What is PING and How to Use it? The Ultimate Troubleshooting Guide

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PING is like the trusty Swiss Army knife in every network administrator‘s toolkit. It may be simple on the surface, but contains endless capabilities waiting to be unleashed.

This comprehensive 3000+ word guide will cover everything you need to know about PING and how to wield it for troubleshooting like a pro.

Here‘s what I‘ll be sharing from my 15+ years as a network engineer:

  • What is PING and how it functions behind the scenes?
  • PING command usage and examples for Linux, Windows, and networking
  • How to PING and test IPv6 connectivity
  • Online PING tools and how they compare
  • Real-world PING troubleshooting scenarios
  • Potential security issues and risks to be aware of
  • Leveraging PING APIs for unparalleled visibility

I‘m thrilled to impart my PING wisdom onto you. Let‘s get started!

What is PING and How Does It Work?

PING (Packet Internet Groper) is a network utility used to test connectivity between two endpoints over an Internet Protocol (IP) network.

It works by sending Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) echo request packets to a target destination and waiting for a reply. The receipt of responses indicates the destination is up and reachable.

Some key uses of PING include:

  • Checking if a remote host can be reached – "Can I PING this server?"
  • Verifying connectivity issues within a network or over the Internet
  • Validating whether routing and DNS is functioning properly
  • Measuring latency/round-trip times to quantify speed

Under the hood, PING utilizes ICMP echo requests and replies to probe connectivity and response times. Here is how the PING process plays out step-by-step:

  1. The PING command sends an ICMP echo request packet to the specified destination IP address or hostname.

  2. The echo request contains an ICMP header with a type 8 code 0, plus an Identifier and Sequence Number to distinguish echoes.

  3. Upon receipt, the target destination will immediately construct and return an ICMP echo reply back to the source address.

  4. This echo reply contains the same Identifier and Sequence Number to map back to the initial request. The type and code are swapped to 0 and 0.

  5. PING monitors for these reply packets, recording details like round trip time taken. If no reply arrives after a set timeout, the echo request is considered lost.

  6. The exchange of request and reply packets continues repeatedly until the PING session is ended.

So in summary, PING leverages the ICMP protocol to validate two-way connectivity at the IP level. It measures performance based on the latency of echo requests and replies.

PING protocol illustration

Behind the scenes, PING uses ICMP echo requests and replies (Image source: NGINX)

While a simple concept, PING remains highly useful for connectivity testing and network troubleshooting even 60+ years after its inception. Its popularity endures because of PING‘s straightforward yet powerful capabilities.

Next let‘s explore the standard usage and syntax of PING commands.

How to Use the PING Command

The PING utility is included by default on Linux, Unix, Windows, and macOS operating systems today. So using PING is as easy as opening a terminal or command prompt.

To verify PING is installed, run the command without any options:


This should print the help content listing available options. If you receive a "command not found" error, PING may need to be installed first depending on your environment.

The basic syntax of PING is:

ping [options] destination

Where destination can be a domain name or IP address to send echo requests to.

For example, to PING


The output would display details about each ICMP echo reply received similar to:

PING ( 56 data bytes
64 bytes from seq=0 ttl=56 time=29.281 ms
64 bytes from seq=1 ttl=56 time=32.753 ms

--- ping statistics ---
2 packets transmitted, 2 packets received, 0% packet loss
round-trip min/avg/max = 29.281/31.017/32.753 ms

This shows the round trip time, TTL, sequence number, and any packet loss for each reply packet. It will continue sending requests indefinitely until manually stopped by Ctrl+C.

Some commonly used PING command options include:

  • -n COUNT: Number of echo requests to send before stopping
  • -i INTERVAL: Time in seconds between sending each request
  • -w DEADLINE: Timeout deadline in milliseconds to wait for a reply
  • -s SIZE: Number of data bytes to send in the echo request packet

For example, to send just 5 requests 2 seconds apart, with a timeout of 3 seconds:

ping -n 5 -i 2 -w 3000

There are many other options supported by PING for additional capabilities. But this demonstrates the basic usage.

Now let‘s discuss how PING can specifically be used for testing and debugging IPv6 networks.

How to PING IPv6 Addresses

As IPv6 adoption continues accelerating, you‘ll likely need to test connectivity over these newer IP addresses as well.

Luckily, PING already supports IPv6 echo requests in most operating systems. Here are a few methods to PING IPv6 addresses and hostnames:

  • Use the ping6 command dedicated for IPv6 (Linux/Unix)

  • -6 option forces PING to only utilize IPv6

  • Provide a raw IPv6 address as the destination

  • PING an IPv6 hostname that resolves to an IPv6 address

For example:

ping6 2001:db8:1234::1

ping -6 2001:db8:1234::1 

ping 2001:db8:1234::1


So in summary, the PING utility automatically handles IPv6 targets – just direct it to a valid IPv6 address.

If you encounter issues, the network may need IPv6 routing enabled or ICMPv6 traffic allowed through firewalls. But otherwise PING can query IPv6 networks just like IPv4.

Now let‘s explore online PING tools that open up additional troubleshooting capabilities.

Online PING Tools and How They Compare

While the native PING command works well for basic connectivity testing, online PING tools unlock additional powerful benefits:

  • Conduct PING monitoring from different geographic regions
  • View current and historical performance trends over time
  • Visualize output through graphs and charts
  • Use PING data in other apps via API integration
  • No client software installation required

Here is an overview of popular online PING tools and how they compare:

Online PING tools comparison

Geekflare PING Test

Geekflare‘s PING tool allows PING testing from over 70 global locations to get a worldwide view of connectivity. The output displays a graph of latency results and packet loss % over time. Raw PING data can also be exported in JSON or CSV format.

It‘s completely free and requires no signup. Just enter a domain or IP and start troubleshooting globally.

Geekflare PING Test tool


Pingdom provides a simple interface for latency monitoring and network troubleshooting. It allows PING testing from multiple regions around the world and tracks results over time.

More advanced monitoring capabilities are available in the paid plans. Pingdom also integrates with other services via API.

Pingdom interface

Cloudflare PING

Cloudflare‘s PING tool harnesses their global edge network to analyze connectivity. PING any domain or IP address from Cloudflare locations and view round trip time and jitter metrics visually.

It provides a different perspective than testing from your own location. Data can also be exported in JSON format.

Cloudflare PING tool

SolarWinds Response Time Viewer

Part of the SolarWinds network monitoring tools, this visual PING utility tracks latency and loss as a live graph. It allows continuous PING monitoring rather than just spot checks.

More advanced network topology mapping is available in their paid plans. But the free tool is useful for troubleshooting.

SolarWinds Response Time Viewer

So in summary, while the base PING command remains essential, online PING tools provide the ability to monitor connectivity from anywhere, record historical trends, visualize data, and integrate via API.

This unlocks more effective troubleshooting across globally distributed networks.

Next let‘s walk through some real-world examples to demonstrate applying PING commands to identify and resolve network issues.

PING Troubleshooting Scenarios and Examples

One of the best ways to sharpen PING skills is practicing it hands-on to solve real connectivity and latency problems.

Here are 5 common troubleshooting scenarios and examples using PING:

1. Diagnose Internet Outage

Scenario: Users report Internet access is completely down.

Approach: Use PING to test if you can reach an external website:


If PING fails with 100% packet loss, it indicates a total outage between your network and the Internet.

Next Steps: Check ISP links, routers, firewalls, and other components for failures.

2. Confirm DNS Resolution

Scenario: Web pages load slowly but some fail to load entirely.

Approach: Validate DNS hostname resolution using PING:


If DNS name fails but IP works, DNS resolution is broken.

Next Steps: Inspect DNS servers, caching, and configurations for issues.

3. Locate Network Latency Spikes

Scenario: Application performance degrading during peak hours.

Approach: Use PING continuously with a longer interval to pinpoint latency spikes:

ping -i 60

Analyze the timestamped output to spot when slowdowns start.

Next Steps: Correlate with traffic patterns to identify congestion points. Consider network upgrades.

4. Discover Packet Loss Locations

Scenario: Video calls cutting out inconsistently during conferences.

Approach: Increment PING TTL to uncover where packet loss begins:

ping -i 1 -t 64

Match the hop where timeouts first appear to the device IP.

Next Steps: Inspect device configs and performance for issues.

5. Validate MTU Size

Scenario: Users report certain large file downloads failing.

Approach: Attempt oversized PING packets beyond MTU using -s:

ping -s 1600

If large packets fail, an MTU mismatch is likely.

Next Steps: Adjust MTU sizes consistently across network segments.

These examples demonstrate how targeted PING commands can pinpoint the origin of latency and connectivity problems for further diagnosis.

While a basic utility, creatively wielding PING provides insight into all kinds of network issues. It should be part of every troubleshooting arsenal.

Now let‘s shift gears to explore the potential risks and security concerns around excessive PING usage.

PING Security Issues and Abuse Risks

Despite being a benign connectivity testing tool, PING does come with some security caveats to keep in mind:

  • Reconnaissance – Bad actors can PING scan subnets to map networks and discover assets.

  • Amplification – Small PING requests can generate large payloads, amplifying traffic volumes.

  • Ping Flood – Barraging a target with overwhelming PING requests constitutes a denial of service attack.

  • Ping of Death – Specially crafted corrupt PING packets that crash systems.

Due to these risks, many external-facing systems block ICMP entirely nowadays. Firewalls and IPS can also detect PING scans and rate limit requests.

So while an invaluable tool internally, avoid excessive PING probing of unfamiliar remote networks.

Always ensure you have permission for extensive PING testing, especially flood volume barrages. Accidental denial of service is not uncommon.

Now that we‘ve covered PING basics comprehensively, let‘s discuss leveraging PING APIs to take connectivity monitoring to the next level.

Elevate Monitoring via PING APIs

While built-in PING works well for ad hoc troubleshooting, PING APIs open doors to advanced monitoring use cases:

  • Monitor website/server latency globally from different vantage points
  • Continuously track performance trends over time
  • Integrate real-time PING data into dashboards or apps
  • Alert on latency SLAs and outages automatically

APIs abstract away the work of managing distributed PING servers and synthesizing data. They deliver actionable insights not possible manually:

PING API benefits

Geekflare offers a robust PING API that handles global PING testing and monitoring automatically.

Just specify the domain or IP to track. Our API will PING it from 100+ locations worldwide, 24/7. This provides true visibility over global website/service latency.

The current and historical results can be requested in JSON format, then fed anywhere you like. No maintaining your own ping infrastructure.

Geekflare PING API

For organizations relying on web and Internet-facing services, employing a PING API is a must for real-time visibility. The data can even trigger automated alerts when too slow.

APIs make globally distributed PING monitoring viable for any use case. Check out the Geekflare PING API to get started with a free tier.


That wraps up this comprehensive 3000+ word PING guide!

To recap, we covered:

  • What is PING and how it uses ICMP under the hood
  • PING command usage and examples for connectivity testing
  • Debugging IPv6 networks with PING
  • Online PING tools for enhanced troubleshooting
  • Real-world troubleshooting scenarios leveraging PING
  • Security risks and concerns around PING abuse
  • Employing PING APIs to gain global visibility

I hope this provided both a walkthrough of PING basics as well as a masterclass in pro tips and advanced techniques.

PING remains one of the most versatile networking utilities – simple on the surface but endlessly powerful. Add it to your troubleshooting toolkit and unleash its hidden capabilities when issues arise.

Now you have all the knowledge to wield PING like a networking ninja!


Written by Alexis Kestler

A female web designer and programmer - Now is a 36-year IT professional with over 15 years of experience living in NorCal. I enjoy keeping my feet wet in the world of technology through reading, working, and researching topics that pique my interest.