What Is A Static IP Address, How Do I Get One & Its Advantages / Disadvantages

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static ip addressIn home networks, IP addresses aren’t usually fixed, but they do fall within specific ranges. Your router will assign a new IP address automatically if another computer joins the network, or if your configuration changes. For the most part, this works out just fine – you shouldn’t notice a difference to your Internet performance or application functionality if your IP changes.

A static IP address however, is one that doesn’t change. Your computer decides upon the address it wants, and it tells the router. Why would you want to set up something like this though, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of doing so? Is there a better solution?

What Is A Static IP?

When we talk about IP addresses of home computers, we are usually referring to two types of address. One is your external IP address – the one that the world sees as your Internet connection. Then you have your private IP addresses internally on your home network. Even if you only have one computer on your home network, it will have a private IP given to it by the router. Private IP addresses cannot be routed over the Internet and are strictly for private use. There are a few possible ranges of private IP address, but for most home users this will be 192.168.*.* (where * can be anything).

Your router interface, for instance, is likely accessible through 192.168.0.1 – this is a private address. Your home computers might then be anything from 192.168.0.2 to 192.168.0.254. Most routers will just assign internal addresses on a first come first served basis. The first computer you plug into the router will send out a network request saying “I need an IP address, my hardware address is x.x.x.x.x.x” and will be assigned 192.168.0.2, then the next will get 192.168.0.3.

Your external IP address is not something you can change – it will be given to you automatically by your Internet provider. You can purchase a static external IP address, but they are incredibly expensive. If you do need to access your home network from a remote location, consider getting a dynamic address that will update itself when your IP changes.  For a home network though, you are free to assign static, non-changing IP addresses to whatever computers you want, so let’s a take a look at when you would do this.

static ip address

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Why Would I Need A Static Private IP Address & What Are The Advantages?

Essentially, you need a static IP anytime you are trying to forward certain packets from the Internet to certain computers or devices on your home network. For example:

A Local Web Server

In order to set up a web server on your home network that is accessible by anyone in the world, you need to forward incoming requests on port 80 to your web server machine. If the web server was to restart and get a new IP from the router, the special rule that you created to forward requests on port 80 to the old server IP address wouldn’t work anymore, and your server would break.

Remote Torrent Management

A few weeks ago I showed you how to manage your torrent client from a remote computer or mobile phone, but it involved forwarding requests on port 9091 to the machine running the torrent client. We found out the address of the machine and created a rule based on that, but again, if the address was to change, the remote management wouldn’t work.

Gaming

For some older routers and gaming setups, you needed to forward certain ports to your xBox or PC to play online multiplayer games. More recent routers include an automated setup procedure called uPNP which eliminates the need to set up rules by hand.

Disadvantages Of A Static IP

Static IPs need to be configured manually, and often you will need to make a few changes to your router configuration too. In this respect, they are said to have an “administration overhead”, because you need to keep track of the settings yourself. For home networks, this usually isn’t an issue with only a few machines to worry about – but for corporations and companies this is quite a problem.

Without correct router configuration, you are also likely to see more IP address conflict errors. For example, if you set one of your machines to the IP address 192.168.0.10, and your router continues to hand out IP automatically, then at some point, another machine will be given the same IP! Basically, static IPs can be quite problematic.

The Solution: Reserved Addresses

Instead of having to manually configure the settings on every PC we want to give a static IP address to, we will simply “reserve” the address we want to give them in the router’s automatic IP address system. By doing this, we ensure our machines have an IP address that will never change, without actually assigning a “static” IP address as such, which would complicate things. To do this, open up your router configuration page and look for a section on DHCP or LAN IP.

Look at the section labelled Static Leases or Reserved Lease Info. There are two or more fields that need to be filled in. First is the hardware address (6 pairs of alphanumeric characters), which is unique to every network device in the world, and second is the IP you wish to assign it. You should be able to see your hardware address in the list of current “leases” (a lease refers to the address that the router has automatically lent to your device) next the IP it is currently assigned. If not, type IPCONFIG /ALL (from Windows command prompt) or IFCONFIG (from an OS X Terminal) and look for either the Ethernet or Physical Address.

how to obtain a static ip address

In this case, I want the device with the hardware address E0:CB:4E:A5:7C:9D, currently with IP 192.168.0.10, to stay that way forever. Enter this information to create a new reserved address.

static ip address

You can also change the IP address from here if you’d like the reserved one to be different to what it is currently, but you will need to restart the device in order to get the new address. You are basically “tying” a particular local IP address to a particular piece of hardware.

That’s it – now your address won’t change after a restart and you can keep your special routing rules the same. Confused? Problems? Feel free to ask in the comments, and I will endeavor to answer as best as I can – but remember that every router model is slightly different.

Image credit: Shutterstock 1, Shutterstock 2

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Comments (12)
  • Pablo Antonio Bautista

    Hello Good Day to all of you! I am having trouble with the internet connection on my smart tv. I have a 4 port modem router, I use 2 of the ports (both connected via ethernet cable) 1 is for this pc and 2nd is for my smart tv. My computer is working just fine but my smart tv at first is also working just fine but later on wont connect to the internet I checked the settings wherein the IP address is 0.0.0.0 subnet mask is 255.255.255.255 default gateway and dns both has a value of 0.0.0.0 pls help

  • Travis Sichel

    Hi I have bought an Android Digital Signage screen that has server/ software that installs on another computer, and from that computer I can connect to the screen and update the content.
    This is easy on a LAN but for a WAN the company told me I need to purchase a Static IP. I looked into it and apparently with my internet plan I get one free.

    So I understand how to make a computer have a static IP & reserve it. and my external IP is static. SO the Android screen gives me two fields “this units name” & “IP to connect to” SO what do I put in as the IP? I dont understand how to make the android find the server software when its on a computer on my network behind the router? Confused.

    Thanks for any help

    • James Bruce

      You don’t really need a static IP, but it helps. Most internet connections nowadays keep the same IP until you restart the router anyway – mine hasnt changed in 3 months. You just need to setup port forwarding on your router. To do that, you’ll need to first find the port number that the signage software connects to – ask the company for this if there’s no option to configure it.

      Then following the port forwarding bit of this tutorial, but substitute your specific port number and local IP address: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/give-your-arduino-project-its-own-mini-webserver-with-an-ethernet-shield/

      Then you’ll give your static IP to the software, it’ll attempt to connect, and your router will “forward” requests on that port, to your internal machine running the signage.

      If you cant figure out your public IP address – the one you’ll use to access from the outside world – just ask google “whats my ip”.

    • James Bruce

      Actually this guide on port forwarding might be better: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/what-is-port-forwarding-and-how-can-it-help-me/

  • David

    I’m a university student and I’m currently having TONS of trouble with my university’s wi-fi network. It turns out that the administration is focusing all of its resources into making the wi-fi fast. This means that the wi-fi network can deliver about 100 mbps up and down. And yet here I am still using the ancient CAT3 ethernet plugs (capped at 10 mbps) whenever I can around campus, because the wi-fi network is SO FREAKING UNSTABLE. It disconnects EXTREMELY often, especially when running game clients which require a constant connection between server and client. I’ve contacted support and they have looked at my computer, drivers, configuration of local APs, and they say everything is 100% ok. Yet 4 weeks after they closed the support ticket saying they cannot find absolutely any problem, here I am still getting disconnected every 5 minutes when i’m not plugged into the wall. My university uses DHCP to assign IP addresses over our “Secure” network. After doing some reading into the meaning of “DHCP” and static IP addresses, and also after reading the university policy on assigning static IP addresses, I’m starting to suspect that the conglomerate of IP addresses I’m being assigned is causing my network adapter to keep wanting to roam from one AP to the other. My question is, am I justified in sending a support ticket to request a static IP address while I’m on campus?

    TL;DR version: I suspect DHCP is causing my wi-fi adapter to constantly disconnect and reconnect to my university’s Wi-fi network , because I have contacted support multiple times and they have looked at my computer, wi-fi adapter, their local APs, and have said that they cannot find any problem. Should I request a static IP address?

    • James Bruce

      It’s highly unlikely that this would be caused by DHCP, and they wouldn’t assign you an IP address anyway.

      The truth is that WiFi sucks, and there’s a million things that can go wrong with it – driver issues, a faulty bit of hardware, or interference from elsewhere. If others don’t have the same issue, you can narrow it down your hardware or drivers. Depending on your setup, I would suggest either borrowing a USB WiFi to have a go with that instead (your university might have one they can lend you), or try a linux live CD (assuming your hardware is supported, which it might not be). The WiFi adapters built into older Windows laptops are particularly terrible as a lot of them rely more on the software than the hardware.

  • Manas

    Very nice article,I was actually finding how to configuring port forwarding on a dynamic ip.This procedure helped me :)

  • Aibek

    thanks for the input

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.