Using Wireshark to get the IP address of an Unknown Host

Wireshark is a powerful tool that can analyze traffic between hosts on your network. But it can also be used to help you discover and monitor unknown hosts, pull their IP addresses, and even learn a little about the device itself. Here’s how I used Wireshark to find the IP address of an unknown host on my LAN.

What are Wireshark and IP Addresses?

Wireshark is a network monitor and analyzer. It works below the packet level, capturing individual frames and presenting them to the user for inspection. Using Wireshark, you can watch network traffic in real-time, and look inside to see what data is moving across the wire.

An IP address is a unique identifier used to route traffic on the network layer of the OSI model. If you think of your local network as a neighborhood, a network address is analogous to a house number. When you know the IP address of a host, it’s possible to access and interact with it.

Finding an IP address with Wireshark using ARP requests

Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) requests can be used by Wireshark to get the IP address of an unknown host on your network. ARP is a broadcast request that’s meant to help the client machine map out the entire host network.

ARP is slightly more foolproof than using a DHCP request – which I’ll cover below – because even hosts with a static IP address will generate ARP traffic upon startup.

IP Address with Wireshard - Step 1

To pull an IP address of an unknown host via ARP, I started Wireshark and began a session with the Wireshark capture filter set to arp, as shown above.

IP Address with Wireshard - Step 2

I then wait for the unknown host to come online. I used my cell phone and toggled the WiFi connection on and off. Regardless, when an unknown host comes online it will generate one or more ARP requests. Those are the frames you should look for.

IP Address with Wireshard - Step 3

I spotted the request and clicked on it. I used Wireshark’s Packet details view to analyze the frame. I looked at the Address resolution protocol section of the frame, especially the Sender IP address and Sender MAC address.

In this case, you can see my phone received an IP address of from the router, and you can identify the device as an Apple phone by looking at the vendor OUI.

Quick Guide Recap

Finding IP Address with Wireshark using ARP Requests:

  1. Initiate a Wireshark session with ‘arp’ as the capture filter.
  2. Wait for the target device to come online and generate ARP requests.
  3. Click on an ARP request to analyze it.
  4. In ‘Packet details’ view, focus on ‘Sender IP address’ and ‘Sender MAC address’ in the ‘Address resolution protocol’ section.

Wireshark IP address puller using DHCP requests

Another easy way to determine the IP address of an unknown host on your network is to use DHCP traffic. This method only works if the host requests an IP address.

If you’re dealing with a situation where someone has put a malicious physical network device on your corporate network; this method isn’t recommended – they’ve likely set a static address. But for normal use, it works just as well as ARP.

IP Address with Wireshard - Step 4
To capture DHCP traffic, I like to start a new session with no capture filter and set the Wireshark display filter to udp.port==67 as shown above. Then I waited for the unknown host to come online and requested an IP address from my DHCP server.

You can also force every host on your network to request a new IP address by setting the lease time to an hour or two and capturing network traffic. In this case, you’d want to browse through hostnames until you find the target client.

IP Address with Wireshard - Step 5

Note that the frame I captured has a source IP address of This is normal until the host is assigned a valid IP address by the DHCP server.

I clicked on the captured frame, and looked at the Packet details view. I browsed until I found the entry for Bootstrap protocol and clicked the arrow to expand it

IP Address with Wireshard - Step 6

I scrolled through the list of options until I found the Requested IP address, which showed what the DHCP server attempted to assign. In just about every case this correlates to the IP address of the host machine, despite the fact it’s phrased as a request.

You can also find a handful of other useful options like the IP address lease time and Host name of the unknown client requesting an address.

Quick Guide Recap

Wireshark IP Address Puller Using DHCP Requests:

  1. Start a new Wireshark session without a capture filter and set the display filter to ‘udp.port==67’.
  2. Wait for the target device to come online and request an IP address from the DHCP server.
  3. Optionally, to force all hosts to request a new IP, set the lease time to a short duration and capture network traffic. Look for the target client among the hostnames.
  4. Click on the captured frame with a source IP address of (normal until the host is assigned a valid IP address).
  5. In ‘Packet details’ view, find and expand the ‘Bootstrap protocol’ entry.
  6. Scroll to ‘Requested IP address’, showing the IP address the DHCP server attempts to assign (usually correlates to the host’s IP).
  7. Other useful options to note include ‘IP address lease time’ and ‘Host name’ of the unknown client requesting an address.

Getting the IP address of an unknown host with Wireshark

Those two methods are sure-fire ways to find the IP address of an unknown host. Depending on your network, there may be others. For instance, sending out a broadcast ping will work in some situations when you share a collision domain with the host. But especially for home networking, where all devices are more or less directly connected to a switch, analyzing ARP and DHCP requests are the best choices for discovering an IP address.

Wireshark IP Puller FAQs

Is it illegal to run Wireshark on a public network?

It isn’t illegal to run Wireshark on a public network. However, pay attention to the Terms and Conditions of the network you want to use Wireshark on. It may prohibit the use of Wireshark, in which case you could be banned from the network or even sued for using it.

How do I view the MAC address of a received packet in Wireshark?

To view all of the MAC addresses in a captured packet stream:

  1. Open a packet capture file in Wireshark
  2. Go to Statistics and then Conversations.
  3. Click on the Ethernet tab.

You will see all of the MAC addresses from the captured packets.

Can you pull OPs with Wireshark over wifi?

Yes. Wireshark can capture packets off of a WiFi network as long as the computer it is installed on has a WiFi transceiver and is in promiscuous mode. Wireshark uses the Airpcap standard for wireless packet capture.

What devices can Wireshark use to capture packets?

Wireshark captures packets through the network interface of the computer that it is installed on. It can run on Windows, Linux, macOS, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, Solaris, and Unix.

How do I trace a specific IP address in Wireshark?

If you only want to see the traffic to and from Wireshark in a trace file, load it into Wireshark and then apply a filter to the packet data. You enter this filter in the bar across the top of the packet display pane where you will see the words Apply a display filter. For example, if you want to trace the activity of you should type in:

ip.addr ==

This will filter the records in the display panel so that you only see the packet going to or coming from that address.

How do I get the IP address of a hostname in Wireshark?

You don’t need to open up Wireshark to get the IP address of a hostname or a domain.

  1. Open a Command Prompt window and type in:
    nslookup <hostname>
  2. Type in the name of the host that you want to get the IP address for instead of <hostname>.
  3. If you already have Wireshark open and you want to look in passing packets for the IP address of a known hostname, open a packet stream in Wireshark then enter a display filter. This should be: == <hostname>
  4. Give the name of the host instead of <hostname>.

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