are usually translated into human-readable domain names using DNS resolvers, so 142.250.178.4 becomes google.com.
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How Do IP Addresses Work?

To keep things simple, let’s ignore the existence of IPv6 addresses while we explain how IP addresses work because their 128-bit nature makes them more difficult to understand.


All IPv4 addresses consist of four groups of numbers separated by dots. These groups are called octets, and they can be further grouped into two parts: the network part and the host part.

The network part specifies the unique address assigned to your network, while the host part uniquely identifies your device. For example, the network portion of the 192.168.1.104 IP address are the first three octets, and the host portion is the last octet.

There’s a good chance that a device on your own network also has the 192.168.1.104 IP address. That’s because it’s a common private IP address that’s used over and over again within local networks with the 255.255.255.0 subnet mask.

The subnet mask is what determines which parts of the IP address are used as the network and host addresses, with the number 255 identifying the network portion and the number 0 identifying the host portion.

What is my IP address?

All networked devices have an IP address, but only some devices are directly exposed to the public internet. Those that are have a public IP address, while those that are not have a private IP address.

Take your smartphone. If you’re like most people, you connect it to the internet using a home Wi-Fi network, and the smartphone shares the network with many other devices.

What is my IP address?

Each device on your home Wi-Fi network has a unique private IP address (such as 192.168.1.104 or 192.168.1.210) that allows it to communicate with other devices on the same network. You can visit your router’s admin panel to see a list of all connected devices and the IP addresses assigned to them.

But when you open a website like https://www.whatsmyip.org/ on your smartphone, you will see a completely different IP address. Why? Because that’s your public IP address — the one that was assigned to you by your Internet Service Provider (ISP).

It’s the job of your internet modem to connect your home network to the wide internet using your public IP address. So, every time you ask yourself, "What is my IP address?” make sure to remember the difference between private and public IP addresses.
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What Is IP Lookup?

IP address lookup is the process of determining the geographical location of an IP address.

Services that perform IP address lookups take into consideration factors such as where the IP address was registered and where its controlling agency is located.

In most cases, the results are accurate to the city level, but their accuracy is never guaranteed.

How to Find My IP Address?

To find your public IP address, you can simply go to https://www.whatsmyip.org/, and it will display automatically at the top of the website.

To find your private IP address, follow one of the sets of instructions below depending on which device you use.

Windows

  1. Open the Start menu.
Open the Start menu
  1. Launch the Settings app.
Launch the Settings app
  1. Go to Network & internet > Wi-Fi.
Go to Network & internet > Wi-Fi
  1. Select your Wi-Fi network.
Select your Wi-Fi network
  1. Look for your IP address listed next to IPv4 address under Properties.
Look for your IP address

Mac

  1. Open System Settings.
Open System Settings
  1. Select the Network tab.
Select the Network tab
  1. Click Details next to your Wi-Fi network.
Click Details next to your Wi-Fi network

Android

  1. Open the Settings app.
Open the Settings app
  1. Tap Network & internet.
Tap Network & internet
  1. Tap Wi-Fi.
Tap Wi-Fi
  1. Select your Wi-Fi network.
Select your Wi-Fi network
  1. Tap Advanced.
Tap Advanced

iOS

  1. Open the Settings app.
Open the Settings app
  1. Tap Wi-Fi.
Tap Wi-Fi
  1. Tap the blue information icon next to your Wi-Fi network.
Tap the blue information icon next to your Wi-Fi network

How to Change My IP Address?

Most ISP don't let customers change their public IP addresses. Some might be willing to change it manually for you if you ask nicely, but don’t count on it.

Fortunately, you can always learn how to change IP address of a device on a private network. The exact steps you need to follow depend on your device.

How Can I Hide My IP Address?

There are many good reasons why you might want to hide your public IP address, including:

  • Improved privacy
  • Protection from hackers
  • Access to geographically restricted content

The easiest way to hide your IP address is to use a VPN service like NordVPN, ExpressVPN, or AvastVPN.

A VPN service creates an encrypted tunnel between you and a VPN server, making it seem as if your connection requests are coming directly from the VPN server and not your device.

How to Find the IP Address of a Router?

“What is my IP address for my router?” is a commonly asked question because you often need to know the answer to access your router’s admin interface.

Here’s how to find the IP address of a router:

Windows

  1. Launch Terminal.
  2. Enter the following command: ipconfig.

The default gateway address is the IP address of your router.

Mac

  1. Launch Terminal.
  2. Enter the following command: netstat -nr | grep default.

Android/iOS

Many router manufacturers offer companion Android/iOS apps to make it easier for users to manage their home networks and change various settings. The same apps can be used to see what the router IP address is.
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You can also try the following common router IP addresses directly:

To Sum It Up

IP addresses may seem frightening, but taking the time to better understand them can go a long way in helping you diagnose network-related issues. In this article, we’ve covered all the basics, but there’s a lot more to learn about IP addresses, and we encourage you to explore the articles we link to to further your knowledge.

Use NetSpot to Beter Understand Your Wi-Fi Network

NetSpot is an easy-to-use wireless network analyzer app for Windows and macOS (mobile versions are also available). In a few simple steps, NetSpot can display useful information about available Wi-Fi networks and visualize your Wi-Fi coverage.

NetSpot

You can use the information provided by NetSpot to see whether a change of your Wi-Fi settings has had a positive impact on your Wi-Fi signal strength and coverage.

NetSpot is free to try, and the desktop version runs on any MacBook with macOS 10.12+ or any laptop with Windows 7/8/10/11.

FAQ

How do I see my computer's IP address?

To see your computer’s public IP address, you can simply type “What's my IP” into Google. To see your private IP address, you can use the command “ipconfig” on Windows or “ipconfig getifaddr en0” on macOS.

Can I look up an IP address?

Yes, you can look up any IP address for free using services like Instant IP Address Lookup.

Can I change my IP address myself?

Yes, you can change the private IP address of any device on your home network by yourself. Often, it’s enough to remove it from your home network and add it again.

How do I find the IP address of my router?

You can find the IP address of your router using the “ipconfig” on Windows (look for the default gateway address) or “netstat -nr | grep default” on macOS.

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Read next in All about Wi-Fi

If you want to dive deeper into this Wi-Fi thing, check out the following articles about Wi-Fi security, the best apps for wireless networking, inflight WiFi, etc.
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