What is Ping?

What is Ping?

Ping is a computer network administration software utility that is able to measure the reachability of a host that is on an Internet Protocol network.  Ping is available for most operating systems that have networking capabilities as well as most embedded network administration software.  This tool is used to test whether or not a host is reachable across an IP network and measures the time that it takes for packets to be sent from the local host to a destination computer and then back again.  In other words the Ping tool is used to measure and record the round-trip time of the packet and whether or not is has losses along the way.


Mike Muuss wrote the ping utility in December 1983.  This utility was designed to troubleshoot network problems. The Ping name was derived from active sonar technology that sends a pulse of sound and then listens for the echo to detect objects that are under water.  Similarly Ping operates by sending Internet Control Message Protocol packets directly to the target host and then waiting for an echo reply.  This program is used to report errors or packet loss and gives a statistical summary of the results that are obtained.  It is important to note that the command-line options of the ping utility and its output can vary between the numerous implementations, and options may include the size of the payload, count of tests, limits for the number of network hops, intervals between the requests and time that is taken up by waiting for a response.


How Ping works


The Ping program was designed to work very much like a sonar echolocation by sending small packet of information containing an ICMP ECHO_REQUEST to a specified computer, which then sends an ECHO_REPLY packet back in return. The IP address is set to always indicate your own computer so that a ping that is sent to that address will always ping yourself making the delay very short.


How to use Ping


Ping can be used to successfully perform several network diagnostics:


  • Access 
  • Time and distance 
  • Domain IP address 


Access Ping is used to establish if another computer can be reached.  If you are unable to reach a certain site but able to ping other sites, then this more than likely means that your network is fine and that the site you are pinging is down. If, however, you are unable to ping any site then it more than likely means that your network connection is down.


Solution: Try rebooting


Time and Distance Ping can be used to determine how long it takes to bounce a packet off another site.  This is effect tells you its distance in network terms. Other Internet service providers may go through more routers and be further away in network distance than a site on the other side of the world that has a direct connection to the Internet.  If a site that you are visiting appears to be slow then you can compare ping distances to various other sites in order to determine whether there are problems with the site and the network or if your system is slow.  You are also able to make a comparison between ping times to gain an idea as to which sites offer the fastest network access.


Domain IP address You can ping either an IP address or a domain name. When you ping a domain name it will display the corresponding IP address in the response.




You can perform a ping on a Windows computer by opening an MSDOS window and then typing “ping” followed by the domain name or IP address of the computer you would like to ping. You can then list the available options with the command “ping -?”.


If you can’t use Ping from your own computer, or want to do a ping from another location you can use one of the following web sites:



Remember that pings are sent from the computer that is hosting the web site and not from your own computer. Bearing this in mind, the times that are returned actually reflect the time for communication from the website and not from your computer.  Pings are, however, useful in determining if an address can be reached from various places around the Internet and are beneficial in determining how long it will take to reach one site as opposed to other sites.


How to Ping an IP Address


You can use the following steps to ping an IP address:


Open the Command-Line Interface


  • Windows users can search “cmd” on the Start taskbar search field or Start screen.
  • Mac users can open the Terminal from the Utilities folder within Applications.
  • Linux users can open the terminal from the applications menu or can run Ubuntu to launch the terminal by using the shortcut Ctrl + Alt + T.


Now You Can Input the Ping Command


The command will take on one of two forms:


“ping [insert hostname]”

“ping [insert IP address]”

Mac OS X users can open the Network Utility and navigate to the “Ping” tab. Thereafter you can type the host name or intended IP address and also establish how many pings you would like to send. Four pings is normally sufficient enough to get a representative average latency.


Press Enter to Analyse the Result


The first line will reiterate the command that is pinging to a specific host. The lines after that will then list the responses to each and every individual ping.  This includes the packet size, the response time, the time to live or the hop limit. The lines that are shown beneath this will display ping statistics showing you the number of packets that have been sent, received and lost as well as the minimum, maximum and average round-trip ping time.


Use the Results to Help You Infer a Variety of Things


If you find that the ping returns no lost data, then it is reasonable to assume that your connection is secure, and that the IP address is online.  If your ping request results in output to show that some packets have been lost, you will be able to determine that the device is battling with an unreliable connection.


If the request times out, then this could be attributed to the following:


  • The pinged IP address is incorrect or may not exist.
  • The IP address may belong to a device that has settings to prevent it from responding to pings.
  • The IP address could be offline.



Network admins have a massive responsibility as they have to make sure that they manage an entire network, regardless of its size or environment. Luckily there are many ping tools that can be used with well-designed software that can lighten any load and streamline the collection of data using various techniques.

what is ping?

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