Utility pings local and remote networks, and a whole lot more too

The handy utility NetPing is one widely used to scan a range of network addresses and retrieve information about the computers using them.

In 2003, programmer Jeff Key found himself in a predicament. While he was away from his home office but accessing

its network through a VPN, he changed the IP address of a machine in the network and rebooted it without remembering what he changed it to.

Key needed to get to that machine via Remote Desktop, but rather than ping all 255 addresses in the network by hand, he wrote a utility called NetPing to do the job for him.

Three years later, NetPing has become an incredibly handy utility, one widely used to scan a range of network addresses and retrieve information about the computers using them. When you run the program, you're presented with an interface that lets you choose a start and end address; you can also derive an address from a given hostname and use that. When you click Go, all the addresses in that range are pinged, and the results tabulated.

Aside from returning the ping time for a given machine, the program can also display system statistics via NetBIOS. Available memory, installed OS (i.e., which flavor of Windows), processor type and uptime are available by default. Right-clicking on a given machine gives you a series of options: You can open the Computer Management console for that machine; start a Remote Desktop session against it; send a reboot command; scan available network ports; see network shares; and send a network message.

Note: When you assess a list of computers, the program will also try to retrieve detailed information about each machine by default. Although this doesn't slow the program itself down (this data is collected asynchronously), you can use the program's options to disable which data types are collected by default if you don't want to see them. Likewise, the program also lists, by default, any machine addresses within the range that are not responding to ping; you can elect to suppress these if you think they're just clutter.

One thing NetPing doesn't let you do is assign a list of addresses to scan that are not within a specific range. This means you can't use it to automatically assess a bunch of arbitrarily named or arbitrarily addressed systems from a manifest. It only scans either one address or a range of addresses. But you can create custom add-ins for the program, and the source code that demonstrates how to do this is included with the application.

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the  Windows Power Users Newsletter, which is devoted to hints, tips, tricks, news and goodies for Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP users and administrators. He has more than 10 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com and SearchSQLServer.com.

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This was first published in November 2006

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