Internet Control Message Protocol

ICMP is a network layer (Layer 3) Internet protocol that reports errors and provides other information relevant to IP packet processing. ICMP is fully documented in RFC 792. ICMP's purpose is to report error and control messages.

ICMP provides a number of useful services supported by the TCP/IP protocol, including ping requests and replies. ICMP Echo requests and replies enable an administrator to test connectivity with a remote device.

Be aware that ICMP runs over IP, which means that there is no guarantee of delivery (because IP is a connectionless protocol). Example 1-9 provides a sample ping command in which an administrator wants to see if a remote device is reachable by sending the remote device a ping request from a Cisco router. By default, a Cisco router sends out a series of five ICMP requests whenever the ping command is issued. Example 1-9 displays a sample ping request to the remote IP address on Router R2.

Example 1-9 The ping Command


Type escape sequence to abort.

Sending 5, 100-byte ICMP Echos to 131.10


Success rate is 100 percent (5/5),


The ping command has a number of reporting mechanisms that run over ICMP. The exclamation point (!) indicates a successful reply. The ping command can also advise you, using a special code character, that the end device is not reachable, as depicted in Table 1-6.

Table 1-6 Possible Test Characters When Using the ping Command




The receipt of a reply

The network server timed out while waiting for a reply


Destination unreachable


Network unreachable


Protocol unreachable


Source quench


Could not fragment


Unknown packet type

Cisco IOS provides a detailed version of the ping tool, which you can evoke by typing ping in the enabled mode. This command is known as the extended ping command.

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