What Is a Network Scanner? & How to Use One

Last Updated: November 5, 2021

Jason Wise

Jason Wise

In this article, we clear the confusion by discussing the working of two major types of network scanners: IP Scanners and Port Scanners.
Network Scanner 101: What is it & How to Use Network Scanners?
EarthWeb is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Internet Protocol Technology has done some incredible work in improving the way people communicate with each other. You can send photographs, videos, GIFs, upload files and access them from anywhere in the world.

You needn’t require a wired connection to make this possible. Thanks to the Internet Protocol Technology, devices in remote areas can connect with each other.

But this revolutionary technology has some downgrades. Hence, it requires troubleshooting.

How can you troubleshoot it? You can do this by using a Network Scanner. Now, people get confused about the network scanners available in the market and their specific functions.

In this article, we clear the confusion by discussing the working of two major types of network scanners: IP Scanners and Port Scanners.

What Is a Network Scanner?

Network Scanners

So, what are Network Scanners? Well, they are precisely what they sound like. They are tools that scan networks. Why do they scan networks?

They do it to find all the active devices and their open ports operating on a particular network. This is necessary to find and correct the vulnerability of networks.

You can also use network scanners to check whether a network has proper security protocols in place and, hence, ensure that the network is safe to use.

Basically, network scanners help in network maintenance. How do they do it? All these scanners do is ping networks and wait for their responses. Based on the received responses, they display the results.

But there is one thing you must know about the network scanners. Hackers and cyber-crime groups use scanners to exploit the vulnerability of networks. This Is where a frequent question people ask.

Does this mean network scanners are illegal? No, they are not. But things can turn ugly if you abuse the use of network scanners.

For instance, if you readily scan just any network you want, you might end up in legal trouble because you don’t have the permission to scan someone else’s network.

Hence, if you do this irresponsibly, chances are the owner of the network might sue you. But if you are careful and use the scanners with proper permissions, then you are good to go.

IP Scanners

Now, what are IP scanners?

IP scanners scan IP addresses to find whether they are active. They also gain information about the devices using that IP address and other information.

Why is this important? This Is important because when you scan an IP address, you get to know all the active devices.

This helps in ensuring whether you can communicate with the devices, as IP addresses act as unique identifiers.

If you are a network admin, this is extremely helpful.

Port Scanners

Port Scanners do a specific job of detecting the openness of ports on a network. Why is this important?

This Is crucial because devices have nearly 65535 ports with which you can communicate with. Hence, if you know which ports are open, then you can determine which ports you can communicate with.

Most people make the mistake by considering all the ports of a device remain open. But this isn’t the case because while there are thousands of ports of a device, only a few remain open.

You can use this information to close the ports that aren’t suitable for communicating with.

How Do Network Scanners Work?

Network Scanners

Scanning IP addresses and Ports give you a plethora of information on the number of active devices on a port and which ports of the devices are open. This in turn helps you find the devices you can communicate with.

You need to use an IP scanner. It finds the active devices and a Port Scanner to find the open ports. That’s a bummer because the process becomes time-consuming.

But the good news is that there are many network scanners in the market that support both IP scanners and port scanners. Hence, you can get all the information you need using a single network scanner.

So, how do network scanners work? You need two bits of information to use a network scanner.

The first information you need is the IP range of the address you want to scan, and the second information is the specific network.

All you need to do is enter the information and the network scanner will display the information. It pings the IP addresses and ports and records the responses to find the results.

What if you don’t know the IP range? In case you don’t have the IP range, the network scanners will execute its operation based on the default setting. This means it will scan all the IPs of the local subnet or the network.

What information can you get? You learn about the active devices, the operating system they are using, MAC address and more.

And if you use a network scanner that supports the function of both port scanners and IP scanners, then you can get the status of open ports simultaneously.

Another excellent advantage of using a network scanner is that it lets you filter the results and export the information in many file formats.

Uses of Network Scanners

Let’s now learn a few applications of network scanners.

Troubleshooting Networks and Connected Devices

Troubleshooting Networks

If a device has an improper configuration, then you won’t get a stable connection. This Is where network scanners are super helpful.

They help you find the devices connected to a network, check the openness of the port. You can also check the information each port passes.

Hence, if you find devices with improper configuration, you can troubleshoot them.

This becomes incredibly tough if you are trying to access the same information without a network scanner.

Security

Network scanners help network admins to ensure whether the security of a network is intact.

In simple words, network admins can use network scanners to find if unknown devices get connected.

This Is crucial because sometimes unknown devices connect to a network and exploit it by scamming other devices.

Hence, network scanners help maintain security of a network.

Auditing Network

You must audit the network if you want everything to run smoothly.

Network scanners help in auditing the network so that you can make calculated decisions.

They help secure the network and tell you a lot of information about the devices connected to it.

How to use Network Scanners

Network Scanners

Let’s address the last piece of the puzzle by answering the question: How can you use network scanners?

The first thing you need to do is download a network scanner, either from its official website or from your Application Store.

An excellent suggestion to follow is to go for a network scanner that works with popular operating systems like Linux, Windows, and macOS.

Then, install the scanner and fill the input field by entering the IP range you want to scan.

You can also leave the space blank if you want the scanner to scan all the IPs of the local subnet. Most tools allow you to upload a list of IPs you want to scan.

That’s it, after the scan you’ll get information like the host’s name, ping and open ports.

You can easily find free and paid tools in the market. The premium tools come with advanced features.

Conclusion

There you have it. Now, you know all about network scanners and how you can use them.

With an excellent network scanner, you can scan networks to find the active devices, open ports and the communication they pass.

Network scanners help audit networks, maintain security and troubleshoot affected networks. They are simple to use and are readily available on the App Store and on the internet.

Written by Jason Wise

Hi! I’m Jason. I tend to gravitate towards business and technology topics, with a deep interest in social media, privacy and crypto. I enjoy testing and reviewing products, so you’ll see a lot of that by me here on EarthWeb.