As the internet has become ubiquitous in our day-to-day lives, the need to be proactive about our digital security is exponentially increasing. And just like there are tons of ways to keep physical places safe — like home security systems for example — there are just as many methods for keeping digital spaces secure.
With that in mind, let’s talk about IP addresses. You probably know that these numbers are assigned to networked devices, and you might also know that it’s in your best interest to keep yours private whenever you can. That might involve changing it from time to time, and it might also involve more sophisticated methods. Before we get into all of that, though, let’s get on the same page about what exactly an IP address is and what it does.
What Is an IP Address?
The most simple way to understand your IP address is to think of it like your street address. Just like the UPS guy knows to deliver your specific package to your specific doorstep, your IP address makes it so that the data you’re looking for comes to your specific device, and the network of devices all using this same protocol makes sure that the data you’re sending out gets where it needs to go.
FYI: IP stands for “Internet Protocol.” These are the standards used for networked computers around the world to communicate with each other. These rules were developed by computer scientists Vinton Cerf and Bob Kahn in the 1970s.
With that in mind, it’s important to note that your IP address doesn’t actually contain any personally identifying information, save from your general location. That said, in the wrong hands, your IP address could be the starting point for all kinds of crimes and scams, including identity theft.
So can you change your IP address? Is it difficult to do? Let’s answer those questions now.
Can I Change My IP Address?
Absolutely. The vast majority of IP addresses are dynamic, meaning they can, and will, change every time a new connection to the network is made. Don’t believe us? Find your IP address, reset your router, and check it again. Different, right? There you go.
Pro Tip: While the IP addresses associated with the devices we use every day are dynamic, there are some pieces of hardware — like some servers — that require static addresses. You probably don’t need to worry about that, though, unless you’re trying to build out your own network for a specific reason. Read more about it in our guide to static and dynamic IP addresses.
For a lot of people, though, this doesn’t really count as a meaningful security measure. The new IP address is automatically associated again with your device and the traffic emanating from it. And no one wants to get up to unplug their router every five minutes. If you’re looking to change — or hide — your IP address, there are a few methods you can use.
Methods of Changing Your IP Address
Here are a few ways to change your IP address to level up your privacy or reconfigure your home network:
Reset Your Network
Like we mentioned above, this is the easiest way to change your IP address. Find your home’s router, unplug it, wait a few minutes, and plug it back in. Your internet service provider (ISP) will automatically assign you a new IP address. This isn’t foolproof, though. Sometimes it takes a while for your ISP to cycle through and renew IP addresses, so check to make sure your IP address has actually changed.
Refresh Your IP Address
If you don’t want to get up off the couch, you can have your operating system automatically refresh your IP address. Here’s how to do it on Mac and PC.
- Press the Win+R keys together. This will open the “Run” box dialog.
- Type “cmd” and hit Enter.
- Type “ipconfig /release” making sure to include the space, then hit Enter.
- Type “ipconfig /renew” and hit Enter.
- Click the Apple icon in the upper left corner of the screen.
- Select “System Preferences.”
- Select “Network,” then click “Advanced.”
- Select “TCP/IP.”
- Click “Renew DHCP Lease.”
Manually Enter a New IP Address
If you’re setting up a network, you might need to manually change your IP address to something specific. Here’s how to do that on Mac and Windows.
- From the admin account, click start and go to “Settings.”
- Select “Network” and click “Internet.”
- Find the “Properties” button and click that.
- Select “Manual” and switch “IPv4” to on.
- Enter your new IP address.
- Enter the “System Preferences” menu and select “Network.”
- Click “Advanced.”
- Find and select “TCP/IP.”
- Select “Configure IPv4” and then click “Manually.”
- Enter your new IP address.
Use a Virtual Private Network
If you’re looking for security, there’s one way to make sure your public IP address is always obfuscated and your data is always encrypted: Use a reliable virtual private network (VPN).
Pro Tip: Interested in VPNs and want to cut to the chase? Read our review of NordVPN. They’re our favorite provider this year, mainly because they offer some really serious security features without creating any significant performance issues.
We have a lot more on this in our VPN buyers guide, but the elevator pitch is this: With a VPN in place, you’re going to be accessing the internet through your ISP’s network, with an IP address that is unrelated to your device’s actual assignment from your ISP. What’s more, your data will be encrypted, meaning that if anyone were to intercept it, they wouldn’t be able to unscramble it.
Final Thoughts on Changing Your IP Address
Routinely changing your IP address can help improve your digital security and privacy, but there are other reasons you might want to do so. For instance, if you’re having trouble connecting to the internet, changing your IP address can help fix those glitches.
However, if you’re looking for the most effective, comprehensive way to keep your IP address hidden, protect yourself with a VPN. Most of these systems are inexpensive and user-friendly — seriously, you won’t even notice they’re running in the background — and they’ll significantly increase your digital security.
If you’re interested, we’ve put together a list of the best VPNs of 2023 to help you get started in your search. There you’ll find something for every need and every budget.