How to Perform a Computer Ping Test (And When You Need To)

Diagnose potential network problems with this useful tool

screenshot of a Command Prompt showing the computer ping test

A ping sends messages from one computer to another to troubleshoot Internet Protocol network connections. A ping test determines whether a client (computer, smartphone, or similar device) communicates with another device across a network. In cases where network communication is successfully established, ping tests determine the connection latency (delay) between the two devices.

Ping tests are not the same as internet speed tests. A ping tests whether or not a connection can be made; a ping does not determine the connection speed.

How Ping Tests Work

Ping uses the Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) to generate requests and handle responses.

When you execute a ping test, it sends ICMP messages from the local device to the remote one. The receiving device recognizes the incoming messages as an ICMP ping request and replies accordingly.

The elapsed time between sending the request and receiving the reply on the local device is the ping time.

How to Ping Networked Devices

In the Windows operating system, the ping command runs ping tests. It's built into the system and is executed through the Command Prompt. You must know the IP address or hostname of the device to be pinged.

To avoid issues with DNS, use the IP address. If DNS doesn't find the right IP address from the hostname, the problem might rest with the DNS server and not with your device.

The Windows command to run a ping test against a router with the 192.168.1.1 IP address looks like this:

ping 192.168.1.1

The syntax to run a ping test against a website with the hostname lifewire.com looks like this:

ping lifewire.com

If you want to do things like adjust the timeout period, the Time To Live value, or the buffer size, modify the ping command syntax.

How to Read a Ping Test

When a ping is sent to a website such as lifewire.com, the result looks like this:

Pinging lifewire.com [151.101.1.121] with 32 bytes of data:
Reply from 151.101.1.121: bytes=32 time=20ms TTL=56
Reply from 151.101.1.121: bytes=32 time=24ms TTL=56
Reply from 151.101.1.121: bytes=32 time=21ms TTL=56
Reply from 151.101.1.121: bytes=32 time=20ms TTL=56
Ping statistics for 151.101.1.121:
Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 4, Lost = 0 (0% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 20ms, Maximum = 24ms, Average = 21ms

The IP address in this example belongs to Lifewire, which is what the ping command tested. The 32 bytes is the buffer size, and it's followed by the response time.

The result of a ping test varies depending on the quality of the connection. A good broadband internet connection results in ping test latency of less than 100 ms, and often less than 30 ms. A satellite internet connection may have a latency that is greater than 500 ms.

Limitations of Ping Testing

Ping accurately measures connections between two devices at the time a test is run. Network conditions change at a moment's notice, which makes old test results irrelevant. Additionally, internet ping test results vary greatly depending on the target server that's chosen.

To get maximum value from ping testing, choose ping tools that are easy to use and point them at the right servers and services you want to troubleshoot.