What is a Computer Ping Test?

Technician Doing Maintenance in Computer Room
Technician Doing Maintenance in Computer Room. GodfriedEdelman / GettyImages

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 also can determine the connection latency (a technical term for connection delay) between the two devices.

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.

Run Ping Tests on a Home Network

You can use a ping test to troubleshoot connectivity problems with your home network. Microsoft Windows, for example, contains a built-in command line program for running ping tests. Alternative utilities are also freely available for download on the Web.

To execute a home network ping test, you simply supply the IP address of the home broadband router or another local device. The result of a ping test includes confirmation that connection was successful, along with a series of numbers that represent the communication delay in milliseconds (ms).

Step by Step: How to Ping the IP Address of a Computer

Run Internet Ping Tests

Ping tests are also commonly used to measure the delay (lag) with video streaming services, online gaming services or other Internet servers. The example screenshot shown on this page illustrates a command line ping to www.google.com.

Many different ping test apps exist for Android and Apple phones and tablets.

Various Web sites offer online ping test services an alternative to these local utility programs. Popular Internet speed test services embed ping testing as part of their feature set.

The results of an Internet ping test vary 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, often less than 30 ms. A satellite Internet connection normally suffers from latency above 500 ms.

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, making old test results obsolete quickly. Additionally, Internet ping test results vary greatly depending on the target server chosen. Ping statistics can be good for google.com and terrible for Netflix at the exact same time.

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