Every Internet-connected device has an IP address. Within each home or business network, devices connect to the Internet and to each other using those IP addresses. Private IP addresses within the three different private IP address ranges are what keeps connections between devices working successfully.
What is a private IP address?
A private IP address is an IP assigned to devices on private networks. These types of IPs, also referred to as local IP addresses or internal IP addresses, are used on local area networks (LANs) like your home network. These blocks are reserved for private IP addresses only by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA).
There are two types of IP address: IPv4 and IPv6. Originally, private IP addresses were created in order to help delay the exhaustion of IPv4 addresses, as there is a limited number of IPv4 addresses. But even with the theoretical 4,294,967,296 addresses created by the 32-bit system, IPv4 address space began to run low with the amount of new Internet-connected devices that came into businesses and homes.
Thus, private IP addresses allowed private networks to use the same IP addresses internally without causing conflicts for public IP addresses. Though IPv6 addresses ended up being the solution to IPv4 exhaustion, the private IP address system still exists for internal networks.
Thousands of WiFi routers use internal IP addresses. Networks are able to do this without conflict because the router creates a private network, preventing external users from seeing the internal IP addresses assigned. Each device within a network has a private IP address. Additionally, all those devices operate under one public IP address, which is typically the IP of the router.
There are several common internal IP addresses used for home networks and routers: 192.168.1.1, 192.168.0.1, 192.168.1.254, 192.168.100.1, 192.168.12.1, and 10.0.0.1 are a few of the most frequently-used.
The router assigns local IP addresses to devices on a network that connect to WiFi. When a connected device makes a request to a website, the router directs the traffic accordingly, both externally through your Internet service connection and internally back to the device that made the request via Network Address Translation (NAT).
What are public versus private IP addresses?
The difference between public and private IP addresses is their connection. Despite the fact IP addresses do assist in Internet connectivity, a private IP address is not directly connected to the Internet. However, it allows you to connect securely to multiple devices in your LAN.
A public IP address connects that network of private IPs to the Internet – the wide area network (WAN). It allows a local IP address to receive Internet traffic via a router.
As an Internet user, you have both a public IP and a private IP. If you stay on your home network, your private IP may vary depending on the device you use. However, your public IP will remain the same as long as you remain on that network.
What are the three private IP address ranges?
The three private address ranges are class A, class B, and class C. The class A private IP address range goes from 10.0.0.1 to 10.255.255.255. The class B private IP address range includes from 172.16.0.0 to 172.31.255.255, and class C private IP addresses span between 192.168.0.0 and 192.168.255.255.
Class A IP addresses
Class A has a total of 16,777,216 IPs available and is for very large networks or several networks behind the same external IP requires separation. The typical subnet mask for this range is 255.0.0.0.
Take this scenario, for example: the network administrator wants to segment out each floor of a building where the entire building uses a single external Internet connection. The administrator doesn't want each floor to connect with devices from another floor. The solution may look like this:
All devices on floor 1 get an IP in the range of 10.1.0.*. Subsequently, floor 2 IPs would be assigned 10.2.0.*, and floor 3 would be assigned 10.3.0.*. The subnet mask to keep every floor separated could be 255.255.0.0.
In simple terms, the subnet means the first two octets must match in order to communicate directly between two devices. Two devices with 10.2.0.2 and 10.2.0.3 would therefore be able to connect directly, like a network PC and a network printer. However, a device with 10.3.0.5 would not be able to print to the same printer as devices on floor 2.
Larger networks and subnets can be very complex. The above is a very simple explanation so as not to overcomplicate an example.
Class B IP addresses
Class B has a total of 1,048,576 IPs available and is for large networks. The typical subnet mask for this range is 255.240.0.0. However, this is the least-used range, likely because Class A or Class C IPs will fulfill network requirements and are much easier to remember.
Class C IP addresses
Class C has a total of 65,536 IPs available. Comparatively, it has fewer IPs available, but is sufficient for most users and some businesses for their local network needs. The typical subnet mask for this range is 255.255.0.0, but most users in this network range will see the subnet as 255.255.255.0 giving that range 256 available device connections.
IPv6 addresses have been assigned the fc00::/7 range for private networks. The number of available IPv6 addresses is so vast requiring the reservation of a single address. The mindset is that there are enough IPv6 addresses that every connected advice could have an external IP address and configured in such a way to still be able to communicate within a local network.
How to find your local IP address
Find local IP in MacOS
To find your local IP on a Mac, follow these steps:
- Select the Apple menu.
- Select System Preferences.
- Click Network.
- With WiFi selected in the left column, select Advanced in the lower right corner.
- Select the TCP/IP tab and view your local IP address.
Find local IP in Windows
To find your local IP in Windows, follow these steps:
- Click the Start menu.
- Select Settings.
- Choose Network & Internet from the left menu.
- Click Properties from the top menu to view your local IP address.
Alternatively, you can follow the procedure for command prompt:
- Open the Start menu. Then, type cmd.
- In the Command Prompt window, type ipconfig and press Enter.
Find local IP in iPhone or iPad
To find your local IP on your iPhone or on your iPad, follow these steps:
- Open the Settings app.
- Select WiFi.
- Select the information icon next to the WiFi connection to view your local IP address.
Find local IP in Android
To find your local IP on your Android, follow these steps:
- Open your Settings app.
- Select About Phone.
- Select Status Information to view your local IP address.
Frequently asked questions
Is 192.168 a private IP address?
Yes. This is the most common private range. Many routers use this range and come preset from the factory. If you've taken a look at local IP addresses within your own network, you've likely seen the following:
Subnet Mask: 255.255.255.0
Router or Gateway: 192.168.1.1
This is a good private IP address example; it shows all the information necessary for users.
What is a 172 IP address?
An IP that starts with 172 could be public or private. However, if the second octet in the IP is 16 or 31, it's definitely a private address. 172.16.1.1 and 172.31.99.4 are private, but 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52 are available as a public IP address because they're outside of the designated Class B private range.
What is my own private IP?
You can easily find your local IP within your network. Web browsers, by default, previously allowed your internal IP address detection and displayed on websites like this one. However, with tightening measures in WebRTC, this is no longer allowed. As a result, users looking to find their local or private IP must do it through their computer's operating system or command prompt system.
How does a private IP address access the Internet?
A private IP address can’t access the Internet on its own; it only works to connect devices to one another on a local area network. However, the local area network operates under a public IP address, which connects private IP addresses to the Internet.