Your router isn’t like the other internet devices in your house.
It’s the gateway that allows the devices on your home network to access the internet. Without one, you wouldn’t be able to check your email, stream your favorite show, or post on social media.
Your router is vital to your internet connection, but it’s unique for another reason as well.
Let’s talk about IP addresses.
Your router has two IP addresses. One IP address for your private home network, as well as one for the public internet. This allows the devices in your home to communicate with each other, as well as the other devices and websites on the internet.
Why is this interesting?
It’s different because the rest of your internet devices will only have one IP address.
So why does a router have two IP addresses while your other devices have one?
Read on to find out all you need to know about your router’s IP addresses.
What are IP addresses used for?
Let’s go through a quick refresher of IP addresses.
IP addresses are unique sets of numbers that are used to identify your internet devices. Think of them like your phone number or home address. Each phone or house gets a unique number so phone calls or packages get sent to the right place.
Your internet equipment works the same way.
Each device in your home network will have an IP address so it can easily be identified. This includes your:
- Cell phone
- Smart TV
The list goes on and on. Any device in your home that connects to the internet will have an IP address.
Why are IP addresses important to routers?
Without IP addresses, your router wouldn’t be able to do its job.
Routers are in charge of making sure your data gets to the right place. In this sense, they’re kind of like the post office.
Every time your laptop sends a request to the internet, your router makes sure the request goes to the right website.
The same goes for your internal network. Every time your wirelessly print something, it’s your router that allows that to happen.
How does this work?
Much like the post office, your router has an address book of all the devices in your network. Whenever your laptop says “I need to print out this document”, your router makes sure that request goes to the address of the printer.
The same goes for a request to the internet. When one of your devices tries to access a website, your router makes sure that the request goes to the location of the web server that contains the requested page. On top of that, it keeps track of the address of the device that made the request so when the website is returned from the web server, it ends up at the device that made the request.
If our devices weren’t assigned IP addresses, our routers would have to guess where to send the data it receives.
Could you imagine if the post office had to guess the destination of all the letters and packages it received?
Yikes. That’s a scary thought.
How many IP addresses should a router have?
Ok so your router directs the traffic from your network to the internet using IP addresses.
What does this have to do with the IP address of a router? And how many IP addresses does a router have?
IP addresses affect how your router functions. Not only is your router in charge of directing the traffic on your internal network, but it’s also responsible for the communication between your devices and the public internet.
Due to the fact that your router handles traffic on both internal and external IP addresses, it must be able to communicate with both. This impacts the number of IP addresses your router has.
As a result of the internal and external IP addresses it needs to communicate with, your router will have two IP addresses. One internal IP address and one external IP address.
Let’s break down each of your router’s IP addresses and the purpose of each.
Your router’s private IP address
Your router needs to have an internal IP address so the devices on your home network can communicate with each other.
Private IP address assignment
Your router’s private IP address will depend upon its manufacturer. Manufacturer’s design their routers to have specific private IP addresses when they’re made. Many manufacturers use the same private IP address for their routers.
In fact, there are many websites that list the default IP addresses of common routers.
What is my router’s private IP address used for?
If routers didn’t have an internal IP addresses, home networks wouldn’t exist.
Let’s map this out.
Above is an example of a router and devices in a home network.
You may notice that each device has a 192.168.1.X IP address listed. These are called private IP addresses. Each device on your home network will be assigned a private IP address by your router.
Private IP addresses are reserved for devices on home networks. In order for a device on your home network to communicate with the other devices on your home network, it must have a private IP address.
Also of note is that private IP addresses can’t communicate with external (or public) IP addresses. They’re reserved for internal traffic only.
This is why your router must have a private IP address. It needs to coordinate the requests sent between the devices on the internal network. It can only communicate with these devices if it has a private IP address as well.
For example, when your phone is on your WiFi and it sends a command to turn on one of your WiFi-connected smart outlets, your phone sends the request to your router. Your router is able to receive this request because it has a private IP address.
Once your router gets the request from your phone, it forwards the command to the smart outlet on your network at the requested internal IP address. Your WiFi outlet will then turn on as requested.
If your router didn’t have an internal IP address, your home network devices wouldn’t be able to communicate with each other.
Hopefully you can see how important your router is to your home network.
How do I find out my router’s private IP address?
There are several different ways to find out what your router’s internal IP address is.
The first (and probably easiest) way to find out your router’s IP address is by using your phone.
With your phone
I have an iPhone, but the process will be similar if you have an Android device.
In your phone, you need to go into Settings.
From there, you need to go into your WiFi settings. Select your home’s WiFi network.
On the next screen, select the information icon next to your home’s WiFi network that you’re connected to.
When your WiFi network screen opens, scroll down towards the bottom. You’ll see your router’s IP address listed under the IPV4 Address header.
Now I know my router’s internal IP address is 192.168.0.1.
That’s probably the easiest way to find your router’s private IP address. You can also find your router’s IP address with your computer.
With your computer
The second way to find your router’s internal IP address is to use the ipconfig (or ifconfig) command on a computer that’s on your network.
First things first. Grab your computer and make sure it’s connected to your home WiFi.
To start, type “cmd” into the search bar on the bottom of your computer. This will allow you to select the Command Prompt application.
Once you select the Command Prompt application, a new window will open that looks like this.
In this window, type “ipconfig” and press enter.
You’ll see a bunch of information pop up on the screen. Look for the “Wireless LAN adapter Wi-Fi” header.
Under this header you’ll see Default Gateway. The IP address next to Default Gateway will be your router’s internal IP address.
As you can see, my router’s internal IP address is 192.168.0.1.
If you have a Mac or Linux computer, the above steps will be very similar. The only difference will be that you need to use the “ifconfig” command instead of the “ipconfig” command.
If you have any trouble with this, please leave a comment below this post.
Your router’s public IP address
Ok, so your router’s internal IP address allows your home network’s devices to communicate with each other.
What about its external IP address?
Public IP address assignment
Your router’s public IP address is assigned by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). When you set up an internet plan and connect your modem and router to the internet, the ISP will give your router a unique IP address that hasn’t been used yet.
What is my router’s public IP address used for?
Your router’s external IP address is used for communication with the internet. In other words, it allows the devices on your home network to access the internet.
Let’s take a look at an example.
Unlike your home network, all websites on the internet have a public (external) IP address. This public IP address is what your devices use to identify the location of a website they want to access.
If you can remember from above, internal IP addresses can’t communicate with public IP addresses.
So how do your devices with internal IP address communicate with websites that have external IP addresses?
As you may have guessed, your router can help with that.
By having both an internal and external IP address, your router can communicate with both your internal network and the external internet.
If a device on your internal network wants to access a website, it reaches out to your router indicating the external location of the site it wants to access.
Your router receives this request on its internal IP address. It then passes the request out to the public internet from its public IP address.
Here’s an example of an internet request from one of the internet devices on your home network:
As you can see here, your router is bridging the gap between your internal network and the rest of the internet. It needs an IP address that can communicate with both in order to do that.
That’s why it must have a public IP address.
How do I find out my router’s public IP address?
You’ll be happy to hear that finding your router’s public IP address is less complicated than determining its private IP address.
All you need is a device connected to your home internet and an internet browser.
Open up your internet browser (e.g. Chrome) and Google “what is my IP address?”
The top result in Google should indicate your router’s public IP address.
Here’s what it looks like when I google “what is my IP address?”:
As you can see, my router’s public IP address is 73.X.X.X (I have blocked my full IP address for security reasons).
See? Simple as that.
This public IP address will be the location that websites use to send your internet devices the data they request. This can be websites, video streams, email, etc.
Without a public IP address, any request you send to the internet wouldn’t be returned to your devices.
Going back to the mail analogy, if a package doesn’t have a return address, you’d have no idea where it came from. Without a public IP address showing where the internet request came from, a web server wouldn’t know where to send the website that was requested.
Routers have two IP addresses so they can bridge the gap between your internal home network and the public internet. They allow your devices to not only communicate with each other, but with the internet as well.
Hopefully you realize what an important role your router plays in connecting your devices.
If you found this information useful, check out the following related posts:
Can I Move My WiFi Router to Another House?
Can a Router Overheat? A Detailed Analysis
Why Do Routers Have Multiple Antennas?
What Do My Router Lights Mean?
If you have any questions or would like to share your experiences with your router, feel free to drop a comment below.