What is an IP address?

Justin Herrick
Justin Herrick
Apr 26, 2019

They are the zip codes of the Internet, used to identify every device online.

Internet Protocol, or IP, addresses surround us.

Every device has two of them — a public IP address and a private IP address.

Both serve different purposes, which might explain what’s occurring when your Wi-Fi network and devices can’t seem to get along. See, there’s a lot more to an IP address than just its series of numbers.

We’re going to discuss the most important topics surrounding IP addresses:

Here’s everything you need to know about IP addresses.

What is an IP address?

The term “IP address” stands for “internet protocol address” and refers to the unique string of numbers that identifies your devices — such as a computer, tablet, smartphone or smart TV — as they communicate across networks on the internet. In short, IP addresses are vital in getting online and transmitting data.

An example of an IP address would be:

How do IP addresses work?

Wi-Fi networks aren’t examining devices in detail. Instead, they glance at IP addresses.

The IP address identifies a device and its connection with numbers. Both the Wi-Fi network and nearby devices are communicating, and IP addresses ensure all connections know the others.

From the IP address alone, the Wi-Fi network understands where to send and receive data at any time. Each connection gets assigned two IP addresses, and a Wi-Fi network latches onto them. When setting up your Wi-Fi network or troubleshooting issues, IP addresses are integral due to their representation of all connections.

Take a look at Google’s brief description of IP addresses.

The IP address “works like a return address would on a piece of mail.” Rather than putting only a name, you write down mailing and return addresses. With that information, the piece of mail knows where to go and where to return. IP addresses aren’t any different as they guide data between networks, servers and devices. Without IP addresses, data wouldn’t know where to travel.

There are two versions of IP addresses. IPv4 doesn’t allow so many devices to be assigned IP addresses. The new version, IPv6, enables a larger number of devices to be assigned IP addresses and connect simultaneously. So you’ll benefit from wireless routers and devices based on IPv6.

What are the different types of IP addresses?

IP addresses also come in different types. Most likely, you’re on a combination of a public IP address that uses a connection from an internet service provider and a private IP address for connections on your own devices. Basically, a public IP address links you to the outside world while a private IP address handles local activities.

The two types are directly related as one gets you online, and the other enables inter-device communication. Computers use public IP addresses since they’re tapping into outside resources. A wireless printer, though, will leverage a private IP address to accept requests from external devices. It’s all about getting devices to communicate.

However, there are dynamic and static IP addresses as well. Dynamic IP addresses automatically change for each connection. It’ll be altered for every computer, smartphone and tablet that joins the Wi-Fi network. Static IP addresses remain the same for easier identification and management.

What’s my IP address? How do I check my IP address?

Your IP address will be displayed as a series of numbers. The exact numbers don’t refer to anything specific, but as a whole, it’s a collection of binary digits that label each connection.

From any web browser, use Google Search and enter “what is my IP address” or simply “IP address.” The search engine will return an answer box at the top of the page that includes your IP address.

Additionally, you can check your IP address directly from your devices in the network settings. It might be quicker to use one of these tools — IP Location Finder, IP-Lookup and WhatIsMyIP.com. There are other tools to choose from, but we tend to prefer Google Search and the three third-party options for ease of use.

Why should I know my IP address?

Knowing your IP address will assist you in setting up, managing and troubleshooting your Wi-Fi network. It’s wonderful when everything performs perfectly, but there will definitely be moments when everything stumbles. Don’t rush to pay someone for a fix right away, though. Maybe you can look at your Wi-Fi network’s settings and discover an IP address-related problem.

Read our guide on how to boost your Wi-Fi signal, too. It could lead to enhanced coverage and speeds, or maybe it’ll suggest you should shop for a new internet service provider.