What is an IP address?

Blue computer screen with white text showing IP address
Do you know how to locate your IP address?
Have you ever contacted customer service and, before your request could be handled, asked to provide your IP address? The question sometimes comes up in the context of emailing or cloud storage, but, unlike our email address or phone number, it’s not usually information we have on the tip of our tongues! But even though we’re not usually aware of our IP addresses, we all use them – and today we’ll explain why.

What is an IP address used for?

 “IP” stands for “internet protocol,” which is nothing more than the standard for the exchange of information on the internet. The idea is that every device within a network needs a unique address to identify it so information can be sent to and from the device. Without an IP address, it wouldn’t be possible to deliver emails or search results to your device – just like it wouldn’t be possible to deliver a package to your house without knowing the address, or call your cell phone without the number.

How do I find out my IP address?

This depends on whether you are looking for your private (also called “local”) IP address or your public IP addresses. Your private IP address is the address that your device has within a local network, like your home or company. Your public IP address is the code identifying your device when it is connected to the internet.
It is easy to find your public IP address online. All you have to do is type “What is my IP address?” into your internet browser search engine and the IP address under which you are currently connected to the internet will be displayed.
To find the local IP address of your device, go to your device settings. Depending on your device, the IP address will be listed under Network Settings, About, or, in the case of wireless devices, under the Wi-Fi router the device is connected to. If you have problems locating the IP address of your specific device, perform an internet search for “IP address of [type of device]” and follow the instructions that appear.
Alternatively, if you are using Windows on your computer, you can press the [Windows] + [R] keys and enter “cmd.exe” in the window that opens. A black screen will appear. Enter the command “ipconfig” to view your local IP address.

What does an IP address tell you?

An IP address reveals geolocation as well as information about recent internet activity. Some people are afraid that an IP address discloses specific information about them as individuals. But don’t worry – it’s not possible to tell any personal information about you from your IP address, like your name, home address or age. And remember, when you connect to the internet, the IP address being shared is the public one assigned by the internet service provider and not the private address of your computer. So the geolocation that’s given is that of the network you are using; the public IP address does not pinpoint your exact physical location.

 What does an IP address look like?

The most commonly used form of IP address, IPv4, consists of four blocks of numbers separated by dots. These numbers range from 0 to 255, so an IPv4 address looks something like this: The first part identifies the unique number of the network as well as the class of network. The second part is a unique identifier for the host, or machine. Because of the rapid growth of the internet, a new standard called IPv6 has also been introduced, although it is still relatively uncommon. IPv6 addresses also include letters and colons as well as numbers, for example 1301:0bd7:32b6:0011:2000:8j9e:062:7548. This exponentially increases the number of available combinations. Luckily the computers take care of everything, so you’ll never have to learn one by heart!
We hope this has cleared up some of the mysteries surrounding IP addresses. If you found the article helpful, please leave us some feedback below!
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