AVG Signal Blog Privacy IP Address Private IP vs Public IP: What’s the Difference?

Written by Anthony Freda
Published on June 4, 2021

What’s the difference between public and private IP addresses?

Public IP addresses are used when interacting with the internet, while private IP addresses operate with a local network. Both public and private IP addresses allow devices to communicate with each other.

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    On a typical network, the router uses a public IP address to identify you to the rest of the internet, ensuring that emails, websites, streaming content, and other data reaches you correctly. 

    Within that network, there are likely a variety of different devices. The router assigns each device a unique private IP address so it can send data to the device that’s actually requesting it. Devices on the same network use private IP addresses to communicate directly.

    A diagram showing the relationship between the internet, a network's public IP address, and the private IP addresses within that networkEach device on a network has a private IP address, and the router has a public IP address to communicate with the rest of the internet.

    What is a public IP address?

    A public IP address is the outward-facing (public-facing) IP address assigned to your router by your internet service provider (ISP). Your router uses its public IP to access the internet. Other computers on the internet use your public IP address to communicate with the devices on your network.

    Your public IP address identifies your device on the internet, and you can’t go online without one. On a typical home network, your router serves as an intermediary between your computer and the internet, handling all connections on behalf of the devices on your network.

    Picture an address on an envelope. The street address can be thought of as the public IP address. Once the mail gets to the building — your router — who opens it? The name or apartment number on the envelope is like your private IP address. It’s how your router knows which device on your network should receive the information.

    What is an external IP address?

    An external IP address is the IP address that applies outside your local network and allows you to connect to every other public IP address in the world — in other words, an external IP address is the same as a public IP address. The other public addresses you’re communicating with are called remote IPs

    When you see someone mention “IP address” alone, they’re probably referring to the public kind. This is true when talking about static vs dynamic IP addresses, for example.

    Public IP ranges

    All public IP addresses fall into one of the following predefined public IP address ranges. There are far more public IP addresses than private ones, and the public IP address ranges look like this:

    • -

    • -

    • -

    • -

    • -

    • -

    • -

    • -

    • -

    Any IP address formatted as 10.x.x.x is excluded from this list, so you can infer that any IP address starting with a 10 is a private IP address. We’ll dive into private IP ranges in a moment.

    What is my public IP address?

    It’s easy to find out your public IP address that your ISP has assigned you. Just head to Google and search “what is my IP address?” Sometimes, your ISP may change your public IP address — don’t worry, that’s normal.

    While you can’t change your actual public IP address, you can hide it behind another IP address when you use a VPN (virtual private network)

    Why should I hide my public IP address?

    Hiding your IP address behind a VPN ensures that no one can see what you’re doing online. This prevents your ISP from monitoring your online activity and potentially selling that data to advertisers or handing it over to your government. Along with data encryption on all your internet traffic, concealing your IP address is one of the chief benefits of using a VPN.

    A VPN encrypts your public IP address, hiding your online activity from ISPs, governments, hackers, and anyone else trying to access your personal information.AVG Secure VPN hides your traffic from your ISP, governments, and hackers.

    Another benefit of hiding your public IP address is the ability to unblock websites and content that may have previously been unavailable. When a streaming website thinks you’re in another country, it shows you the selection of content available in that country, rather than in your home country. A VPN also prevents your ISP from tracking your online activity and subsequently throttling your internet for content-based reasons.

    Moreover, a VPN works the same everywhere, whether you’re at home or at a coffee shop. With AVG Secure VPN, you’ll get military-grade encryption and access to all our lighting-fast VPN servers wherever you go — plus the confidence of knowing that your data is protected by a world leader in cybersecurity.

    What is a private IP address?

    A private IP address is assigned by networks and routers to devices that are connected to them. A private IP address lets a router correctly direct traffic within its network, and private IPs also let devices within a network communicate with one another.

    When you use the internet, the data you send and receive is sent through your public IP address, and then your router passes that traffic onto your device using its private IP address. This process of swapping between public and private IP addresses is called network address translation (NAT)

    Imagine a house or building with many people living in it — a network is like this house, and each device is like one of the people inside. When a letter arrives at your building, the recipient’s name or apartment number functions like a private IP address, determining where the letter ultimately goes.

    What is a local IP address?

    A local IP address is another term for a private IP address. Devices on a local area network (LAN) talk to one another using local IP addresses — for example, when your router sends data to your smartphone. Your router automatically assigns a local IP address to any device connected to it.

    What is an internal IP address?

    An internal IP address is another term for private IP address, and it’s used strictly for computers interacting on a LAN (like in a home or a business). Internal IP addresses are useful because they allow many computers to use one external IP address.

    Why do we need private IP addresses?

    The limited number of IPv4 addresses led to the practice of sharing one external IP. We’re all eventually switching from IPv4 to IPv6 over the next few years, and soon we won’t use IPv4 addresses at all. Each computer will get its own public IP address, and NAT will no longer be necessary for any computer to connect to the internet. 

    So what will happen to private IP addresses? There are still uses for internal IP addresses and local networks, so don’t expect internal IP addresses to go away forever. In the meantime, some say that disabling IPv6 might be a good idea, at least until the kinks have been worked out.

    Private IP ranges

    Over the years, you may have noticed familiar IP addresses across multiple devices. For example, why is such a common IP address? It’s because addresses that start with 192.168 are reserved for private IP addresses. It doesn’t matter if the same IP is also assigned on a different private network, because private IP addresses need to be unique only within the local network.

    Private IP address ranges are as follows:

    • Class A Private IP Range: – 

    • Class B Private IP Range: –

    • Class C Private IP Range: –

    Each device on the same network must have a unique address. And with so many private IP addresses available, a business can always accommodate all the devices on its local network.

    What is my private IP address?

    Your private IP address is important to know only when troubleshooting a poor connection or configuring advanced settings on your network. In any case, it’s easy to find out your private IP address.

    On Windows, enter the command ipconfig into the command prompt to find your private IP address.

    Command prompt showing the information displayed when "ipconfig" is input, with IPv4 address circled

    Can you hide a private IP address?

    Hiding your private IP address on a network or LAN can be just as important as masking your identity on the public internet. Thankfully, you should be able to hide your PC from other devices on the same network by marking your network as Public (instead of Home) in Windows 10. 

    Usually, malicious attacks come from outside a home or local network, which makes the security of the public IP address critical. AVG Secure VPN encrypts your connection and hides your network behind another IP address from somewhere else in the world — keeping your public IP address safe behind our iron-clad servers.

    AVG Secure VPN also hides your private IP address from other devices on the same network. So a hacker sitting on your local cafe’s public Wi-Fi network won’t be able to see what you’re doing. Download AVG Secure VPN today to get an essential layer of online security.

    How to tell if an IP address is public or private

    You can check an IP address against the ranges for public vs private IP addresses to see if a particular IP address is public or private. All private IP addresses begin with 10, 172, or 192, though some public IP addresses may also begin with 172 and 192.

    Public and private IP addresses have a lot in common. Both use the TCP/IP model to send and receive data. The difference is how an address is used: within a network, or over the internet.

    Here’s a table summarizing the key differences between public and private IP addresses.

    Public IP addresses

    Private IP addresses

    Global (external) reach

    Local (internal) reach

    Used to communicate outside a private network, over the internet

    Used to communicate with other devices inside a private network

    A unique numeric code not used by other devices

    A non-unique numeric code that may used by other devices in other private networks

    Found by searching: What is my IP address?

    Found in your device’s internal settings

    Assigned by your ISP

    Assigned by a router to a specific device

    Not free


    Any number not included in the private IP address ranges —; —; —



    Use a VPN to keep your IP address hidden

    Setting up a VPN on your PC or configuring a VPN on your phone is easy, especially when your VPN is designed by a company with decades of cybersecurity experience. It’s a good idea, too, because the benefits of using a VPN are substantial — in a matter of seconds, you’ll strengthen your internet security and privacy dramatically.

    AVG Secure VPN uses shared IP addresses to hide your own IP address and prevent anyone from accessing your online activity. Keep your data safe, jump around the world with servers in over 30 countries, and prevent anyone from monitoring what you do online. Experience all the benefits of AVG Secure VPN with a 7-day free trial.

    Protect your IP and stay private online with AVG Secure VPN

    Free trial

    Protect your IP and stay private online with AVG Secure VPN

    Free trial
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    Anthony Freda