How do I use ping?

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Ping is a basic network diagnostic utility, used to determine whether a remote computer or server is online or not.

As the name suggests, it sends a small packet of information to the target computer, and then awaits a response. The success or failure of this test is often one of the first and most basic tests when attempting to diagnose potential problems.

The usage and operation of ping is nearly universal across all operating systems.

Using ping - Windows

First, we need to open the Command Prompt.

  • On Windows 7 and earlier, Command Prompt can be found in:

    Start Menu > All Programs > Accessories.

  • On Windows 8, Command Prompt can be found in:

    Start Screen > Apps Screen > All Apps > Windows System

Then, simply type ping, followed by either the hostname or IP address of the computer or server you need to check, then press Enter. For example:

ping example.com

 

Using ping - Mac OS X

There are two ways to ping using OS X.

  • Using Terminal
  • Using Network Utility

The easiest way to open either of these applications is to search for them via Spotlight (The magnifying glass on the top right corner of the screen).

With Network Utility, simply click on the 'Ping' tab, fill in the hostname or IP and click the Ping button.


 

Using ping - Linux and OS X

Using OS X's Terminal, or your shell of choice in Linux, simply input: ping -c 4 , followed by the hostname or IP, and press Enter. For example:

ping -c 4 example.com

Tip: If you leave out the '-c 4' flag, it will ping indefinitely. To stop it and view the results summary, press Control + C together. You can adjust the number to send our a desired amount of 'pings'.



What do the results mean?

There are two main things to look for:

  • Response Time
  • Timeouts / Loss

Response time is how long it takes for the ping message to reach the server, and for the reply to come back again, measured in milliseconds (1 second = 1,000ms). Loss is how many 'pings' did not complete.

Good: Ping tests with low, consistent response time and no loss generally indicate the server is running and there are no basic networking issues. If you are having problems with such a server, or a website it hosts, then it may be something other than a networking issue.

Partial Failure: Ping tests with inconsistent or long response times, and/or loss of packets, do indicate that the server is indeed running, however, there could be problems.

Total Failure: If a ping test fails completely, and every request times out with 100% loss, then the target server may either be experiencing a serious problem, or be switched off.

Do keep in mind that if a ping test does fail, either partially or wholly, it may not necessarily be indicative of the servers current status. Local networking issues, such as poor WiFi reception, a problem with your ISP, or a firewall issue, could also cause ping to fail, when the server may otherwise be working properly for other people. It is worth making sure that your Internet connection is working normally by visiting some other websites or pinging another server.

Server issues that may be causing ping to fail may indicate blacklisting, software failure, high server load, planned or emergency outages, service suspension, amongst others.

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