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Understanding the `ping` Command in Linux

The ping command is one of the most commonly used diagnostic tools for network troubleshooting. Derived from the term "Packet INternet Groper," ping tests the reachability of a network host and measures the round-trip time for packets to travel from the source host to the destination.

The Basics: ping Syntax

At its simplest, the syntax for the ping command is:

ping [OPTIONS] destination


  • OPTIONS are the command-line options.
  • destination is the hostname or IP address of the target system.

Using the ping Command

Default Use

Pinging a domain:


This will continuously send ICMP Echo Request packets to and display the round trip time for each packet. To stop, press CTRL + C.

Specifying Packet Count

To send a specific number of packets, use the -c option:

ping -c 5

This sends 5 packets to and then stops.

Interval Between Packets

To adjust the interval between individual ping packets, use the -i option:

ping -c 5 -i 2

This sends 5 packets to with a 2-second interval between packets.

Understanding Packets: ICMP

ICMP or The Internet Control Message Protocol, is a core protocol used by the ping command. It operates at the network layer and is utilized by network devices, including routers, to send error messages and operational information. While ICMP is part of the IP layer, it is distinct from more familiar protocols like TCP and UDP.


The ping command works using the ECHO_REQUEST and ECHO_REPLY messages of ICMP.

ECHO_REQUEST: When you execute a ping, your machine sends out an ICMP ECHO_REQUEST packet to the target host. This packet is essentially asking the host, "Are you there?"

ECHO_REPLY: If the target host is reachable and no firewall rules block ICMP messages, it responds with an ICMP ECHO_REPLY. This response confirms to the originating host that the target is active and accepting communications.

Possibility Of Blocking ICMP

For various reasons, including security concerns, a system administrator might want to block incoming ICMP ECHO_REQUEST packets, effectively making the machine un-pingable.

On Linux systems, the iptables or nftables firewall (depending on the distribution and version) can be configured to drop such packets.

ping Command Options

--count-cNumber of packets to send.
--interval-iInterval between sending each packet (in seconds). Default is 1 second.
--timeout-WTime to wait for a response (in seconds). Default is no timeout.
--size-sSpecifies the number of data bytes to be sent.
--ttl-tSet the Time To Live for outgoing packets.
--flood-fFlood ping. Sends packets as fast as possible. Must be root to use this option.
--quiet-qQuiet output. Only display summary at the end.
--verbose-vVerbose output.
--help-hDisplay help information.

Interpreting ping Results

After running ping, you'll see output lines like:

64 bytes from ( icmp_seq=1 ttl=56 time=15.2 ms
  • 64 bytes: This is the size of the packet that was sent.
  • ( The domain and its corresponding IP address.
  • icmp_seq=1: The sequence number for the sent packet.
  • ttl=56: Time To Live value for the packet.
  • time=15.2 ms: The round trip time it took for the packet.

In case of no response, you might see lines like:

Request timeout for icmp_seq 1


The ping command is a vital tool for diagnosing network connectivity issues. Whether you're troubleshooting local network problems or verifying the accessibility of a remote server, ping provides quick and insightful feedback. It's essential to familiarize oneself with its options and output for efficient network troubleshooting. Always remember to use ping respectfully, as flooding a network or server without permission can be deemed as a denial-of-service attack.

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