An IP address Lookup, short for Internet Protocol address, is an identifying number for a piece of network hardware. Having an IP address allows a device to communicate with other devices over an IP-based network like the internet.
What Is an IP Lookup Used For?
An IP address provides an identity to a networked device. Similar to a home or business address supplying that specific physical location with an identifiable address; devices on a network are differentiated from one another through IP addresses.
If I’m going to send a package to my friend in another country, I have to know the exact destination. It’s not enough to just put a package with his name on it through the mail and expect it to reach him. I must instead attach a specific address to it, which you could do by looking it up in a phone book.
This same general process is used when sending data over the internet. However, instead of using a phone book to look up someone’s name to find their physical address, your computer uses DNS servers to look up a hostname to find its IP address.
For example, when I enter a website like www.lifewire.com into my browser, my request to load that page is sent to DNS servers that look up that hostname (lifewire.com) to find its corresponding IP address (184.108.40.206).
Without the IP address attached, my computer will have no clue what it is that I’m after.
Different Types of IP Lookup Addresses
Even if you’ve heard of IP addresses before, you may not realize that there are specific types of IP addresses. While all IP addresses are made up of numbers or letters, not all addresses are used for the same purpose.
There are private IP addresses, public IP addresses, static IP addresses, and dynamic IP addresses. That’s quite a variety! Following those links will give you much more information on what they each mean. To add to the complexity, each type of IP address can be an IPv4 address or an IPv6 address… again, more on these at the bottom of this page.
In short, private IP addresses are used “inside” a network, like the one you probably run at home. These types of IP addresses are used to provide a way for your devices to communicate with your router and all the other devices in your private network. Private IP addresses can be set manually or assigned automatically by your router.
Public IP addresses are used on the “outside” of your network and are assigned by your ISP. It’s the main address that your home or business network uses to communicate with the rest of the networked devices around the world (i.e. the internet). It provides a way for the devices in your home, for example, to reach your ISP, and therefore the outside world, allowing them to do things like access websites and communicate directly with other people’s computers.
Both private IP addresses and public IP addresses are either dynamic or static, which means that, respectively, they either change or they don’t.
An IP address that is assigned by a DHCP server is a dynamic IP address. If a device does not have DHCP enabled or does not support it then the IP address must be assigned manually, in which case the IP address is called a static IP address.
How to Find Your IP Lookup Address
Different devices and operating systems require unique steps to find the IP address. There are also different steps to take if you’re looking for the public IP address provided to you by your ISP, or if you need to see the private IP address that your router handed out.
Finding Your Public IP Lookup Address
There are lots of ways to find your router’s public IP address but sites like IP Chicken, WhatsMyIP.org, or WhatIsMyIPAddress.com make this super easy.
These sites work on any network-connected device that supports a web browser, like your smartphone, iPod, laptop, desktop, tablet, etc.
Finding the private IP address of the specific device you’re on isn’t as simple.
Finding Your Private IP Lookup Address
In Windows, you can find your device’s IP address via the Command Prompt, using the ipconfig command.
Tip: See How Do I Find My Default Gateway IP Address? if you need to find the IP address of your router, or whatever device that your network users to access the public internet.
Linux users can launch a terminal window and enter the command hostname IP config, or IP address show. For macOS, use the command if configuration to find your local IP address.
iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch devices show their private IP address through the Settings app in the Wi-Fi menu. To see it, just tap the small “i” button next to the network it’s connected to.
Visualizing this helps understand just how many more IP addresses the IPv6 addressing scheme allows over IPv4. Pretend a postage stamp could provide enough space to hold each and every IPv4 address. IPv6, then, to scale, would need the entire solar system to contain all of its addresses.
In addition to the greater supply of IP addresses over IPv4, IPv6 has the added benefit of no more IP address collisions caused by private addresses, auto-configuration, no reason for Network Address Translation (NAT), more efficient routing, easier administration, built-in privacy, and more.