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Ip vs. Ifconfig in Linux: Which one to use for networking

Explore the differences between IP and ifconfig commands in Linux. This article compares their uses, advantages, and scenarios, helping you choose the right tool for network management and configuration tasks in Linux environments.

by Arun Kumar
Published: Last Updated on
ip vs. ifconfig linux commands

In the realm of Linux networking, these tools are fundamental, yet they serve distinct purposes and cater to different needs. As Linux has evolved, so has its approach to network management, leading to a shift from the traditional ifconfig to the more advanced ip command. This discussion is designed to demystify these commands, offering insights into their functionalities, differences, and appropriate use cases.

We’ll delve into each command’s syntax, usage, and outputs, comparing their capabilities and discussing which scenarios each is best suited for. Join us as we dissect these tools to enhance your Linux networking proficiency.

Introduction to Linux networking commands

Linux, known for its robustness and flexibility, offers various tools for network management. Two of the most discussed commands in this realm are ifconfig and ip. While ifconfig has been the go-to command for decades, ip is gradually becoming the preferred choice in modern Linux distributions.

Ifconfig: the old guard

ifconfig, which stands for “interface configuration,” has been part of the UNIX world since the early days. It’s used for configuring, controlling, and querying TCP/IP network interface parameters.

Syntax and example of ifconfig

Syntax: ifconfig [interface]

Example: To view all active interfaces, simply type:



eth0: flags=4163<UP,BROADCAST,RUNNING,MULTICAST>  mtu 1500
        inet  netmask  broadcast
        ether 00:1a:2b:3c:4d:5e  txqueuelen 1000  (Ethernet)
        RX packets 12345  bytes 6789012 (6.4 MiB)
        TX packets 54321  bytes 2109876 (2.0 MiB)

IP: the new contender

The ip command is part of the iproute2 package, which is now the standard utility for network configuration in Linux. It offers more features and is considered to be more powerful than ifconfig.

ReferMastering the ‘ip’ command in Linux: 10 real-world examples

Syntax and example of ip

Syntax: ip [options] OBJECT [command]

Example: To display all interfaces, you would use:

ip addr


1: lo: <LOOPBACK,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 65536 qdisc noqueue state UNKNOWN group default qlen 1000
    inet scope host lo
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever
2: eth0: <BROADCAST,MULTICAST,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 1500 qdisc pfifo_fast state UP group default qlen 1000
    inet brd scope global dynamic eth0
       valid_lft 86378sec preferred_lft 86378sec

Comparison: IP vs. Ifconfig

Range of functionalities

IP: The ip command is like a Swiss Army knife for Linux networking. It not only handles basic tasks like enabling or disabling network interfaces and configuring IP addresses but also delves into more complex territories like managing routing tables, setting up tunnels, and controlling ARP tables. For instance, with ip route, you can inspect and modify the kernel routing table, which is crucial for setting up complex networks.

Ifconfig: In contrast, ifconfig is more like a standard screwdriver, perfect for basic tasks like configuring, controlling, and querying network interface parameters. It’s great for a quick check of your network interface’s IP address, subnet mask, and other basic settings. However, it lacks the capability to handle more advanced features like policy routing or tunneling.

User experience and learning curve

IP: The ip command’s syntax is more structured and consistent, albeit it can be a bit overwhelming for beginners. Its options are vast and provide granular control over network interfaces and protocols. The learning curve might be steeper, but it’s a one-stop-shop for almost all networking needs in Linux.

Ifconfig: ifconfig is more straightforward, making it user-friendly, especially for those who have been using Linux for a long time or those who prefer simplicity. Its simplicity, however, comes at the cost of limited functionality.

Output and readability

IP: ip provides more detailed output, offering insights that are critical for diagnosing and resolving complex network issues. The level of detail can be adjusted with various options, making it highly versatile.

Ifconfig: The output of ifconfig is more concise and to the point, which can be easier to read for basic information. However, this brevity means it omits some of the more detailed information that ip provides.

Backward compatibility and maintenance

IP: Being a part of the iproute2 package, ip is in active development, ensuring compatibility with modern networking standards and technologies. This makes it more suitable for contemporary network management tasks.

Ifconfig: ifconfig has not seen significant updates for many years and is considered deprecated in many Linux distributions. While it’s still available and works well for basic tasks, it might not be the best choice for future-proofing your skills or scripts.

Scripting and automation

IP: The structured output and extensive options make ip more amenable to scripting and automation, a critical aspect for system administrators and network engineers.

Ifconfig: While it can be used in scripts for basic tasks, ifconfig‘s limited functionality and the risk of deprecation in future Linux releases make it less ideal for automation purposes.

Which one to use?

Ifconfig: When to use

  • In older systems where ip is not available.
  • For simple network interface tasks.
  • When you’re more comfortable with traditional commands.

IP: When to use

  • In modern Linux distributions.
  • For advanced network management and troubleshooting.
  • When you need to manage IP routing and tunnels.

ip vs. ifconfig comparison table

This table provides a quick reference to understand the core differences and functionalities of the ip and ifconfig commands.

Feature/Functionality Comparison between Ip and Ifconfig Commands
Basic Interface Configuration Ip: Configures advanced network interfaces.
Ifconfig: Configures basic network interfaces.
Displaying Interfaces Ip: Shows detailed information, including secondary addresses.
Ifconfig: Shows primary addresses and basic interface details.
Routing Management Ip: Extensive routing features like adding, deleting, and showing routing tables.
Ifconfig: Limited routing capabilities.
Tunneling Ip: Supports tunneling protocols and configurations.
Ifconfig: Lacks tunneling support.
Maintenance and Updates Ip: Actively maintained and updated.
Ifconfig: Not actively maintained; considered deprecated in many systems.
Learning Curve Ip: More complex, suitable for advanced networking concepts.
Ifconfig: Simpler, more intuitive for basic use.
Availability Ip: Standard in modern Linux distributions.
Ifconfig: Present in older systems; deprecated in newer ones.
Address Management IP: Manages multiple IP addresses on a single interface.
Ifconfig: Manages single IP address per interface.
Command Syntax Ip: Complex syntax with more options for advanced use.
Ifconfig: Simpler, more straightforward syntax.
Community Support Ip: Extensive and current support.
Ifconfig: Limited to older systems and legacy support.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Ip and Ifconfig in Linux

1. Is ifconfig completely obsolete in Linux?

Answer: Not completely. While ifconfig is considered deprecated in many modern Linux distributions, it is still present and functional in several older systems. It’s increasingly being replaced by the ip command, but it’s not entirely obsolete.

2. Can ip do everything that ifconfig does?

Answer: Yes, and more. ip can handle all the tasks that ifconfig does, such as configuring network interfaces and viewing IP addresses, but it also provides a much broader range of functionalities like advanced routing, tunneling, and network interface management.

3. Why is ip preferred over ifconfig in modern systems?

Answer: ip is preferred because it offers a more comprehensive and detailed approach to network management, aligning with modern networking standards and practices. It is also actively maintained, ensuring better compatibility with current technologies.

4. Is the syntax of ip more complicated than ifconfig?

Answer: The syntax of ip can be more complex due to its extensive capabilities. However, for basic tasks, it can be as straightforward as ifconfig. The complexity mainly arises when dealing with its advanced features.

5. Should I learn ifconfig if I’m new to Linux?

Answer: It’s beneficial to have a basic understanding of ifconfig, especially if you might work with older Linux systems. However, your focus should be on learning ip as it is the current and future standard for Linux networking.

6. Can I use ifconfig on all Linux distributions?

Answer: Most older distributions support ifconfig, but it may not be available by default on newer ones. In such cases, you might need to install it manually, usually through a legacy network utilities package.

7. Are there tasks that ifconfig handles better than ip?

Answer: Not particularly in terms of capabilities. The preference for ifconfig usually stems from its simplicity and familiarity, especially for basic tasks and among users accustomed to older UNIX and Linux systems.

8. How do I transition from using ifconfig to ip?

Answer: Transitioning involves familiarizing yourself with the ip command’s syntax and capabilities. Start by using ip for basic tasks like checking network interfaces and IP addresses, and gradually explore its advanced features.

9. Is it necessary to use the ip command in scripting and automation?

Answer: Yes, especially for future-proofing your scripts. ip provides more robust and versatile options for network management scripting and is more likely to be supported in future Linux versions.

10. Are there any good resources to learn more about the ip command?

Answer: Absolutely! Linux documentation, online tutorials, forums, and community discussions are great resources. The man pages (man ip) are also an excellent starting point for understanding the intricacies of the ip command.


The debate between ip and ifconfig in the Linux world boils down to a choice between modern functionality and traditional simplicity. ip, with its comprehensive feature set and active development, is tailored for advanced network management and is increasingly becoming the standard in modern Linux distributions. It offers a detailed view of network configurations and is better suited for complex tasks such as routing and tunneling. On the other hand, ifconfig, though considered deprecated in many systems, still holds value for its simplicity and ease of use, particularly for basic network interface tasks and in environments with older Linux distributions.

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