When you access the internet, it involves a series of private and public connections between networks and devices.
And in a world where there are more than FOUR BILLION internet users, that’s a lot of connections.
How do the wires keep from getting crossed, so to speak? The secret to an organized global network is the IP address.
Changing yours can help you do everything from troubleshoot your Wi-Fi to letting you stream your favorite shows while you’re on holiday.
What is an IP address?
An IP address, or Internet Protocol address, is a unique series of numbers which contain information about the corresponding device’s location.
When a device, such as a computer, phone, or router, connects to the internet it’s assigned an IP address, or identification, which allows it to communicate with other networks.
When you visit a website, your device gives the website your IP address. The IP address contains information about the country, state (or province), city and ZIP code of the device. This allows that website to send the information you’re requesting to the right location.
Different types of IP addresses
- Public: Also referred to as an external IP address, this is the address assigned to your device. It typically changes each time you establish a new network connection. This is how your device communicates with networks outside of your own.
- Private: This isn’t shared with external networks; instead, a private IP address is what your devices use to connect to one another on private networks. One common example is the connection between your computer and printer — they’d use a private IP address. Each device on your private network is assigned its own private IP address.
- Local: Like a private IP address, your local IP address is used in private networks to connect devices. Your router assigns a local IP address to each device via the DHCP server.
- Dynamic: Also generated by a DHCP server, a dynamic IP address is established each time a device connects to the network. This is a temporary IP address shared with external networks.
- Static: Rather than an address assigned by a DHCP server, static IP addresses are manually set. This is also called fixed IP address or dedicated IP address, and it’s less common than a dynamic IP address.
- IP Version 4: The IPv4 is an IP address which uses 32 bits in its number. There’s a total of 4 billion available IPv4s.
- IP Version 6: The successor of IPv4, IPv6 uses 128 bits, so there are more available addresses. This IP address was created largely because of the limited number of 32-bit IP addresses available.
Where is my IP address located?
If you want to find out what your IP address is, there are several ways to do that. A simple Google search for “IP checker” or “check IP” will turn up tons of websites you can visit which will tell you what your device’s public IP address is. These tools will also typically tell you an approximate geographical location.
To find out private IP addresses, there are a few more steps involved:
- Click Start.
- Click Run.
- Type cmd.
- Press Enter.
- A command prompt should pop up; type ipconfig.
- Press Enter.
- Your private IP address will be revealed.
- Go to System Preferences.
- Click Network.
- Your private IP address will display in the settings; for example, 10.0.0.9.
- You can also click on Connected Devices to the left to find out their private IP addresses.
Reasons to change your IP address
There may be some instances where you’ll want to change your IP address. The reasons for this include:
- Access content online which is otherwise restricted in your physical location (for example, accessing Netflix’s U.S. library while on a trip abroad)
- You can’t connect to Wi-Fi and you don’t know why
- Prevent tracking and leave no digital footprint
- Avoid throttling from your internet service provider (ISP)
- Encrypt data for increased security and data protection
- Bypass firewalls
- Fix an incorrectly configured IP address
- Use a router which is providing unusable IP addresses
- Two devices on your network share the same IP address
5 ways to change your IP address
There are some simple ways to change your IP address, which we’ll go over first before diving into device-specific options.
Switch networks. The simplest way to change the IP address of your device is to switch to a different network. For example, if you’re browsing on your home Wi-Fi connection on your smartphone, you can turn the Wi-Fi setting off and use mobile data. This will change the IP address because a different one is assigned for each network connection.
Reset your modem. When you reset your modem, this will also reset the IP address. Simply unplug the modem for at least 30 seconds, plug it back in, and connect as you normally would.
Connect via Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN will keep your public IP address private and signal to the network that you’re connecting via a different location, thus changing your IP address. This happens through an encrypted tunnel, and your ISP won’t even be able to see your activity. Check out options like TunnelBear, ExpressVPN and NordVPN.
Use a proxy server. Change the proxy settings in your web browser settings so that it automatically configures. The Web Proxy (HTTP) setting is good for basic web browsing, though you might need more specific settings depending on your needs.
Contact your ISP. Your ISP should be able to change your IP address for you.
How to change a local IP address
- Go to your Control Panel.
- Navigate to Network and Sharing Center > Change Adapter Settings > Network Connections.
- You’ll see a list of Ethernet and Wi-Fi connections. Right-click the one you want to change and select Properties.
- Go to This connection uses the following items > InterInternet Protocol Version 4 (TCP / IPv4).
- Click Properties.
- Choose Use the following IP address.
- Update the IP address to what you want it to be.
- Click OK.
- Go to System Preferences.
- Click Network.
- Highlight the device/IP address in the list on the left that you want to change and click Advanced.
- Navigate to TCP/IP.
- Update your IP address and settings according to your desired configuration.
- Click OK.
How to change a router IP address
You can change the IP address on a router by logging in to the router as an administrator account holder. The exact steps vary depending on the router you’re using. Once you log in as an admin, you have the permissions to change the IP address.
How to change a phone IP address
On your phone, you’ll navigate to the Wi-Fi settings. This varies depending on the type of phone and operating system you have. Tap on the Wi-Fi network you’re connected to and go to the advanced settings. From there, you should be able to find IP settings which you can use to configure a new IP address.
There are lots of reasons why you’d want to change your IP address. Before you do, understand the type of IP address you’re changing and the easiest way to do it.
And if you’re looking to change your IP address to fix a connectivity issue, learn how to properly set up your internet and fix a broken connection.