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What Is a Default Gateway?

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Question: What Is a Default Gateway?
You will sometimes see the term default gateway on network configuration screens in Microsoft Windows.
Answer: In computer networking, a default gateway is the device that passes traffic from the local subnet to devices on other subnets. The default gateway often connects a local network to the Internet, although internal gateways for local networks also exist.

Internet default gateways are typically one of two types:

  • On home or small business networks with a broadband router to share the Internet connection, the home router serves as the default gateway.

  • On home or small business networks without a router, such as for residences with dialup Internet access, a router at the Internet Service Provider location serves as the default gateway.
Default network gateways can also be configured using an ordinary computer instead of a router. These gateways use two network adapters, one connected to the local subnet and one to the outside network. Either routers or gateway computers can be used to network local subnets such as those in larger businesses.

In Microsoft Windows, the IP address of a computer's default gateway can be accessed in the ipconfig or 'winipcfg' utilities (see sidebar).

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