Changing between static and DHCP IP address

Something as simple as describing how to change a PC to a static IP address (or back to a dynamic IP address ) is often overlooked by people who have been in the industry for a long time. I’m guilty myself of this. Too often while providing phone support (either internal or to customers) I will throw out “Oh yeah I just need you to set your computers IP address statically”. Most of the time I bet that I probably get a very evil glare on the other side of the phone.

You might be asking right now why you would ever need this information, and to be perfectly blunt most people will never need this information. However, if you ever have to phone support for any device that connects to the internet, believe me, the tech on the other line will praise you for knowing a little of the basics.

What is an IP address

To move forward, lets go back a little bit and cover the basics. What is an IP address? The Wikipedia description sums this up nicely:

An Internet Protocol address (IP address) is a numerical label assigned to each device (e.g., computer, printer) participating in a computer network that uses the Internet Protocol for communication. An IP address serves two principal functions: host or network interface identification and location addressing.

At its most basic level, I like to describe an IP address works like a mailing address. It tells computers where to send data to communicate with each other.

Dynamic vs Static

Ever go to the coffee shop with your laptop or smart phone, connect to their hot spot and surf the internet? Have you ever wondered why you don’t have to do any configuration during this process? An IP address can be provided to devices along with all the information it needs to connect to the internet via a DHCP server. A DHCP server is a device (often a router in residential situations) that resides on the same network and hands out the required information to devices that request it. However in larger networks, there either may not be a DHCP server or the I.T. department may assign addresses statically for management later down the road.

Okay, so when would I need this info?

Being in the Security/CCTV industry, I deal with a variety of different IP based devices on a daily basis. Using an IP camera as an example, often manufactures will program their device by default with a static IP. In order to program a new IP address into that camera, you need to place your computer into the same subnet in order to connect to it. This requires you setting up a static IP address. Likewise, when working with support over the phone, they will often ask you to factory reset the device so that you can log back into it and program it (again requiring a static IP within the same subnet).

Alright, so it could be useful. But now what?

Well, now that all the basics have been covered, lets get into how to change it! I will be using a PC running Windows 8.1 but the instructions are similar going all the way back to Windows XP.

First we need to open up the Network Connections window. Depending on your OS this is where things might vary slightly.

Windows XP
Start > Control Panel > Network Connections

Windows Vista/7
Start Orb > Control Panel > Network and Sharing Center > Change Adapter Settings

Windows 8/8.1
Right Click Network Icon in Task Bar > Network and Sharing Center > Change Adapter Settings

Its important to note there is dozens of different ways to get to these screens, but those are the most efficient ways of describing them based on years of doing tech support.

At the Network Connections screen, you may be presented with one or two (or more) connections. Depending which one you are working with is the one you will do the following steps. For example, to set a static IP address on your wireless connection then you would want to work on the one that says “Wireless Adapter“. On the controversy, if your working with a wired connection, you’ll want to find the one that says “Local Area Connection” or “Wired Ethernet Adapter“.

network-connections

Right click on the adapter you want to set a static IP address and click Properties.

Under the window that says “This connection uses the following items” search for Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) and double click on it.

local-area-connection-properties

There is a few different options here. If you want to use DHCP (eg. at a coffee shop or at home) then set it to “Obtain and IP address automatically” and “Obtain DNS server address automatically“.

To set a static IP address, change it to “Use the following IP address” and enter the information manually. I’m not going to go into the specifics of where to get the IP address to enter as that’s beyond the point of this “quick” little blurb. but typically this would be provided to you (either by tech support, or an I.T. department).

ipv4-properties

One thought on “Changing between static and DHCP IP address”

  1. Well written article and you are right. As a tech, it is easy to overlook what we find to be basic when talking to someone who does not belong to (or in) our field :).

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