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IP Address? Whats that?!

An Internet Protocol (IP) address is a numerical identification that is assigned to computers and other devices which are participating in a computer network.

There are two types of IP addresses. A LAN (Local area Network) IP address which is a private IP and a public IP address which is used on the Internet or other WAN (Wide area Networks). In a Local area Network, each device (PC or even a network enabled Printer) have their own unique IP address. If there were to be a conflict in IP addresses one of the involved devices would not be able to access the network.

Your operating system is often configured to obtain TCP/IP settings automatically by default unless otherwise specified by your Administrator. So where does this IP address come from?

Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP)

When you turn your PC on, it sends a signal looking for an IP address and given that your PC is connected to your modem/router via network cable, the router is listening and waiting for such signals (DHCP server). Your PC then receives an IP address from your router and can now access network resources and the Internet. If you were to unplug your PC from the router, you would obviously lose this connection and network access.

Your router is configured by default to act as a DHCP server and it is recommended to leave it that way unless you have a server and your running your own software based DHCP and DNS servers.

A DHCP server basically distributes private IP addresses and information about your network such as your DNS and default gateway to the clients which is your PC or anything else that has a Network Interface Card and is connected to your router.

Private IP Address

A typical private IP address would look something like this: 192.168.0.5 or 192.168.1.15. This depends on the DHCP settings on the router or server.

To find your local IP address, click on the Start button, click on Run... enter "cmd" without the quotation marks and press enter. Windows Command Prompt will open in a black window. Here you can type some commands that will tell you what your IP address, DNS server IP address and Default Gateway IP address is.

Type: ipconfig /all
Press enter.

DNS (Domain Name System) is a protocol used to convert domain names to IP addresses. The Default Gateway is your modem/router and it serves as an access point to another network such as the Internet.

Public IP Address

Your public IP address is assigned to your modem/router by your ISP (Internet Service Provider). Your public IP address can be static (never changes) or dynamic depending on your ISP. Each modem/router has a single public IP address. If you have a dual WAN router, you can have two modems connected to your router and have load balancing or use the two Internet connections across two different networks, using separate public IP addresses.

Your public IP address is completely different to your local, private one. To find out what your public IP address is, you can login to your router (via Default Gateway IP address in ipconfig /all) by opening your web browser and browsing to it. E.g. http://192.168.0.1 and looking at the status or connection page.

Alternatively, you can use a handy website like www.ipchicken.com and find out what your public IP address is.

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