Ping is a basic network testing tool that is about as old as IP networks. Actually, it’s not quite that old but, at more than 35 years of age, it is a very old tool. But despite its age, the tool is still in widespread usage throughout the internet. There’s a simple reason for that: the tool is THAT good. So good that it is used as a base for several more advanced tools that we’re about to discover. But as good as it is, some developers have managed to create even better versions of the tool. Some of their creations will also be reviewed herein. So, read on as we review some of the best ping tools available.
In order to ensure we are all on the same page as far as our knowledge of the operation of the ping command goes, we’ll begin by briefly discussing the utility and explaining how it works. We’ll then jump right in ad review the very best ping tools we could find. Our list has a variety of tools of different types, as you’re about to discover.
Ping In A Nutshell
Back in 1983, a developer was observing some abnormal behaviour on his network. Since he didn’t have the right tool to properly debug the issue, he created one and ping was born. It gets its name from the sound of sonar echoes as heard in a submarine. Flash forward many years and today, there are countless variants of pings which vary widely in their implementations with some offering multiple command-line options that can include, for example, the size of each test’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 Ping Works
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. Ping calculates the delay between each request and the corresponding 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. Once the tests are completed some statistics are compiled and displayed.
Pings works under the assumption that the pinged host conforms to 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 Top Ping Tools
In a way, ping is one of the most boring, albeit very useful, command and you might find it hard to believe that we’ve actually compiled this list if ping tools. Well, the truth is that, although some of these tools are just enhanced versions of the original ping command, others are more complex tools based on ping which can, for instance, successively ping a range of IP addresses, allowing one to discover which ones are in use. We’ve tried to include a bit of both variety of tools.
SolarWinds is probably one of the best-known names in the field of network and system administration tools. It’s been around for some twenty years or so and has brought us some of the best tools on the market. Its flagship product, the SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor has received rave reviews as one of the best network bandwidth monitoring tool. The company is also famous for its free tools, smaller utilities that address a specific need of network administrators. The Network Device Monitor and Traceroute NG are two great examples of those free tools.
We felt that the SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset deserved a spot on this list for a few good reasons. First and foremost, it includes a very good Ping Monitor tool. But as its name implies, this is a set of tools. Over sixty of them, to be precise. You can use the Engineer’s Toolset to continuously monitor servers, routers, workstations, or other devices to show response time in real-time and display response rates in graphical charts. The toolset also includes a Simple Ping tool which is an alternative to the ping that comes with your operating system and can be used to measure a host’s response time and packet loss.
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There’s also an Enhanced Ping tool, which provides several graphing options that can help you visualize and more easily identify response-time problems. Together, these ping software tool solutions help ensure you gain the visibility you need to monitor and troubleshoot network connection issues.
Other tools included in the Engineer’s Toolset
Among the 60+ tools that you’ll find in the SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset, a few are free tools that are also available individually but most are exclusive tools which can’t be obtained any other way. A centralized dashboard lets you easily access any of the included tools. Among the different tools you’ll find, some can be used to perform network diagnostics and help resolve complex network issues quickly. Security-conscious network administrators will appreciate a few tools that can be used to simulate attacks on your network and help identify vulnerabilities.
The SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset also includes a few more monitoring and alerting tools such as one which will monitor your devices and raise alerts when it detects availability or health issues. This will often give you enough time to react before users even notice the problem. To complete an already feature-rich suite of tools, configuration management and log consolidation tools are also included.
Here’s a brief list of some of the best tools you’ll find in the SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset besides its many ping tools.
- Port Scanner
- Switch Port Mapper
- SNMP sweep
- IP Network Browser
- MAC Address Discovery
- Ping Sweep
- Response Time Monitor
- CPU Monitor
- Interface Monitor
- Router Password Decryption
- SNMP Brute Force Attack
- SNMP Dictionary Attack
- Config Compare, Downloader, Uploader, and Editor
- SNMP trap editor and SNMP trap receiver
- Subnet Calculator
- DHCP Scope Monitor
- IP Address Management
- WAN Killer
The SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset—including the ping tools sells for $1495 per administrator seat. If you consider that it includes over 60 different tools, this is a very reasonable price. If you want to see for yourself what this toolset can do for you and your organization, a free 14-day trial available from SolarWinds.
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 pretty much ends there. Contrary to ping which only accepts a single IP address as a parameter, the tool 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 discrete 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. It 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.
3. Network Pinger
Network Pinger is a freeware tool for Windows. Its interface is among 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 example, 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.
Much like Fping, 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. In spite of a close resemblance with the original ping command, this tool is quite different. For instance, Hping won’t only send ICMP echo requests. It can also send TCP, UDP or RAW-IP packets. This can be useful on networks where ICMP packets are blocked. It’s also got a traceroute mode and has the ability to send files over a covered channel.
Hping can also be used as a simple ping sweep tool and 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. The product 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.
5. Angry IP Scanner
Angry IP Scanner is a deceptively simple ping scan tool and it is one of the fastest due to its extensive use of multithreading. This is a multi-platform 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 run time module to use it. Functionality-wise, this tool will not only ping a group of IP addresses, but it can also do a port scan on discovered hosts. It will also resolve IP addresses to hostnames and 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 the screen in a table format but can also be easily exported to several file formats such as CSV or XML.
6. Advanced IP Scanner
The Advanced IP Scanner is another excellent ping sweep tool with an interesting twist. This tool, which runs exclusively 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. It is a portable tool that requires no installation.
Functionality-wise, the Advanced IP Scanner 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.
7. NetScan Tools
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 toolsets which include multiple utilities and both include a ping sweep tool called Ping Scan. Let’s have a deeper look at the Basic Edition.
NetScan Tools’ Ping 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 status in text form. Other useful tools in both editions of the NetScan Tools include an enhanced Ping command, a Graphical Ping, Traceroute, Whois as well as some DNS tools.
Pinkie is another pretty useful toolset which includes several utilities beyond some ping tools. 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 which is very similar to the original utility, a traceroute, a port scanner, a subnet calculator, and even a TFTP server.
9. 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 module and a DNS resolution module, among others.