Ping is a computer network tool used to test whether a particular host is reachable across an IP network; it is also used to self test the network interface card of the computer, or as a speed test. It works by sending ICMP “echo request” packets to the target host and listening for ICMP “echo response” replies. Ping estimates the round-trip time, generally in milliseconds, records any packet loss, and prints a statistical summary when finished.

The word ping is also frequently used as a verb or noun, where it can refer directly to the round-trip time, the act of running a ping program or measuring the round-trip time.


Mike Muuss wrote the program in December, 1983, as a tool to troubleshoot odd behavior on an IP network. He named it after the pulses of sound made by a sonar, since its operation is analogous to active sonar in submarines, in which an operator issues a pulse of energy at the target, which then bounces from the target and is received by the operator. (The pulse of energy in sonar is analogous to a network packet in ping.) Later David L. Mills provided a backronym, "Packet InterNet Groper" (sometimes also defined as "Packet Inter-Network Groper").

The usefulness of ping in assisting the "diagnosis" of Internet connectivity issues was impaired from late in 2003, when a number of Internet Service Providers began filtering out ICMP Type 8 (echo request) messages at their network boundaries.

This was partly due to the increasing use of ping for target reconnaissance, for example by Internet worms such as Welchia that flood the Internet with ping requests in order to locate new hosts to infect. Not only did the availability of ping responses leak information to an attacker, it added to the overall load on networks, causing problems for routers across the Internet.

Although RFC 1122 prescribes that any host must accept an echo-request and issue an echo-reply in return, one finds that this standard is frequently not followed on the public Internet. Notably, Windows XP SP2 will not respond to an echo request on the public Internet in the default configuration. (See Troubleshooting Windows Firewall in Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2

ICMP packet

ICMP packet
  Bit 0 - 7 Bit 8 - 15 Bit 16 - 23 Bit 24 - 31
IP Header
(160 bits OR 20 Bytes)
Version/IHL Type of service Length
Identification flags et offset
Time To Live(TTL) Protocol Checksum
Source IP address
Destination IP address
ICMP Payload
(64+ bits OR 8+ Bytes)
Type of message Code Checksum
Data (optional)

Generic composition of an ICMP packet

  • Header (in blue), with Protocol set to 1 and Type of Service set to 0.
  • Type of ICMP message (8 bits)
  • Code (8 bits)
  • Checksum (16 bits), calculated with the ICMP part of the packet (the header is not used)
  • The ICMP 'Quench' (32 bits) field, which in this case (ICMP echo request and replies), will be composed of identifier (16 bits) and sequence number (16 bits).
  • Data load for the different kind of answers (Can be an arbitrary length, left to implementation detail. However must be less than the maximum MTU of the network [citation needed; what about the ping of death ?]).

Sample pinging

Sample with Linux

The following is a sample output of pinging under Linux with the iputils version of ping:
admin@localhost# ping
PING ( 56(84) bytes of data.
64 bytes from ( icmp_seq=1 ttl=52 time=87.7 ms
64 bytes from ( icmp_seq=2 ttl=52 time=95.6 ms
64 bytes from ( icmp_seq=3 ttl=52 time=85.4 ms
64 bytes from ( icmp_seq=4 ttl=52 time=95.8 ms
64 bytes from ( icmp_seq=5 ttl=52 time=87.0 ms
64 bytes from ( icmp_seq=6 ttl=52 time=97.6 ms
--- ping statistics ---
10 packets transmitted, 10 received, 0% packet loss, time 8998ms
rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 78.162/89.213/97.695/6.836 ms

This output shows that is a DNS CNAME record for which then resolves to

The output then shows the results of making 10 pings to with the results summarized at the end. (To stop the program in Linux or Windows, press Ctrl+C.)

  • shortest round trip time was 78.162 milliseconds
  • average round trip time was 89.213 milliseconds
  • maximum round trip time was 97.695 milliseconds
  • Standard deviation of the round-trip time was 6.836 milliseconds

Sample with Windows

The following is a sample output of pinging under Windows (Vista used in the following example) from within the Command Prompt:

[localhost] ping
Pinging [] with 32 bytes of data:
Reply from bytes=32 time=57ms TTL=44
Reply from bytes=32 time=59ms TTL=44
Reply from bytes=32 time=59ms TTL=44
Reply from bytes=32 time=54ms TTL=44
Ping statistics for
Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 4, Lost = 0 (0% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 54ms, Maximum = 59ms, Average = 57ms

Sample with Mac OS X

The following is a sample output of pinging under Mac OS X Leopard using the Terminal:

Macintosh:~ user$ ping -c 10
PING ( 56 data bytes
64 bytes from icmp_seq=0 ttl=53 time=40.019 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=53 time=47.502 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=2 ttl=53 time=43.208 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=3 ttl=53 time=50.851 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=4 ttl=53 time=46.556 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=5 ttl=53 time=42.180 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=6 ttl=53 time=49.853 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=7 ttl=53 time=45.556 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=8 ttl=53 time=41.186 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=9 ttl=53 time=48.836 ms

--- ping statistics --- 10 packets transmitted, 10 packets received, 0% packet loss round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 40.019/45.575/50.851/3.588 ms

Message format

Echo request

The echo request is an ICMP message whose data is expected to be received back in an echo reply ("pong"). The host must respond to all echo requests with an echo reply containing the exact data received in the request message.

00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31
Type = 8 Code = 0 Header Checksum
Identifier Sequence Number
Data :::

  • Type must be set to 8.
  • Code must be set to 0.
  • The Identifier and Sequence Number can be used by the client to match the reply with the request that caused the reply. In practice, most Linux systems use a unique identifier for every ping process, and sequence number is an increasing number within that process. Windows uses a fixed identifier, which varies between Windows versions, and a sequence number that is only reset at boot time.
  • The data received by the Echo Request must be entirely included in the Echo Reply.

Echo reply

The echo reply is an ICMP message generated in response to an echo request, and is mandatory for all hosts and routers.

00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31
Type = 0 Code = 0 Header Checksum
Identifier Sequence Number
Data :::

  • Type and code must be set to 0.
  • The identifier and sequence number can be used by the client to determine which echo requests are associated with the echo replies.
  • The data received in the echo request must be entirely included in the echo reply.


The payload of the packet is generally filled with letters of the alphabet as this ASCII tcpdump shows

16:24:47.966461 IP (tos 0x0, ttl 128, id 15103, offset 0, flags [none], proto: ICMP (1), length: 60) > ICMP echo request, id 1, seq 38, length 40

      0x0000:  4500 003c 3aff 0000 8001 5c55 c0a8 9216  E..<:.....U....
      0x0010:  c0a8 9005 0800 4d35 0001 0026 6162 6364  ......M5...&abcd
      0x0020:  6566 6768 696a 6b6c 6d6e 6f70 7172 7374  efghijklmnopqrst
      0x0030:  7576 7761 6263 6465 6667 6869            uvwabcdefghi

In gaming

In network multiplayer games like Unreal Tournament, Quake, Battlefield 2142, etc., the server notes the time it requires for a game packet to reach a client and a response to be received. This round-trip time is usually reported as the player's 'ping'. It is used as an effective measurement of the player's lag, with lower ping times being desirable. Note that this style of ping typically does not use ICMP packets.

See also

Ping Animation


  • RFC 792

External links

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