IPv4 vs IPv6 Address: What's the Difference? [A Detailed Comparison]

This article will help you to know the difference between IPv4 vs IPv6 and why earlier the internet used IPv4 but later moved to IPv6.

Updated: 09 Jan, 24 by Susith Nonis 29 Min

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IPv4 vs IPv6, what are the differences, and why did IP4 move to IPv6? We will answer these questions and more in this article, Earlier, the Internet used IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4) but later moved to IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6). Do many people wonder why there was the need to move to IPv6 and its significance? Basically, for those who do not know what IPv4 and IPv6 are, these are the internet protocols providing addresses for systems. But, there was a gradual transition from IPv4 to IPv6. The difference between the two is huge. Due to the exhaustion of the IPv4 addresses, it was required to move to a new number for better access across the internet.

But, before you start transitioning your business from IPv4 to IPv6, you must understand the nature of both internet protocols. In this article, we have mentioned how both are different, their features, why there was a need for this transition when it was the right time to do this transition, the benefits of IPv6 over IPv4, challenges while transitioning, and other necessary details.

Before moving to the differences between IPv6 vs IPv4, we must look at what IPv4 and IPv6 are.

IPv4 determines the Internet Protocol version 4, with four sets of numbers. Where each number can range from 0 to 255, forming different combinations. For example- is an IPv4 format IP address in the TCP/IP model. IPv4 uses a 32-bit IP address, providing you with the IP address - 232—or 4,294,967,296.

IPv4 was introduced into the market in the early 1980s. We usually use an IP address to identify any system and connect it over the network. After that, DNS (domain name server) came into the picture for easily accessing the systems, as remembering the IP address for various devices can be confusing. To eliminate this challenge, DNS came into the picture to translate the IP address into a human-readable format. For example, a URL that you use to navigate to a website using your browser.

So whenever you place a request, navigate to “www.google.com” through your browser. The DNS will translate the URL name back into the IP address (, as shown in the above image. It allows you to navigate the internet easily compared to the IPv4 address.

Features of IPv4:

  • It provides a connectionless protocol.
  • You can use IPv4 to create a simple virtualized communication layer over different devices.
  • It consumes less memory to store the address and is easier to remember.
  • It has been widely supported by millions of devices across the globe.
  • It comes with wide support for video libraries and conferences.

Here, IPv6 stands for Internet Protocol Version 6. It was launched in the 1990s to replace the Internet protocol version 4. Rather than using the 32-bit addresses, IPv6 uses the 128-bit addresses that have expanded the range of the addresses. It offers eight groups for extended address combination, where four are hexadecimal numbers separated by a colon character.

It came into the picture as the addresses under IPv4 were getting short, and there was a requirement for a new address set for specifying the devices over the internet. IPv6 allows for a theoretical 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456, or 340 undecillion addresses, providing a unique IPv6 address to every device available on the internet.

An example IPv6 address looks like this- 2002:0de6:1001:4042:0110:8c2e:0370:7264. Ipv6 also overcomes several challenges faced by IPv4. Here, we will explain how IPv6 is preferable to IPv4.

Features of IPv6:

  • You will get a hierarchical addressing and routing infrastructure.
  • You will get stateful and Stateless configurations for your devices.
  • You can get along easily with its high-end support.
  • It is well-suited for neighboring node interaction.

IP addresses are used to provide an individual address space to every device. Each device is identified uniquely with the IP address. IP is available as an integral part of an internet protocol suite, along with the transmission control protocol, also known as TCP/IP. This suite sets the rules for addressing, transmitting, and receiving the data over networks.

One of the most commonly used IP formats is IPv4 addresses, also known as dotted quad decimal, x.x.x.x, where x ranges between 0 and 255—for example, IPv4 is a 32-bit address space limited to unique hosts of 232, which are around 4.3 billion IPv4 addresses.

In 2011, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority announced that they ran out of IPv4 address-free space. Then they thought of recovering the unused IPv4 address spaces from across the internet and created a recovered address pool. In 2014, IANA again redistributed the pool addresses, resulting in no more IPv4 addresses being allocated.

To overcome this outrage of the address spaces, the internet gradually transitioned to IPv6 address space to provide more address space to devices. The Internet Engineering Task Force developed the IPv6 address space in 1998, offering 128-bit addresses with a group of four hexadecimal digits (using digits 0-9 plus letters A-F) separated by colons (e.g., 2022:gb8::8a6f:762:7107).

Initially, it was considered that around 4.3 billion addresses would be sufficient to cater to the internet requirement. But it was only possible when fewer devices were connected to the internet, each having a unique IP address. But with time, the need for mobile devices has also increased as digitization increases. It leads to an increased number of devices with different IP addresses per person.

Later with time, the number of devices crossed 46 billion, leaving the IPv4 address no longer available. Also, many IPv4 addresses have been reserved for special purposes. Around 18 million IPv4 addresses were available only for private addressing. Many top-notch organizations leverage private addresses on internal networks whether they require it or not. Where another 270 million are dedicated to multicast addresses.

Also, if you want a unique IP address, it costs a fortune. A study estimated that, in 2020, the cost per address from a legal marketplace was $36. Even heavy black marketing was there to get the legal IPv4 address for different purposes.

Thus, IPv6 is not an option; it came out of necessity.

Running out of the IPv4 address space leads us to the newer version of the IP address, IPv6. Unfortunately, this newer version does not have backward compatibility with the IPv4 version. So, you cannot use them interchangeably. Thus, organizations or individuals can either transition to the newer version or maintain a dual-stack having both IPv4 and IPv6 approaches.

Having both options takes up a lot of investment, resources, etc. Also, it will not add any additional value to your customers. But, if you are struggling to choose one of them, you can consider several benefits of IPv6 and start transitioning, if possible. They will provide you with a larger address space and make your communication more efficient. Below are some benefits you will encounter with transitioning from IPv4 to IPv6.

  • Extended address space

As you all know, the primary reason for coming up with the idea of IPv6 was to overcome the issue of an insufficient address pool of IPv4 addresses. All thanks to IPv6’s 128-bit structure, providing an extended address space so that every person across the globe can have several private connections. In the future, you will get enough space to cater to significant IP-address-intensive technology, such as the Internet of Things.

Unlike with the IPv4 address allocation, several precautions have been taken to ensure the efficient usage and allocation of IPv6 addresses. The major problem with IPv4 address availability was some companies’ “address hoarding.” They “stockpile” the addresses never actually required by them or fully used. They did not even surrender the unused addresses. Thus, proper IPv6 address allocation is ensured by putting assignment policies.

  • Easier and more efficient communication

IPv6 ensures easier communication over the internet because of the increased address space. Now each device can have its unique global address without the unnecessary requirement of complex routing methods such as translating the network address (NAT).

But considering the case of IPv4, NAT provides a way to conserve IPv4 addresses. It is a significant roadblock for the application development having end-to-end communications, as they often require creative workarounds for NAT traversals. With IPv6, this roadblock has been eliminated, thus leading to faster development times, easy communication, and conserved resources.

  • Autoconfiguration

This is one of the significant differences between Ipv4 and IPv6. In the case of Ipv6, you will get a stateless address autoconfiguration. But, with IPv4, you will require a DHCP server for assigning the address to a specific device on the internet.

With IPv6, the router will provide the required network ID to all the connected devices to generate a specific host ID (the last 64 bits), resulting in a complete IPv6 address. The device sends a “router solicitation” (RS) request asking for the network address. Then, the device will get the response from the “router advertisement” (RA).

Does that eliminate the requirement for a DHCP server? Not really. Because if you have a dual-stack of IPv4 and IPv6 networks, you need to configure a DHCP server for managing IPv4 address space. But even if you use the dual-stack but only IPv6, you will require the server to provide the other DHCP options to your device. Sometimes, you need to set up a “stateful” configuration similar to the IPv4 for more controlled IP address management.

  • Increased mobility

Due to the increased limitations of IPv4 led to the forced implementation of a special IP protocol only suitable for mobile devices, known as Mobile IP (MIP), that uses the concept of triangular routing. As the address pool of the IPv4 space is getting short, it was almost impossible to allow mobile devices to maintain their IP addresses while roaming. It prevents mobile devices from being traced across locations. So, the mobile device is assigned a new IP address whenever it moves to a new network, routing all the traffic through its home network. It has been updated to the new address, resulting in unnecessary traffic.

Unlike the mobile IPv4, the process in IPv6 is optimized as it eliminates the need for unnecessary triangular routing and uses direct routing. In this case, whenever the device is roaming, it uses the home network to advertise its new IP address and make a direct connection. In this way, there is no burden on the home network to handle all the traffic.

  • Multicasting

Multicasting refers to sending a message to several destinations that want to receive those messages. You can send a multicast message using IPv4, but it is optional. But, it creates unnecessary overhead by broadcasting a message to everyone without their consent. Thus, to ensure efficiency, IPv6 does not support multicasting at all.

IPv4 and IPv6 addresses provide different address spaces to the devices connected to a network. They might have the same purpose, but their work is different, as they offer different features and benefits. We have mentioned some of the quick differences based on some factors.




Addressing Method

Specifies a numeric address with binary bits separated by a dot (.)

Specifies an alphanumeric address with binary bits separated by a colon (:) along with hexadecimal.

Address Types

It can be used for Unicast, broadcast, and multicast.

It can be used for Unicast, multicast, and anycast.

Address Mask

for the designated network

Not used.

Header Fields

12 header fields

8 header fields

Length of Header Fields

20 length

40 length


Yes, it has.

No checksum fields.

Number of Classes

The class ranges from A to E.

An unlimited number of IP addresses.


IP addresses and routes must be assigned.

Configuration is optional


Supports VLSM

Do not Support VLSM


Done by sending and forwarding routes.

Done by the sender.

Routing Information Protocol (RIP)

supported by the routed daemon.

It does not support due to it using static routes.

Network Configuration (NC)

Manual or with DHCP.



System management protocol

SNMP does not support IPv6.

Mobility & Interoperability

Due to constrained network topologies, it has restricted mobility and interoperability capabilities.

IPv6 provides embedded interoperability and mobility capabilities.

How Many Addresses Are in IPv4 vs IPv6?

Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4) and Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) vastly differ in the number of available IP addresses due to their distinct address formats and lengths. Before proceeding to read about IPv4 and IPv6 IP addresses, make sure to check this article about different types of IP addresses.

IPv4 Address Space:

IPv4 addresses are 32-bit numerical values written in decimal notation and composed of four sets of numbers ranging from 0 to 255, separated by dots (e.g., This format limits the available addresses to approximately 4.3 billion unique combinations.

IPv6 Address Space:

On the other hand, IPv6 addresses are 128 bits in length and expressed as a series of eight groups of hexadecimal numbers separated by colons (e.g., 2001:0db8:85a3:0000:0000:8a2e:0370:7334). The significantly expanded address space of IPv6 allows for a staggering number of unique addresses, estimated at 3.4×10^38, which is substantially larger than IPv4's address pool.

The exhaustion of IPv4 addresses primarily drove the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 due to the exponential growth in internet-connected devices. IPv6's significantly larger address space was designed to accommodate this growth and ensure an ample supply of addresses for the expanding network of devices, services, and technologies connected to the internet. To read more about IPv6, read our article on what is IPv6.

Address Format (IPv4 \ IPv6) - IPv4 vs IPv6 Example

IPv4 Address Format:

IPv4 addresses consist of 32-bit binary numbers represented in decimal form. These addresses are divided into four sets of numbers separated by periods (dots), each ranging from 0 to 255. Let’s see an example for understanding the IPv4 vs IPv6 difference better:

IPv4 Address Example:

In the IPv4 example above:

  • The first set is 192
  • The second set is 168
  • The third set is 0
  • The fourth set is 1

Each set in an IPv4 address can have values ranging from 0 to 255, allowing for approximately 4.3 billion unique addresses.

IPv6 Address Format:

IPv6 addresses, in contrast, are 128-bit binary numbers represented in hexadecimal form. These addresses consist of eight groups of four hexadecimal digits separated by colons (:). For example:

IPv6 Address Example: 2001:0db8:85a3:0000:0000:8a2e:0370:7334

In the IPv6 example above:

  • Each group comprises four hexadecimal digits.
  • Leading zeros within a group can be omitted for brevity (0000 can be written as 0).
  • Successive groups of zeros within an IPv6 address can be represented by:: to shorten the notation.

IPv6's expanded address format allows for a significantly larger pool of unique addresses than IPv4, meeting the increasing demand for IP addresses in today's interconnected world.

Which is faster: IPv4 or IPv6?

Determining whether IPv4 or IPv6 is faster isn't straightforward and depends on various factors. Generally, both protocols can perform similarly in terms of speed under ideal conditions. However, here are some points to consider:

  1. Network Infrastructure: In an IPv6-enabled network, the efficiency of routing, network configuration, and available bandwidth can impact overall speed. In some cases, IPv6 might be optimized for faster routing due to a more efficient header structure.
  2. Internet Service Providers (ISPs): Some ISPs might have better infrastructure or more optimized routing for one protocol over the other. The speed experienced by users may vary based on their ISP's implementation of IPv4 and IPv6.
  3. Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) and Websites: The performance experienced by users also depends on the support for IPv6 by content providers. Websites or services that are IPv6-ready might provide faster connections for users accessing them over IPv6.
  4. Local Network Configuration: If a network is configured to prioritize one protocol over the other or if there are specific optimizations for IPv4 or IPv6, it could influence the perceived speed for users within that network.
  5. Size of Data Packets: IPv6 generally has larger packet headers when you compare IPv4 and IPv6. While this can impact overhead, in certain cases, larger headers in IPv6 may lead to potential inefficiencies when dealing with smaller packets.

IPv4 remains the dominant internet protocol globally, enjoying widespread use due to its established infrastructure and extensive support across devices and networks. However, IPv6 adoption has been gradually increasing.

Despite the technological advancements and benefits of IPv6, its adoption has been slower than expected. Many systems and applications are entrenched in IPv4, contributing to its continued prevalence.

The depletion of available IPv4 addresses and the surge in connected devices, notably IoT devices, are driving the need for IPv6's larger address space. While IPv6 adoption is on the rise, it hasn't yet surpassed IPv4's usage.

IPv6 adoption rates vary by region, influenced by government policies, industry initiatives, and technological advancements. Some regions show more significant strides in embracing IPv6.

IPv4 - Established and Widely Compatible:

  • Compatibility: Many gaming networks, servers, and consoles primarily support IPv4 due to its established infrastructure.
  • Stability: IPv4 is known for stable connectivity in gaming environments, offering reliable performance and minimal latency in most cases.
  • Ubiquity: Most gaming communities and platforms are built around IPv4, ensuring seamless compatibility and accessibility.

IPv6 - Potential Advantages:

  • Address Space: IPv6's vast address space theoretically provides better scalability for future gaming needs, accommodating the growing number of devices.
  • Efficiency: In some instances, IPv6 might offer more direct routing paths, potentially reducing latency and enhancing gaming experiences.
  • Emerging Support: While still in the process of widespread adoption, IPv6 is gradually gaining traction within gaming networks and platforms.

Considerations for Gaming:

  • Compatibility Concerns: Not all gaming hardware, ISPs, or servers fully support IPv6, potentially causing compatibility issues.
  • Performance Variability: IPv6's performance benefits might not be universally experienced and can vary based on network configurations and infrastructure.
  • Current Standards: Given the prevalent use of IPv4 in gaming ecosystems, IPv6 might not always offer noticeable advantages in gaming performance.

Ultimately, when choosing between IPv4 and IPv6 for gaming, considering your network setup, compatibility requirements, and the specific gaming platform's support will guide you in making an informed decision aligned with your gaming preferences and needs. Also if you’re curious about switching your IP address, make sure to check this article about the change IP address process.

IPv4 and IPv6 difference significantly depends on their security features and vulnerabilities. Here's a breakdown of their security aspects:

IPv4 Security:

  1. Address Space Exhaustion: IPv4's limited address space led to the implementation of Network Address Translation (NAT) as a solution to conserve addresses. While NAT is not a security feature, it offers protection by hiding internal network structures. However, it's not a security mechanism and may lead to security complexities.
  2. Lack of Built-in Security: IPv4 lacks inherent security features. Protocols like Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) are optional and not universally implemented across all devices and networks using IPv4.
  3. Vulnerabilities: IPv4 suffers from certain vulnerabilities, such as IP spoofing, where attackers falsify IP addresses to deceive systems, as well as threats like Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, which exploit weaknesses in IPv4's packet handling.

IPv6 Security:

  1. Built-in IPsec: IPv6 integrates IPsec into its protocol suite, providing authentication, encryption, and secure communication between devices. IPsec in IPv6 is mandatory, enhancing end-to-end security across the internet.
  2. Enhanced Addressing and Security: IPv6's larger address space allows for unique addressing and reduces the reliance on NAT. With its hierarchical addressing structure, IPv6 enhances security by facilitating simpler network management and reducing exposure to certain types of attacks.
  3. Improved Header Structure: IPv6 simplifies packet processing with a streamlined header structure, reducing the need for network devices to inspect packets deeply. This streamlined structure can help mitigate certain types of network-based attacks.
  4. Secure Neighbor Discovery (SEND): IPv6 introduces the Secure Neighbor Discovery protocol to authenticate and secure interactions between neighboring nodes, reducing the risk of malicious node attacks and unauthorized access to the network.
  5. Potential Transition Challenges: Despite its improved security features, the transition to IPv6 poses challenges, including maintaining backward compatibility and potential security risks during the coexistence of IPv4 and IPv6 in computer networks.

Overall, the features of IPv6 Internet Protocol provide a more secure foundation due to their built-in security, such as mandatory IPsec and improved addressing. However, the adoption of IPv6 is still in progress, and during the transition phase, networks may be vulnerable to various security risks, including the coexistence of IPv4 and IPv6 networks.

Now let’s discuss what is the difference between IPv4 and IPv6 for Xbox gaming experiences:


  1. Ubiquitous Support: Xbox consoles primarily use IPv4 due to its widespread implementation and support across gaming networks and services.
  2. Addressing Limitations: IPv4's finite address space can sometimes result in network congestion and limitations in establishing direct connections between consoles, leading to potential NAT-related issues (like Moderate or Strict NAT types) impacting multiplayer gaming and communication.
  3. Compatibility: Most Xbox games, services, and infrastructure are designed to function seamlessly on IPv4 networks. However, as IPv4 addresses become scarce, it may lead to certain connectivity challenges or slower performance.


  1. Abundance of Addresses: IPv6 offers a significantly larger pool of IP addresses, enabling a more direct and expansive connectivity potential between devices, potentially improving multiplayer gaming experiences.
  2. Enhanced Performance: With IPv6, the need for NAT traversal is minimized or eliminated, potentially resulting in lower latency, reduced lag, and better overall performance, especially in scenarios requiring direct peer-to-peer connections.
  3. Adoption Challenges: Despite its advantages, the gaming industry's transition to IPv6 remains a gradual process. Many gaming networks, ISPs, and infrastructure primarily support IPv4, leading to compatibility hurdles and slower adoption rates.

So, while IPv6 offers compelling advantages such as an expanded address space and potential performance improvements for gaming, the gaming ecosystem, including Xbox, predominantly operates on IPv4.

Despite several benefits of transitioning to IPv6 address space, you might face various challenges. Thus, you must consider every aspect while starting the transition proves to be beneficial for your business. Below are some challenges being met during the transition. Consider them before you proceed.

  • Proper planning consumes a lot of time.

IPv6 is very different from IPv4, and you must not consider it a successor of IPv4. If you are considering transitioning your network to IPv6, it requires a lot of workarounds.

Transitioning to IPv6 requires more resources. Every company willing to make this transition must ensure that they have a proper plan for this transition, as there are high chances of a failed transition.

The IT team tracks each device on their radar to provide a unique IP address. Tracking each device is not easy and requires manual and automated involvement in this process.

  • Compatibility issues.

You must know that each device is incompatible with IPv6 address space. Most application software and networking solutions do not support IPv6. To eliminate the chances of failure, you must conduct a rigorous testing process to validate everything on the network to ensure that the specific application can work efficiently after being migrated to the new protocol. IT teams must consider the facts, such as how to support devices and applications if incompatible with IPv6.

Many companies use dual-stack implementations to overcome this compatibility issue during the transition, where they simultaneously handle both IPv4 and IPv6. But, managing both versions can come with the challenge of security, as you might be unable to manage how systems choose which connection type to use.

  • Different format

Remembering IPv4 addresses is complex, but it is harder to remember IPv6 because it consists of numeric and hexadecimal combinations. This might cause a much higher error while entering the IPv6 addresses manually. It is better to automate entering the IPv6 address while using or connecting in crucial cases.

  • Requires skilled team for handling network.

Before the transition, all your network team, including the network admin, security analyst, and others, must understand the significant differences between IPv4 and IPv6. They differ in working, where Ipv6 is more crucial, and other factors must be considered. Also, the IT team must know how to tackle and troubleshoot IPv6 network-related issues. So make sure you have sufficient resources and trained staff to handle this transition.

  • Security issues.

As IPv6 ensures more security than IPv4, you must still check for security vulnerabilities. Without testing, you must not start with the transition. You can follow several best practices to ensure complete security by disabling self-generating IP addresses and allowing lists to check permitted IPv6 addresses for authorized access. Teams must ensure proper network segmentation and block specific traffic to stop cyber attacks. You can even leverage the stateful DHCPv6 for better activity tracking, traceability, and visibility for more security.

  • Headers

As you are very much familiar with this article after reading the difference between IPv4 and IPv6 addresses; also the comparison between IPV4 vs IPv6. Each device is uniquely identified by its IP address, and it is required to connect to other network devices. There are two versions of the internet protocol- IPv4 and IPv6. Today, most devices have been assigned to IPv4 address space. But, as the IPv4 address space ran out, we had no option other than migration to IPv6. Thus, it is necessary to develop a new address space to cater to more devices on the internet, that is, IPv6 with 128-bit addresses.

It is considered that IPv6 address space is sufficient for many more years. IPv6 overcomes several issues of Pv4 protocol, including security. However, transitioning to IPv6 is not as easy as it seems to everyone and takes time and detailed network knowledge. There could be several challenges that might occur. So prepare yourself and back up with the right resources before you make the transition.

There are 340 trillion trillion trillion IPv6 addresses in the world.

There are 4,294,967,296 IPv4 addresses in the world.

If you require high speed for your network processing, then using IPv6 is a better choice than IPv4. This is because IPv6 lacks network-address translation (NAT), which can slow down network devices.

Susith Nonis

Susith Nonis

I'm fascinated by the IT world and how the 1's and 0's work. While I venture into the world of Technology, I try to share what I know in the simplest way with you. Not a fan of coffee, a travel addict, and a self-accredited 'master chef'.