It seems like Ping has been around for so long that we’ve come to take it for granted and ignore how powerful and useful this simple tool is. We’ve all used ping to validate that a computer’s network connection worked. In fact, this is what it is used for most of the time. And along another old tool like traceroute or tracert, it can be a pretty good tool for some basic network troubleshooting. Ping Sweep Tools–one of the many tools available to network administrators–use Ping to poll networks, find responding hosts and often collect some operational statistics about them. Today, we’re reviewing the best Ping sweep tools.
We’ll begin our journey by having a deeper look at Ping, what it is, where it’s coming from, and how it works. Although Ping is a simple tool, a lot actually goes on in the background. Then, we’ll discuss ping sweeps, a particular use case of Ping that’s been automated by various software. We’ll talk about the need for Ping sweeps and how they can be useful. And since one of the main uses of Ping sweeps is in managing IP address allocation, we’ll briefly discuss IP address management. And when we’re done with all the background information, we’ll reveal the ten best Ping sweep tools.
Ping was created in 1983 as a tool to debug an abnormal network behavior its developer was observing. Its name comes from the sound of sonar echoes as heard in a submarine. Pings vary widely between their different implementations with some offering multiple command-line options that can include the size of each request’s payload, the total test count, the network hops limit, or the interval between requests. Some systems have a companion Ping6 utility that serves the exact same purpose but uses IPv6 addresses.
$ ping -c 5 www.example.com PING www.example.com (22.214.171.124): 56 data bytes 64 bytes from 126.96.36.199: icmp_seq=0 ttl=56 time=11.632 ms 64 bytes from 188.8.131.52: icmp_seq=1 ttl=56 time=11.726 ms 64 bytes from 184.108.40.206: icmp_seq=2 ttl=56 time=10.683 ms 64 bytes from 220.127.116.11: icmp_seq=3 ttl=56 time=9.674 ms 64 bytes from 18.104.22.168: icmp_seq=4 ttl=56 time=11.127 ms --- www.example.com ping statistics --- 5 packets transmitted, 5 packets received, 0.0% packet loss round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 9.674/10.968/11.726/0.748 ms
The “-c 5” option in the above example tells Ping to repeat five times.
How Does Ping Work?
Ping simply sends an ICMP echo request packet to the target and waits for it to send back an ICMP echo reply packet. This process is repeated a certain number of times–5 by default under windows and until it is stopped by default under most Unix/Linux implementations–allowing Ping to compile statistics. Ping calculates the delay between the request and the reply and displays it in its results. On Unix variants, it will also display the value of the reply’s TTL field, indicating the number of hops between the source and the destination.
Pings works under the assumption that the pinged host abides by RFC 1122 which prescribes that any host must process ICMP echo requests and issue echo replies in return. Most hosts do but some disable that functionality for security reasons. Pinging a host which does not respond to ICMP echo requests will provide no feedback, exactly like pinging a non-existent IP address.
The Need For Ping Sweeps
A Ping sweep is the sending of consecutive pings to every IP address in a specific subnet or address range. If you’re wondering why anyone would want to do that, well, there are many reasons. One of them is to discover what IP addresses are active on the network. Another reason for doing a ping sweep is to detect rogue devices connected to the network. As such, it can be instrumental in improving security. Another use would be to ensure that the actual IP addresses used on a network match its documentation.
No matter what the reason is for doing a ping sweep, it is so common that developers have made tools specifically designed for that purpose or have included this functionality other tools.
A Word About IP Address Management
IP address management or IPAM is an important part of any network administrators life. So important that some larger organizations have administrators dedicated to doing just that. By following proper management practices, you can make the most of the limited resource that IP addresses are. You’ll avoid surprises such as a DHCP server running out of assignable IP addresses or many different kinds of mishaps.
Ping sweep tools can help a lot with this IP address management. Of course, no Ping Sweep Tool can replace a full-fledged IPAM tool but it can often complete it rather well. So well that many IPAM tools do include a Ping sweep function.
The 10 Best Ping Sweep Tools And Software
The time has come to reveal what our 10 best ping sweep tools are. Our list contains a mix of tools for Windows and other platforms. We also made sure to include both command-line and graphical user interface utilities. Some of the tools on our list will do much more than Ping sweeps while some won’t.
First on our list is an excellent tool from SolarWinds which makes some of the best network administration software. The company is also known for its free tools. We’ve previously reviewed several of them as we discussed the best free port scanners or the best subnet calculators. Although it’s not really a free tool, we felt that the SolarWinds Ping Sweep tool hat to be included on our list or two reasons First, it is one of the best Ping sweep tools and second, a free trial version is available. This tool is part of the SolarWinds Engineer toolset, a bundle of more than 60 useful, Windows-based network management utilities, including Ping Sweep.
Using this tool couldn’t be easier. It has a GUI where you simply need to enter the IP address range you want to scan. The range can be as big as you need it to be. You can even scan a discontinuous list of IP addresses from a text file. For instance, you could extract a list of assigned IP addresses from your DHCP server and scan it to which ones are actually used.
No matter how you specify the addresses to scan, the tool will ping them all and list those that responded. The results can be exported to several file types such as CSV, XML, or even a web page. This lets you analyze the results using any tool you prefer. The results, of course, don’t just include the IP addresses of the responding hosts. It also shows you their response time and it does a reverse DNS lookup to find their hostnames.
Pricing for the SolarWinds Engineer Toolset–including Ping Sweep–starts at $1 495. This is a per named user price and you’ll need one license for each named user. It might seem a bit expensive but all the other included tools make this well worth the investment.
Nmap is almost as old as Ping. This tool has been around for ages and it’s commonly used for mapping network–hence the name–and accomplish several other tasks. For instance, Nmap can be used to scan a range of IP addresses for open IP ports. This is a command-line utility but, for those who prefer graphical user interfaces, its developers have published Zenmap, a GUI front-end to this powerful software. Both packages can be installed on Windows, Linux, Unix and OS X.
Using Zenmap, all the detailed search parameters can be saved in a profile that you can recall at will. The tool comes with several built-in profiles that you can use as a starting point and modify to suit your exact needs. The profile also controls how the results of the scan are displayed. The interface’s first tab shows the raw output from the underlying nmap command while other tabs show an easier to understand interpretation of the raw data.
Fping was created some 10 years after Ping as an improvement over the popular network troubleshooting tool, Although it is a similar tool, it is quite different. Like Ping, Fping uses ICMP echo requests to determine if the target hosts are responding but the similarity ends there. Contrary to Ping which only accepts a single IP address as a parameter, Fping can be called with many target IP addresses. There are several different ways that these targets can be specified. It could be a space-delimited list of IP addresses. It could also be the name of a text file containing a list of addresses. An IP address range can also be specified or a subnet can be entered in CIDR notation such as 192.168.0.0/24.
To improve performance, Fping does not wait for a response before sending the next echo request, thereby not losing time waiting for unresponsive IP addresses. Fping also has a ton of command-line options that you can use. You can also pipe its output to another command to further process the results. Overall, this is an excellent tool, especially for scripting on Linux computers.
4. Network Pinger
Network Pinger is a freeware tool for Windows. Its interface is amongst the most intuitive you can find. But more important than its user interface is the tool’s performance. This tool was optimized for the best possible performance. It can, for instance, send 1000 ping in just 35 ms. Network Pinger has several tools built right into it. Here’s a quick overview of some of them. There’s automated mass pings, traceroutes, port scanning, WMI, DNS and Whois queries, an IP calculator and converter, and many more.
Network Pinger makes excellent use of its graphical user interface and offers several visual features. It will, for example, built live charts as it performs a ping sweep displaying a visual rendition of the important statistics such as a pie chart depicting the responding vs non-responding hosts or a graph if average response times.
Hping is another command-line tool inspired by Ping. It’s available on most Unix-like operating systems as well as OS X and Windows. The tool is no longer actively developed but it is still in widespread use. Although it closely resembles Ping, it is quite different. For instance, Hping won’t only send ICMP echo requests. It can also send TCP, UDP or RAW-IP packets. It’s also got a traceroute mode and has the ability to send files over a covered channel.
Hping can be used as a simple Ping sweep tool but it can do much more than that. For instance, the tool has some advanced ports scanning features. It can be used for network testing thanks to its use of multiple protocols. Hping also has some advanced traceroute capabilities using any of the available protocols. This can be useful as some devices treat ICMP traffic differently from other traffic. By mimicking other protocols, this tool can give you a better evaluation of your network’s true, real-life performance.
6. Angry IP Scanner
Angry IP scanner. is a deceptively simple tool and it is one of the fastest due to its extensive use of multithreading. This is a multiplatform tool that will run on Windows, OS X, or Linux. One small drawback: the tool is written in Java so you’ll need the Java runtime module to use it. The Angry IP Scanner will not only ping IP addresses, it can also do a port scan on discovered hosts–which is why it was featured in a recent article. It will also resolve hostnames and resolve MAC addresses to vendor names. Furthermore, the tool will provide NetBIOS information about the hosts.
The Angry IP scanner can scan complete networks and subnets but also an IP addresses range or a list of IP addresses in a text file. Another nice feature is that although this is a GUI-based tool, there’s also a command-line version that you can use if you want to include the tool’s functionality in your scripts. As for the results, they are displayed on screen in a table form but can also be easily exported to several file formats such as CSV or XML.
7. Advanced IP Scanner
Advanced IP Scanner is another excellent Ping sweep tool with an interesting twist. This tool, which runs on Windows is totally geared towards that operating system and several of its advanced functions are Windows-related. Its publisher claims this free software is used by over 30 million users worldwide. This is a portable tool that requires no installation
Functionality-wise, the tool takes an IP address range as input. Alternatively, you can also supply a text file with a list of IP addresses. And when the results come in, they’re impressive. Not only do you get the list of IP addresses that responded but you also get the corresponding hostname, MAC address and network interface vendor. But there’s more. For each Windows host, you have a list of its network shares. And it’s a live list. You can click any share to open it on your computer–provided, of course, that you have the proper access rights. You can also start a remote control session with any discovered Windows host using either RDP or Radmin or remotely turn a computer off.
8. NetScan Tools Basic Edition
There are two different versions of NetScan Tools, a paid one called NetScan Tools Pro Edition and a free, ad-supported one called NetScan Tools Basic Edition with a reduced feature set. Both are tool sets which include multiple utilities and both include a Ping sweep tool called Ping Scan. Let’s have a look at the Basic edition.
NetScan Tools’ Pinc Scan takes an IP address range as input, like most other Ping sweep tools. This is a simple tool that will return a list of all the scanned IP addresses with their hostname (when resolvable), average response time and a status in text form. Other useful tools in NetScan Tools Basic edition include DNS tools, Ping, Graphical Ping, Traceroute, and Whois.
Pinkie is another pretty useful toolset which includes several utilities beyond a simple Ping sweep function. Doing a Ping sweep is as simple as specifying a starting IP address and subnet mask and host count. The tool will then ping every successive IP address starting at the specified address until it reaches the host count or the subnet limit. As an option, you can choose to only include live hosts in its results. And if you do, the pinged host count will only include those that respond.
Results are displayed in a table with IP address, hostname if resolvable and response time which is the Ping average round-trip delay. There is no save or export function for the result but they can be copied to the clipboard and pasted in another application such as a text editor or a spreadsheet. Other tools bundled in the Pinkie toolset include a standard Ping, a traceroute, a port scanner, a subnet calculator, and even a TFTP server.
10. MiTeC Network Scanner
The MiTeC Network Scanner is another multi-use tool. At its core is a very powerful Ping sweep function that can find any responding host in the specified IP address range. The software will list each found device’s MAC address, hostname, and response time. But it can do much more than just Ping them. It will, for instance, list interfaces of SNMP-enabled devices. It will also identify Windows computers and let you see their shares, remotely shut them down, perform remote execution, and more.
The sweep’s results show up as a table on the tool’s dashboard that can be exported to a CSV file to be used with another tool. This tool can run on most modern versions of Windows–either workstation or server–since Windows 7. As for the tool’s other advanced features, you’ll find a Whois function and a DNS resolution function, among others.
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