Translating IP Addresses to Binary

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In my our last post we discussed the differences between MAC and IP addresses.  In this post we’ll delve deeper into IP addresses.  Specifically, this post is going to focus on how to translate IP addresses into their original binary numbers.

computer binary code
computer binary code

An IP address looks something like this to us: 198.168.5.191.  Your computer doesn’t see it that way though.  It sees a string of 1’s and 0’s. In fact, that’s how your computer sees pretty much everything, and that number system is called binary.  Learning how to convert IP addresses into binary is one of the easiest ways to get some insight into binary math.

You see, at its most basic, computers are just a series of digital switches.  When a computer reads binary, it’s reading which switches to turn on and off.  1 means “on” and 0 means “off.”  But humans occasionally need to read this information, and looking at pages upon pages of 1’s and 0’s is just confusing, so it gets translated.  The 1’s and 0’s get grouped together, assigned values, and added up to make bigger but shorter numbers, like IP addresses.

Let’s break down an IP address.  IP addresses are composed of four numbers separated by periods.  Each of these four numbers is called an “octet.” They are called octets because each is determined by eight possible values.  The possible values, in order, are: 128, 64, 32, 16, 8, 4, 2, and 1. The binary string of 1’s and 0’s takes these values and tells you if they are included on/in the value of that octet or not.

Example of IP Binary Math

So let’s look at the IP address 198.168.5.191.  Written out in binary, it would be:

11000000.10101000.00000101.10111111

That means that 198 = 11000000 in binary.  So if we break down those 8 numbers:

1.) 128 = 1 = On/yes
2.) 64 = 1 = On/yes
3.) 32 = 0 = Off/no
4.) 16  = 0 = Off/no
5.) 8  = 0 = Off/no
6.) 4  = 0 = Off/no
7.) 2  = 0 = Off/no
8.) 1  = 0 = Off/no

Then take all the “yes” values and add them up.

128 + 64 = 198.

Hooray, that’s the match behind one of the octets for our example IP address!  It’s pretty simple to figure out if you have the binary string. If you have just the IP and need to figure out the binary string, remember that  you always have the same eight possible values, and you always start with the biggest.

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