How to Figure Out Your IP Address… and Why You Might Want To

How to Figure Out Your IP Address... and Why You Might Want Toip-address-gettyimages-959724098.jpg

I remember the first time I ever thought about an IP address. It was when a former co-worker — my company’s IT specialist at the time — told me he knew his partner was “The One” when he found out she knew her IP address. It was a charming story. But then I walked away thinking, “Why don’t I know my IP address?”  

Maybe you’re reading this, and you’re asking similar questions. What is an IP address? How can I figure out what my IP address is? Is it actually helpful to know my IP address? All valid questions. Let’s explore. 

Why should you know your IP address?

Besides the old “knowing is half the battle” adage, you might wonder why you should care about your IP address.

Knowing your IP address can help you fix problems with your network, especially if you need to troubleshoot a problem. For instance, if you’re experiencing a laggy connection or a lost signal altogether (and have already run an internet speed test and restarted your equipment), your provider will need to know your device’s IP address to help determine the issue. This way, your ISP can rule out whether or not the network issue is on your end or if it’s a much larger problem than your connectivity alone.

Providing your device’s IP address is also required when setting up service at your home. After plugging in a modem, your ISP will need to connect your device to the equipment, granting you access to the internet.

What’s an IP address?

IP stands for “internet protocol,” and your IP address is a set of numbers identifying a specific device or network. An IP address can be either public or private — with one being more traceable than the other.

Public IP address

A public or external IP address is assigned from your provider to your network router. While other internet users won’t be able to see it, websites and advertisers will sometimes use your public IP address to learn about your online preferences. Have you ever had an ad pop up for something you were just searching for on Google? That’s due to websites tracing your public IP address.

Private IP address

This type of IP address is much more secure, meaning only devices on the same network can access it. Every device you use to connect to the internet, whether it’s a computer, phone or game console, has its own private IP address. This is why you can send documents directly from your computer to your printer, but your neighbor can’t send over their files accidentally.

How to find your IP address

OK, let’s kick this off with the easiest option. To get hold of your public IP address in a snap, type “what is my IP” into your Google search bar. Voila… your public IP address will be revealed!

Your private IP address is a bit trickier to find, for good reasons. The way to locate your IP address will differ between devices, but it usually entails entering your system preferences and heading to the Network section. For Mac users, selecting the Details button next to your Wi-Fi network will reveal your IP address. If you’re a Windows user, you must choose the Properties option under Network and Internet, then scroll until you find it listed.

For smartphones, game consoles and other devices that use the internet, you’ll usually start the process with the Settings application. Most devices have a Network and Internet section, similar to computers, so that should be your next step. We recommend searching online for a more detailed explainer, since every device differs.

Final thoughts about IP addresses

While it probably won’t help you to identify your life partner, knowing your IP address might assist you in several ways. Your IP address is important to know overall, but it can also help you identify network problems and troubleshoot if necessary. You can also switch to a new IP address if need be. Changing your IP address is an excellent way to improve your device’s security, privacy and performance, and it can also help reconfigure your network after updating your router.

A device’s IP address is like its house keys — necessary for accessing the internet, but also to be protected from unwanted visitors. To ensure that only you can access your computer, keep your IP address secure and update it regularly for an added layer of protection.

IP address FAQs

What does the ‘IP’ in IP address stand for?

The “IP” in IP address stands for “internet protocol,” which is a set of rules for how data is sent over the internet.

What does an IP address do?

An IP address is an identifier for your router or device. Assigned by your internet provider, an IP address lets you indirectly connect to the internet through your provider’s service.

Can a hacker learn my IP address?

Your IP address can get hacked if you’re not careful online, which hackers can use to commit fraud or discover your location and identity. Former CNET senior writer Rae Hodge gives a straightforward tutorial on several ways you can change your IP address if this situation ever arises.

How do I keep my private IP address secure?

If you’re worried about hackers discovering your IP address, using a virtual private network, or VPN, allows you to hide behind a different IP address while you browse online. Only using secure networks to access the internet and regularly updating your devices can also help keep your information safe.

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