Millions of computer users surf the internet without knowing what an IP address is talkless of knowing what it is used for. Although your IP address is your passport to reach and communicate with the internet, you don’t have to think about it. But understanding what it is and what is used for won’t harm you either.
So, what is an IP address? What is the meaning of IP, IPv4, and IPv6? How do IP addresses look like and how do you find your IP address? Find out in the article below.
Understanding What IP Address Is
There are billions of computers or smart devices connected to the internet, so how can you communicate with a specific internet user using your PC or smart device? That is where the IP address comes in. Each device connected to the internet or a network needs to be differentiated and pinpointed from the others so that you can communicate remotely with another internet user.
For instance, your home has a street address and number where you can receive mail. Your cellphone or SIM card must have a special number allocated to it that allows you to make or receive calls and send or receive text messages. In the same manner, your computer or other digital devices that connect to a computer network such as the internet must have an address to receive mail or data on the internet.
Every device that is connected to a network has a unique means of identification. Just as you would identify your friend or send message to them, computers use the unique means of identification to identify and transfer data to specific computers or devices on a network.
Today, the standard for identification and communication used by most computers on a network, including all devices on the internet is the TCP/IP protocol. In the TCP/IP protocol, the IP address is the unique means of identifying a computer or a device that connects to the internet. This address tells you that you’re connected to the internet.
IP Address definition
The “IP” in the IP address means “Internet Protocol,” and the “address” aspect is a unique number that is associated with all the activities you perform while you’re online (like sending or receiving a mail). So, if someone should ask you for IP address definition or what Internet Protocol Address is, just tell him/her it is your computer’s network address that the internet uses to identify your computer and know where to send you pictures, data, and emails.
The connection to a network must follow some connectivity rules (protocols), but you don’t have to worry about that. The Internet Protocol is one of those connectivity protocols that are in charge of delivering, addressing, and routing your online requests accurately. The word “Internet Protocol” refers to the specifications and guidelines that your computer’s software should meet to connect to the internet.
So, your IP address at a certain period of time is your computer’s or smart device’s “digital address” that is being used to connect the device to the internet and swap data and information back and forth.
Every website (such as Google, Apple, Amazon, etc.) has an IP address that is unique them but named according to the website instead (Google.com, Apple.com, Amazon.com). If you have no IP address, there’s no way you can connect with these websites, and there’s no way they can share information or transfer data to you.
What Is an IPV4 Address?
The IPv4 address is a type of IP address for “version 4.” This type of IP makes use of 32 binary bits to generate a unique digital address on a network. It follows the IP address format for version 4, which is expressed by four sets of numbers that are separated by three dots. Each set of numbers consists of 1 to 3 digits and ranges from 0 to 255. Below is an IP address example:
Thanks to this versatile set of numbers that create the addresses that allow people all around the world to retrieve and send information or data over the internet and ensure that all our website visits, web searches, and emails work to perfection.
However, the IP address format used in IPv6 addressing cannot handle a very large number of IP addresses. That is because the internet wasn’t a large commercial sensation at the invention of IPv4 addressing as it is today. The IPv4 format of addressing offers a maximum of 4.3 billion unique IP addresses, and this may not be able to handle the fast-growing population of internet users all around the world today.
The explosive growth in the use and production of smart devices (such as laptops, wireless devices, tablets, and mobile phones) experienced within the past decade increased the fear that we will exhaust all the available IP addresses. Fortunately, the IPv6 is here to provide a large number of IP address for now and the future.
What is an IPV6 Address?
The IPV6 address is another type of IP address for version 6. It uses 128 binary bits to produce a unique address on the internet. It follows the IP address format for version 6 which contains eight groups of base-16 (hexadecimal) numbers parted by colons (:). Here is an IP address example for version 6:
If there are groups of numbers that are all zeros, they can be omitted and replaced by a colon separator to identify the gap and save space (e.g., 2001:0db8::8a2e:3257:7334). The IPv6 offers 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 unique IP addresses, which means we won’t have to nurse the fear of running out of IP addresses again.
How Do You Find Your IP Address?
You can view the IP address you are using by clicking on whoer.net or whatismyipaddress.com. But if you need to change your IP settings or access your router’s configuration and make some changes, then you’ll need to know your router’s IP address. Here’s how to locate your router IP address.
You can find your IP address on Windows by using the Control Panel (which will take a few clicks to achieve that) or the “ipconfig” command (which is faster).
- To use the control panel: Open the control panel and click on the “View network status and tasks” under the “Network and Internet” category, this will take you to a window tagged “Network and Sharing Center.” Locate the name of your connection in the upper right corner of this window and click on it to open its connection status. In your connection status window, find the “Details…” button and click on it to open your “Network Connection Details” window. In this window check in front of the “IPv4 Default Gateway” to see your IP address.
- To use the ipconfig command: Open the Command Prompt, type “ipconfig” and press enter. Look under the “Ethernet adapter” if you’re using a wired connection or the “Wireless LAN adapter” to see your IP address if you’re using a Wi-Fi connection.
For Mac OS
At the top of your Mac screen, locate the “Apple” menu bar, click on it and then click “System Preferences” to open your Mac’s system preferences window. In this window, select the “Network” icon and click on your network connection type (wired or Wi-Fi connection) and click on “Advanced.” Click on the “TCP/IP” tab at the top of the “Network” window to see your router IP address.
For iPhones and iPads
Head straight to your iPad or iPhone’s settings, tap on Wi-Fi, and select the name of the Wi-Fi network you’re using. You’ll find your IP address and router IP address too.
For Android Devices
Unfortunately, Android OS does not come with a way to check the information of your network connection out of the box. So you’ll have to depend on third-party apps like Wi-Fi analyzer to see your gateway IP address.
For Linux OS
Open the notification area and click on the network icon. Ideally, you can click on “Connection Information” after selecting the network icon then look for the address that is listed close to “Gateway” or “Default Route.”
Now that you know where to look at, you should be able to find your IP address without much trouble. However, your IP is not really yours so, don’t tattoo it to your body or get yourself attached to it. Your IP address can easily change, especially if you change your location, or your Internet Service Provider (ISP), or if you turn your router or modem on and off.
So, when you travel, move from a place to the other, or connect to a different Wi-Fi or ISP, your IP address changes and you will be connected via a temporary IP address. But you don’t have to worry about this or fiddle with your IP settings; the internet will take care of that for you.
The Information Contained in An IP Address
Your IPv4 or IPv6 address does not only serve as your passport to the internet, but it also contains some information that can be used to profile and monitor your online activities. Some of this information includes:
- The country you’re in
- The city where you’re surfing the web from
- Your region or state
- Your region’s area code
- The name of your Internet Service Provider
- The best guess of your location’s longitude and latitude
- Any services running on your IP
In this post, we have discussed the meaning and importance of IP address, how it looks like, and how you can find your IP address.
Now you know that your IP address is your gateway to retrieving and transferring data and information on the internet. However, it divulges your location, carries the information that can be used to track your online activity, and can prevent you from accessing the contents of some websites with geo-blocks. That is why it is important to hide your IP address.