How to find an IP address
AN IP (Internet Protocol) Address identifies a computer on a network. Most computers these days have 2 IP Addresses;
- LAN (Local Area Network) IP Address, and
- WAN (Wide Area Network) IP Address, shared with other computers on the LAN.
A computer that is not on any kind of local area network won't have the LAN IP Address.
The Local IP address identifies the computer on the LAN, or Local Area Network. Most home and business routers (the device that connects your computer to the internet) provide your computer with a Local IP address when the computer first boots up.
If you're running Windows, you can see your Local IP address this way:
- Open a Command Window
- Type ipconfig and press the Enter Key
- Look for the line that starts with "IP Address..."
From home, your IP address will probably start with 192, followed by 3 other numbers seperated by periods. From work, your IP address will probably be comprised of a different set of numbers in the same format.
If your local IP address begins with 169, then you may have a problem. The 169 series is used as a default assignment when your computer can't find a router or some other device on the network to issue a real IP address.
The WAN IP Address assigned to your computer is actually assigned to your router by your Internet provider. All the computers on your side of the router use the same WAN IP value. This IP address is usually the way that the rest of the Internet identifies you. Many sites record this information in the event that they need to backtrack to you in the future. It's not a fool-proof identification technique by any means, but it's interesting. Your internet provider assigns you a WAN IP address from a pool of addresses; any site you visit will see the address but won't be able to tie it directly to you. The FBI probably could, but not the average web site.
To see your WAN IP Address, visit a web site called WhatIsMyIP.com or any other similar site. I'm not endorsing this particular site, but I have used it in the past.
To use the site, simply surf to it with Internet Explorer, FireFox, or any other Internet browser program. You don't have to enter any information. Every site you visit has access to your WAN IP address; this site just gives it back to you.
Your WAN IP address will almost certainly change over time if you are connected to an internet service provider. It may change at any time during the day; your service will not be affected when it happens. If you're using the computer at the time you won't even notice the difference.
Most ISPs offer a static IP for a slight additional cost per month. This investment provides you with an IP address that is guaranteed not to change.