Five tools for finding out what's on your network

When you need to determine what devices are connected to your network, you can turn to one of these handy utilities.

Whether you're trying to troubleshoot a problem or track down a particular device, it's often helpful to view a list of the devices connected to your network. Fortunately, many tools can handle this for you. Some are free; others are commercial—and they vary in capability from simple ping testers to full blown network inventory solutions. Here are five to consider.

Note: This article is also available as an image gallery and a video hosted by TechRepublic columnist Tom Merritt.

1: Ping Tester

Ping Tester (Figure A) uses ICMP pings to detect devices on your network. In addition to performing ping sweeps, it performs internet connectivity tests by pinging well known websites, such as Google and Yahoo.

Figure A

Figure A

Ping Tester offers a number of advanced functions, like the ability to set individual parameters for ping tests and to schedule testing. The utility can also perform TRACERT-based testing.

Ping Tester sells for $39.95, but a free trial version is available for download.

2: Network Inventory Advisor

Network Inventory Advisor (Figure B) can help you discover the various resources on your network. It uses a simple wizard-based interface and lists discovered devices by operating system. It also provides reports related to software, license keys, hardware, and alerts. Network Inventory Advisor must be provisioned with administrative credentials for the target devices so it can collect this information.

Figure B

Figure B

Network Inventory Advisor sells for $89.00, but a free trial version is available for download.

3: Belarc Advisor

Belarc Advisor (Figure C) is a free tool that's primarily intended to provide detailed information about a single PC's hardware and operating system. It might not be the sort of tool you'd normally think of as being a network discovery utility, but it does include discovery capabilities.

Figure C

Figure C

Belarc provides the free tool primarily as a way of promoting BelManage, which is the enterprise version of Bellarc Advisor. As such, Belarc Advisor demonstrates some of these enterprise management capabilities by performing a network device discovery. The software displays the IP address, device type, device details, and device roles for each discovered device.

4: Advanced IP Scanner

Advanced IP Scanner (Figure D) is a free tool for scanning an IP address range to collect network device data. One of the great things about this tool is that it can be used as a portable utility that does not require a traditional installation.

Figure D

Figure D

Advanced IP Scanner displays the status, name, IP address, manufacturer, and Mac address of each discovered device. You can enter IP address ranges manually or scan addresses from a file. The software also allows you to connect to discovered devices using protocols such as HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, and RDP.

5: Wireless Network Watcher

Wireless Network Watcher (Figure E) is a free tool designed to discover devices on your wireless network. However, it doesn't seem to differentiate between wireless networks and wired networks; it had no trouble scanning devices on my wired network.

Figure E

Figure E

For each discovered device, Wireless Network Watcher displays the IP address, device name, MAC address, network adapter manufacturer, device information, user text, and the date on which the device was first detected. The output can be customized to include additional information, such as when the device was last detected.

Because this tool is designed to scan wireless networks, it can be used as a security tool as well. You can set it up to keep tabs on your network and alert you any time a new device is detected.

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