A default gateway is a node in a computer network that enables connection to other networks. It allows devices on separate networks to communicate with one another.
It serves as a forwarding host when no other routes for the destination Internet Protocol (IP) address have been specified. It can also act as an intermediary between multiple devices connected to a shared subnet.
An example of a default gateway in action can be found when accessing web pages. Each request is sent through the gateway before it actually gets onto the internet, and vice versa.
In short, default gateways are routing systems used to direct user requests to their intended destination, whether or not the sender and receiver have different network protocols.
How does it work?
The process begins with an originating device - the first to send out an access request - and a routing table. The table determines the most efficient route, as well as what router should be used. Even if there is no specific router identified, the default gateway will still receive the request to ensure data can still flow.
A default gateway on networks such as homes or small offices is often the main router, but a subnet system can be used in parallel with the default gateway to expand this as an office is scaled.
How to find the default gateway
How to find your default gateway address on Windows
Finding a default gateway address on Windows 10 is a simple process.
- Open Settings from the Start Menu, and select ‘Network & Internet’.
- Select ‘View hardware and connection properties’ from the bottom of the ‘Advanced network settings’.
- All the network adaptors on the system will be listed, and the default gateway address will be shown. The list may need to be scrolled in order to find it.
Windows 11 is very similar, but slightly more complicated.
- As with Windows 10, open the Start Menu, select Settings and click ‘Network & Internet’.
- Click ‘Advanced network settings’ and then ‘Hardware and connection properties.
- As with Windows 10, all the network adaptors on the system will be listed, and the default gateway address will be shown. The list may need to be scrolled in order to find it.
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However, if you are a more advanced user who feels comfortable using the command line, you can also use this powerful utility to find the default gateway IP address for Windows 10 and 11.
How to find your default gateway address on macOS
- Open System Settings and select ‘Network’.
- Select the active network from the list.
- Beneath the network (for example ‘Wi-Fi’) the adaptor in use will be listed.
- Select ‘Details…’ to view the network information. The default gateway might be listed as ‘Router’
An alternative approach for users accustomed to using the macOS terminal, is to use the command line to type ‘route -n get default’, which will show the IP address of the Default Gateway.
How to find your default gateway address on Linux
Linux has many different types of desktop environments. However, obtaining the information from the command line or terminal is a simple process and very similar to that of macOS. Two options are presented below.
Type ‘ip route | grep default’
This will show the Default Gateway address.
For more information about the routing table, including Gateway information, an alternative command to type is ‘route -n’.
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Dale Walker is the Managing Editor of ITPro, and its sibling sites CloudPro and ChannelPro. Dale has a keen interest in IT regulations, data protection, and cyber security. He spent a number of years reporting for ITPro from numerous domestic and international events, including IBM, Red Hat, Google, and has been a regular reporter for Microsoft's various yearly showcases, including Ignite.
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