find the IP address of your things – introduction

When you set up a gadget or device you’ll sometimes be asked what its IP address is – and gosh – becoming at ease with that question is good for you. Every gadget connected to your broadband router will have an IP address (aka IPv4 address) and that thing’s address ends in a number between 1 to 255. For example, my ‘ee’ broadband router’s local IP address is 192.168.1.1 and everything connected to it has a seemingly random address number between 192.168.1.2 and 192.168.1.255.

IP therefore I am”.

Your everything is nothing without an ip address says Roger Frost

You need to find the IP address of a new gadget because you might have to type this to use it. And some gadgets, such as IP cameras, wireless repeaters and network storage drives have a ‘web server’ built into them and you’ll need to know which IP address to type into the browser to set them up.

To find the IP address of many devices on your network you can login to the router. When you login to the router, it doesn’t tell you about everything connected to it. Mine does not list devices which set their own IP addresses even though they’re connected and working. So download an app such as IP scanner or Angry IP scanner. When you run such an app it’ll tell you the IP address of all that’s connected and by turning things off you’ll find the address you need. But be patient – it might take several minutes before an IP address appears.

Tips on setting an IP address

  • If you login to your router by typing 192.168.1.1/ and enter the password stuck to it you can find the DHCP menu. Look for ‘IP address reservation’. Here you can fix the IP address used by the network gadget you have. Do try to do that. By doing this you’ll not have to look for it again. You might or might not need to know the mac address (device serial number) of the gadget to make progress.
  • You can instead set the IP address of a gadget on the device itself. By all means do that instead (not as well as set the IP address on the router) – it’ll help if you then write the IP address on a sticker.
  • I have a loose system for setting an IP address for a device – I set my wired Raspberry Pi addresses to end in an even number and set their wireless IP addresses to end in odd numbers. This is arguably good for my mental health. My computer and other important device IP addresses all end in a single digit number. I set (say) the odd number 5 for its wireless connection and 6 for its wired connection. I also set the router to give out IP addresses between 2 and 199 – a restriction which gives me less numbers to try to remember.
  • When you’re done fixing IP addresses in the router, look for the menu item backup configuration and you can save a file to use in case someone, probably you in a resigned state, resets your router.
  • You can usually ignore IPv6 addresses – these are long strings of characters. My router doesn’t even support IPv6 so it seems wise to disable IPv6 on say, the TV else it won’t work.

Tell me about ports

If IP addresses seem confusing, ports will seem evil. But they’re not really. All network devices have ports – just as a hifi amplifier has sockets on back of it. If you’re told a device uses port 8080, it sort of tells you ‘where its socket is at its back’. In other words: the IP address tells you where the gadget is on your network, while the port tells you how to get into it.

You’ll read that some devices have a ‘web server’ built into them. It means that to get into them, you type the IP address into a browser e.g. http://192.168.1.52/. If you read that the device uses port 8123 you’ll need to append numbers to the address you type i.e. http://192.168.1.52:8123/. If you read that the device uses port 80 there’s no need to type it as 80 is the default web server port.

Tell me about https:// and http://

In short, one will work and will not work at all. You’ll see these prefixes attached to IP addresses as in http://192.168.1.52/ or https://192.168.1.52/. The second address uses a secure connection but it will only connect if the device was set to use a secure connection. The first address uses an insecure connection but it will only connect if the device is happy to use an insecure connection. But you could be lucky so try one version and if that doesn’t work try the other.

Tell me about port forwarding

Port forwarding is something you need to do if you want to say, look at an IP camera image at your home while you’re away for the weekend. So you must tell your broadband router upfront that the camera is connected to a certain port number – otherwise the router won’t know where to find it to show you. Turning on UPnP in the router may help. Using the app for the device will surely help too. But if neither helps you to get into your home stuff while you’re away, go to https://portforward.com/ to learn what you need to do.

If you want to test whether you can work your home automation or see a camera while you’re away, pick up your phone and turn off its wifi. Now try to connect to your home automation using your external IP address (i.e. not an address that looks anything like 192.168.x.x). Remember to specify the address:port number and whether it’s http:// or https:// but try both anyway.

Internal IP address and external IP address

So far we’ve said that every device connected to your broadband router has an IP address so that it can be found. (And it also has a port so that it can be used). These devices are part of your internal, local, network at home. Your router however faces two ways. It faces inwards towards your devices with the IP address of 192.168.1.1. But it is also connected to the internet outside and it has another very different external IP address. You can look this up at whatismyip.com. The key thing to know is that internal IP addresses take the form 192.168.x.x and are the most useful to you when setting up a new thing. If you see an IP address with very different numbers it’s likely to be an external address.

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