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What does “IP address conflict” mean and how can you resolve it?

Virginia Brown

Feb 23, 2020 — 4 min read

Ever seen the "windows has detected an IP address conflict" message? What should you do about it? We can help!

“There is an IP address conflict with another system on the network.” 

What? Those dreaded words pop up on your PC, inciting confusion and frustration. Conflict? Me? With who? Why? Before you freak out and cue Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, let’s start at the beginning, so we understand what’s going on. And then we’ll get to some fairly simple fixes.

For starters, what’s an IP address?

Your IP address is the unique string of numbers, joined by periods, that identifies your device, whether it be a computer, tablet, smartphone, etc. The IP stands for “internet protocol” and it basically allows devices to transmit data back and forth and communicate across networks. So, in short, without IP addresses, data wouldn’t know where to travel over the internet. 

It’s kind of like an address and return address on snail mail. With that information, the mail carrier knows not only where to send the information, but where to return it. 

When you visit a website, your device gives the website your unique IP address. The IP address includes information about your location and allows the site to send the information you’re requesting to the right location.

Now, onto the Red Alert

One of the most common error messages that pops up when you have an IP address issue is: “There is an IP address conflict with another system on the network.”

So what’s going on? For a system to communicate via a network, it must have a unique IP address. Conflicts arise when two devices are on the same network trying to use the same IP address. 

When this occurs, both computers cannot connect to network resources or perform other network operations.

What should you do first?

First, it may sound silly, but try restarting your computer. Yes, sometimes machines simply get “stuck” and need a reboot, and often that will solve this issue.

If that doesn’t help, Microsoft tells us that the best way to solve this issue is to:

  1. Click Start and select Run.
  2. Type “cmd” in the box and click OK. A window with a command prompt with an old-school DOS aesthetic appears.
  3. Type “ipconfig /release” and press Enter. This should release your computer’s current IP addresses.
  4. Type “ipconfig /renew” and press Enter. This assigns your computer a new set of IP addresses.
  5. Type Exit and press Enter to close that window.

If that still doesn’t work, an additional method is to change the TCP/IP settings. These settings essentially instruct your computer how to communicate with others. 

To do this, Microsoft recommends using automated Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), which automatically assigns IP addresses to your network’s computers. 

To enable your DHCP or change your TCP/IP settings:

  1. Select Start, select Settings > Network & Internet.
  2. Select Wi-Fi  > Manage known networks, if you have a Wi-Fi network. Choose the network you want to change the settings for, and select Properties. (For an Ethernet network, select Ethernet).
  3. Under IP assignment, select Edit.
  4. Under Edit IP settings, select Automatic (DHCP) or Manual.

To specify IPv4 settings manually:

  1. Under Edit IP settings, select Manual, then turn on IPv4. 
  2. To specify an IP address, in the IP address, Subnet prefix length, and Gateway boxes, type the IP address settings.
  3. To specify a DNS server address, in the Preferred DNS and Alternate DNS boxes, type the addresses of the primary and secondary DNS servers.

To specify IPv6 settings manually:

  1. Under Edit IP settings, choose Manual, then turn on IPv6.
  2. To specify an IP address, in the IP address, Subnet prefix length, and Gateway boxes, type the IP address settings.
  3. To specify a DNS server address, in the Preferred DNS and Alternate DNS boxes, type the addresses of the primary and secondary DNS servers.
  4. When you select Automatic (DHCP), the IP address settings and DNS server address setting are set automatically by your router or other access point (recommended).
  5. When you select Manual, you can manually set your IP address settings and DNS server address.
  6. Select Save. 

Still not fixed?

Lucky you. In some rare cases, like if you experience chronic IP conflicts, you may need to update your firmware. At this point, it’s possible that your DHCP server has malfunctioned and assigned two computers identical IP addresses, leading to consistent conflicts. In this case, you’ll want to try to update a driver for hardware that isn’t working properly.

According to Microsoft, it’s best to allow Windows to install device drivers automatically. But if Windows cannot locate your device’s driver, you can do some digging on the manufacturer’s website. 

Once you find the updated driver, follow the installation prompts. Some devices are tricky and include drivers you’ll need to install. If you download a driver that isn’t self-installing, try this: 

  1. Make sure you’re logged in as an administrator.
  2. Open Device Manager. (To get there, click Start, Control Panel, System and Security, Device Manager.)
  3. In the hardware list, find the device you’d like to update. 
  4. Double click that device’s name. 
  5. Click on the Driver tab.
  6. Click Update Driver, and then follow the prompts. 

You should be all set! Now, if for some reason, you need to change your IP address, we’ve got you covered. For more guidance on internet troubleshooting, be sure to bookmark our Resource Center.

Ways to track data usage

  • Your router: Some routers do track the amount of data you are using. Use the router’s app or log-in page, and look for a data usage section.
  • Your ISP: Some ISPs provide an app to check on your data and/or a mid-month, opt-in email alert to let you know how much you’ve used to date.
  • Apps: Third-party apps like Glasswire and Data Monitor are available on Google Play and the App Store to monitor data use.

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Alex Sheehan

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Alex Sheehan

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Robin Layton

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Robin Layton

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