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

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In computer networking, ping is a specific method for sending messages from one computer to another as part of troubleshooting Internet Protocol (IP) network connections. A ping test determines whether your client (computer, phone, or similar device) can communicate with another device across a network.

In cases where network communication is successfully established, ping tests can also determine the connection latency (delay) between the two devices.

Note: Ping tests are not the same as internet speed tests that determine how fast your internet connection is against a specific website. Ping is more appropriate to test whether or not a connection can be made, not how fast the connection is.

How Ping Tests Work

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

Starting a ping test 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 constitutes the ping time.

How to Ping Networked Devices

In the Windows operating system, the ping command is used for running ping tests. It's built-in to the system and is executed through Command Prompt. However, alternative utilities are also freely available for download.

The IP address or hostname of the to-be-pinged device needs to be known. This is true whether a local device behind the network is going to be pinged or if it's a website server. However, typically, an IP address is used to avoid issues with DNS (if DNS doesn't find the right IP address from the hostname, the issue might rest with the DNS server and not necessarily with the device).

The Windows command for running a ping test against a router with the 192.168.1.1 IP address would look like this:

ping 192.168.1.1

The same syntax is used to ping a website:

ping lifewire.com

See the ping command syntax to learn how to customize the ping command in Windows, like to adjust the timeout period, Time To Live value, buffer size, etc.

How to Read a Ping Test

Executing the second example from above might produce results 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 shown above 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 (wired or wireless) typically results in ping test latency of less than 100 ms, and often less than 30 ms.

A satellite internet connection normally suffers from latency above 500 ms.

See our guide on how to ping a computer or website to learn more about the results of a ping test.

Limitations of Ping Testing

Ping accurately measures connections between two devices at the time a test is run. Network conditions can change on a moment's notice, however, quickly making old test results obsolete.

Additionally, internet ping test results vary greatly depending on the target server that's chosen. At the same time, ping statistics can be good for Google and but terrible for Netflix.

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