What is an IP Address? How To Find Your Router’s IP Address on Any Device in Your Network

Every human being on earth has a name. That is the only way for us to identify each other and communicate well. The same applies to the devices we own, for them to communicate with each other, they must have a unique identity. That is where IP addresses come in.

In layman’s terms, it is the unique name your computer, smartphone, tablet, and every smart device in your home uses to identify itself to communicate with another over the internet. Only this time, the name is in number format and not an alphabet. Without an IP address, these devices would sit lonely in your home and just talk to you the same way your old radio does. 

IP stands for Internet Protocol. The word protocol refers to rules, and in the IP case rules that govern how communication is carried out over the internet. Besides the naming of the gadgets, IP is in charge of the data packaging process and moving of the packaged data from the originating device, host, to the desired destination. 

As you access this website right now, the device you are using is the host and the server in which this website is found in the destination. Your device sends data to the server asking for this website and the right data is sent back to your screen and not anywhere else, thanks to the IP address.

Wondering why the data you asked for does not land elsewhere?

 Structure of an IP Address 

Just like in the human naming system where you have your name and your surname, kind of Binomial Nomenclature naming system in Biology, devices also use two sets of names combined to make the IP address. The name of the device, hostname, and the name of the network it belongs to, network name. This makes an IP address unique to the device. Remember it is all in numbers.

For a rough example, your laptop’s IP address could be While this number is in sets of 8 zeros and ones, binary, there is no need of investing your time on a figure like 11000101.10110001.11110011.11001000. Yikes!

 Rescuing IP Addresses. What is the difference between IPv4 and IPv6? 

This system of IP addresses using 4 sets of numbers separated by dots, the quad-dotted notation such as is the old system though still in use. It was developed by the US Department of Defense as a research project and branded IPv4 (IP version 4).

IPv4 has limited to 32 bits; 4 sets of 8 bits, meaning, the IP addresses from where all binary numbers are zero, to 255. 255. 255. 255, when turned to one. And bearing in mind that some IP addresses are reserved for special purposes, a bit of math tells you IPv4 has only 232 addresses. That is, approximately 4.3 billion devices can be allowed to communicate with each other over the internet.

But this is 2020, we are about 7 billion of us and most of us have more than three devices in need of IP addresses. We could run out!

We run out late 2018! 

But Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) had foreseen this problem and began working on a solution; IP version 6 (IPv6). Phew! 

Growth in technology and its affordability calls for an addressing system that can accommodate more devices. IPv6 promises to harbor about 340 billion billion billion billion devices. The repeated words are not as a result of an error so let’s break that down, shall we?

IPv6 uses a whopping 128 bits; four times the addressing space in IPv4!

A bit of math again reveals that in theory has the potential of 2128 = 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 IP addresses. So huge! But chances are the number will be exhausted too. Then what?

We will cross the bridge when we get there. For now, see the potential and realize what it can do for you. IPv6 allows each one of your smart devices to access the internet because they have a unique IP address to themselves!

 Why is IPv6 a Better Option? 

Unlike IPv4, IPv6 uses hexadecimal numbers like FC80:0000:0000:0000:0202:B3FF: FE1B:8322 which if taken to binary, every block of numbers, separated by semicolon has 16 bits instead of 8. Should a block contain zeros only, it is omitted and the IP address remains unique to the device.

The thought of configuring long IPv6 addresses is disheartening. But you don’t have to do it; when a device is powered, it searches for the IPv6 router then auto-configuration kicks in generating a local and routable address. 

IPv6 is built with network bandwidth efficiency in mind. Unlike IPv4 that broadcasts data packets all over the network, IPv6 sends the data packets belonging to a similar flow to multiple destinations in one send operation through multicasting. Such packets are identified using Flow Label in the IPv6 header. This cuts down the processing budget for the devices that don’t need the data in the packet hence saving network bandwidth. Multicasting favors bandwidth-intensive flows such as gaming and streaming.

With 128 bits to play with, malicious activities like IP scanning become difficult and its payload is much larger than that of its predecessor. IPv4 has only 32 bits and is subject to abuse.

Another advantage of IPv6 is its ability to support mobile devices through Mobile IPv6 (MIPv6). This allows such devices to migrate from one network to another with the assurance of getting roaming notifications no matter the geographic location. This is made possible by MIPv6’s unique data structure, messaging, and security requirements.

 What’s the Difference Between the Public and Private IP? 

Public IP addresses are unique IP addresses allocated to devices that communicate directly over the internet such as routers, servers, and sometimes personal computers. They receive these IP addresses from the Internet Service Providers. ISPs get these public IP addresses from ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) ensuring that no IP address is repeated. These addresses are searchable on the internet. 

Private IP addresses are given to devices communicating within a local network. They are either assigned by the user manually or by the router in charge of the network via Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol. All devices in a local network must have unique private IP addresses for communication to flow, including the router. The same IP addresses can be repeated in your friend’s network without creating a problem since the two networks aren’t connected directly. 

When devices in a local network want to communicate over the internet, they must go through the router since it is the one bearing the public IP address that has the right to speak over the internet. Private IP addresses keep the conversation local and can only be searched therein; not on the internet.

 How to Find Your Router’s Private and Public IP on Any Device? 

When your ISP gives you a router, they include its private IP address in the router’s manufacturer’s documentation and often on a sticker stuck on the device. Most manufacturers have a similar private IP address. 

For example, routers from D-Link and Netgear use for their private IP addresses, SMC and Belkin use often, Linksys and Cisco use Don’t worry if these numbers seem too complex to remember, the documentation have the information anyway.

 Finding Your Router’s Public IP Address 

Your router’s public IP address, on the other hand, may not be written on paper. But you can access it by visiting https://whatismyipaddress.com. The website reveals the router’s public IP address given to you by your ISP and your physical location!

This is true if you are not using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) which masks your router’s IP address from malicious fellows. In that case, visiting the above website will show you the VPN’s IP address and the geographical location won’t be your true location but that of the VPN server in use then.

 How to Find Your Router’s Private IP Address 

Suppose you have misplaced the manufacturer’s documentation provided when you purchased the router and still want to find out your router’s private IP address. Where do you start? 

Since this is the address devices in your home network send their requests to when they need to connect to the internet, and it gives you access to the router’s guts, you might want to dig it out.

 Finding Router’s Private IP Address on Windows 

On a Windows-based computer, your router’s private IP address is shown as the Default Gateway. You can either access it via the Command prompt or the Graphic interface.

  • Command Prompt using Windows 10: Click on the Search tool next to the Windows icon at the bottom left corner of your desktop. Type the word ‘Command’. You will be provided with the option to open the Command Prompt App. 

Upon clicking on Open, a black window opens giving you access to the command prompt dialog box. It may read something like C:Usersxxxxx>_ 

Type IPCONFIG where the blinking underscore sign is and hit the Enter button.

The router’s IP address will show as the default gateway of the active media; Wi-Fi or the Ethernet adapter. 

  • Graphic Interface: Go back to the Search tool, type Control Panel, and open the app. Go to Network and Internet and select View network status and tasks if the View by is set to small or category.

If set to large, select Network and Sharing Center. The next box is labeled Network Sharing Center. To the right of the box, select the media you are using to access the internet; Wi-Fi or Ethernet and click on it to access the status dialog box.

Click on Details to access Network Connection Details. Your router’s private IP address is found in the Default Gateway section. It could read, IPv4 Default Gateway

 Finding Router’s Private IP Address on MacOS 

Your router’s private IP address in MacOS is referred to as ‘router’. To access it, click on the Apple icon at the top left corner of your desktop to access the Apple menu. Select System Preferences to access the respective box then click on the Network icon to open the Network window. 

You have access to the network connections; Wi-Fi or wired. At the bottom of the box click on the Advanced button to lead you to another Network window. This one names several protocols, click on TCP/IP and look for ‘Router’. That’s your router’s private IP address. 

It could read ‘Router:’ without the quotes.

 Finding Router’s Private IP Address on iOS 

Your iPad and iPhone use the iOS, so to look for your router’s private IP address look for the Settings icon on the Home screen and tap on it to access the Wi-Fi screen. You will see a list of Wi-Fi networks available. 

Select your Wi-Fi network and under DHCP, there are three options, IP address, Subnet Mask, and Router. Your router’s private IP address is indicated under the Router option.

 Finding Router’s Private IP Address on Android 

Unlike other operating systems, Android is keen to give your device’s private IP address but doesn’t concern itself with that of your router. You need a mobile app like Wi-Fi Monitor: analyzer of Wi-Fi networks by Alexander Kozyukov of Signal Monitoring. 

Once installed, you don’t have to allow the app to detect your location, the first screen on the Connection Tab allows you to see your Wi-Fi network. The section below it, Network configuration displays your router’s private IP address under Default Gateway.

 Finding Router’s Private IP Address on Linux 

The Network icon on the desktop of a computer running Linux OS is represented by two arrows; one pointing up and the other down. Click on it and choose Connection Information at the bottom of the menu. The term could differ in some Linux machines but it sounds similar. 

A small window labelled Connection information opens revealing the details of your network connection. Under the IP version where the device IP address shows, look for Default Route. That is your router’s private IP address.

 Finding Router’s Private IP Address on ChromeOS 

To see your router’s private IP address on a Chromebook, go to the bottom right corner of your desktop and click on the Wi-Fi sign. A menu appears allowing you to select the Wi-Fi you are connected to. 

The network information is presented to you allowing you to proceed and click on the Network tab so you can view the Gateway. The IP address indicated against the gateway is your router’s private IP address.

Most of the operating systems use the words gateway, default gateway, or router to mean the router’s private IP address. As long as you can access the network settings in the system, the rest should work out well.


 How to access the router’s settings 

Accessing the router’s settings require the use of a web browser and the router’s private IP address. The process can be done over the Wi-Fi or with your computer connected to the router via an Ethernet cable.

On the address bar of your browser, type in the router’s private IP address, say and press enter. A dialog box appears to seek the username and password. These details are provided in the router’s manufacturer documentation. If not changed, most routers’ default username is ‘admin’ and the password is ‘password’.

If you changed the login details and forgot, resetting the router to factory settings will allow you to use the default. Otherwise, once authentication happens, you can access the Residential Gateway Configuration window; also called Router’s administration settings. The guts!

 How to reset your router 

Every router can be reset manually, but a few have a second reset method through the administration settings. In the end, the router’s factory settings are restored.

To reset the manual way, turn the router off, disconnect the power cable, and any other cable connected to it; Ethernet cable to the modem and others. Reconnect the power cable after one minute and turn the router back on. Look for a tiny hole at the back of the router labelled, Reset, near the power port. 

Straighten a paper clip and push it through the tiny hole for 30 seconds; the power LED on the router will blink as you hold down the reset. The power LED stops blinking when the router completes the resetting process. When done, you can use the default logins to access the administration settings. 

The second type of reset requires accessing the router through the web browser to go to the administration settings. Go to Administration Tab and click on the Factory Defaults. Click on the Restore Factory Defaults button at the center of the window. The power LED blinks for a few seconds then stops indicating the end of the reset process. Use the browser again to login to the router with the default login details. This process is common in Linksys routers.  

 What is NAT (Network Address Translation)? 

It is the process of translating a set of IP addresses into a different set of IP addresses. In your home network, the router uses NAT to translate the private IP addresses of your devices to the public IP address given to the router by the ISP so they can access the internet. Without NAT, the devices in the network cannot access the internet. 

NAT also translates public IP addresses to private IP addresses when a computer on the internet wants to communicate with another one in the home network. This is necessary for computers using IPv4 because there aren’t enough public IP addresses to fit all the devices in need of the internet in the world.

But with the coming of IPv6, there is no need for NAT because it has over 340 undecillion IP addresses. Every device can now afford a public IP address.

 Can I hide my routers public IP address? 

Yes. Installing Virtual Private Network (VPN) software allows you to mask the router’s public IP address hiding it from your local ISP, the government, and other prying eyes online.

 Should I hide my public IP address? 

Yes, you should. Every time you access a website on your device, your IP address is used as the originating address so the server where the website is can know where to send the response. This and all other communications are logged and tied to your IP address. 

Since the internet was not built with security as a priority, that log can land in the wrong hands and be used to track your location, steal your identity or to build a legal case against you. It can also be sold by your ISP to marketers who send you ads related to your search history.

Again, there are some websites and services that are restricted to certain geographic locations. You can only access such services if your public IP address either belongs to such locations or is hidden in a way to indicate that it comes from the permitted locations. That calls for hiding your true public IP address by using a VPN.

 Is the number of public IP addresses limited? 

Not anymore. When only IPv4 was in use, the number of IP addresses available was less than 4.3 billion hence limited. But with the introduction of IPv6, they are inexhaustible. The latter has approximately 3.4 x 1038 IP addresses. Although not all the addresses are meant for public addressing, the number is unlimited.

 Can I change my router’s private IP address? 

Yes. Though is changing the router’s private IP address is possible, it is mostly done when there is a problem in the network. Access the administration settings of your router and in the basic settings, change the IP address to suit what you want. This address must remain within the boundaries of private IP addresses.

 Can I change my router’s public IP address? 

No. Your router’s public IP address is provided by your ISP and is sometimes static. Unless there’s a problem with the address, the ISP may not see the need to change it. But if you must change it for security purposes, the best way forward is to use a VPN to mask it.

 Why should I know my router’s public IP address? 

Knowing your router’s public IP address may not seem important since it is set once and forgotten. But again, it is worth hiding from malicious people, the government, and marketing agencies that send ads. Knowing your router’s IP address helps you protect your online identity and the data you share across the internet. 

 What is the Default Gateway? 

It is an intermediary between a local network and the internet allowing devices within the network to send data to the internet and receives the response on their behalf. It then ensures delivery of the response to the requesting device. In the case of your home network, your router’s private IP address is the default gateway. 

 What would happen if we ran out of IP addresses? 

We did, once. The older version of IP addresses, IPv4 ran out late 2018. That meant keeping some devices off the internet. But IPv6 came to the rescue ensuring that anyone who needed an IP address got one. For now, there’s no risk of running out of IP addresses any time soon.

 What is a proxy and why should I use one? 

A proxy server is a computer that acts as a middleman between users and the websites they access offering various functions such as security and privacy according to the user’s needs. They are configured on an application-by-application basis. They are necessary for bypassing web restrictions, hiding user’s IP addresses, and evading targeted ads without incurring unnecessary expenses. They are an easy option to attaining some level of privacy without installing any software. 

 What is the difference between a proxy server and a VPN? 

Proxy servers and VPNs have one major similarity; they make internet traffic seem to come from a remote computer by hiding the public IP address of the originating device. But that’s where the similarity ends. While VPNs work at the operating system level tunneling the entire traffic of the device, proxy servers are set to protect a particular application through channeling its data through their servers. 

On data security, proxy servers do not encrypt data coming from the user’s device before forwarding it to the internet. But with VPNs, they aim at 256-bit AES encryption or better, preventing DNS leaks and most of them avoid keeping a log of user data. And while proxy servers focus on one server, providers of VPN services invest on many servers to ensure higher speeds and better security. On costs, VPNs are expensive while proxy servers are free to use.

 What is a VPN and when should I use one? 

A VPN is a private logic network that operates on top of a shared public and physical infrastructure; the internet, to allow the creation of a secure connection between communicating devices.

Since the internet does not guarantee the security of your data, using a VPN everyday relieves you of the security concerns. A VPN ensures that your data is received by the specific target device, cannot be read by unintended recipients and that it isn’t modified along the way.

You should also use a VPN when you need to access region-restricted websites when you are accessing such from locations that are locked out. Or when you want to bypass limitations set by organizations. 

 What is the difference between dynamic and static IP addresses? 

A dynamic IP address is changeable while the static IP address is hardcoded. Devices in a local network can have their IP addresses given by a DHCP server when they join the network. Such is the dynamic IP addresses, the DHCP server can change them when there’s need to and the process is both automatic and simple.

But in some networks, IP addresses are manually entered by a network administrator such that they remain as they are all the time. Those are the static IP addresses. The process is sometimes tedious hence in most local networks, the provision of IP addresses to the devices is left to the DHCP.

 Who can see my public IP address? 

You, your ISP, and anyone else who snoops on your data or is allowed by your ISP to do so. To stop prying eyes from reading your public IP address, use a VPN.

 Is it risky to share my public IP address with anyone? 

Yes, it is. You should never expose your IP address or even share it with anyone else. Should anyone have it, they stand a chance of stealing the information you transmit over the internet.

Understanding what an IP address is, how it works, and what it means to your router allows you to shield yourself from potential danger. It is the easiest way to enjoy the time spent online in the safest way possible.

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