Working with Network Configurations from the Command Line


If you’re a Linux administrator, there will be times when you have to work with the command line… many times. There’s a reason for that. With the command line comes great power and flexibility. For that very reason, you need to know the command line and know it well.

One area that you need a rock-solid understanding of is how to use the command line to work with network configurations. This is especially true when you have deployed headless (or GUI-less) servers that only offer a bash prompt for an interface. You’ll need to know how to manipulate those network configurations without the aid of a GUI.

Let’s take a look at some of the commands you have at your disposal and find out how they work. Some of these commands require admin privileges. This means you will either make use of sudo or have to first su to the root user before issuing the commands.


The ifconfig command has been deprecated. In its place is ip, which can do everything ifconfig could. This is one of the first commands you’ll want to learn as a Linux administrator (as far as commands to manage network configurations are concerned). Let’s look at some of the more useful things you can do with this command.

First and foremost, you must use the ip command to view a listing of your network devices. To view all available network devices, issue the command:

ip link show

Figure 1 illustrates the output of the ip link show command.

Figure 1: Finding names of network devices with the ip command.

Now that you know the device name you want to work with, you can assign a static IP address to that device with ip like so:

sudo ip addr add dev DEVNAME 

where DEVNAME is the actual name of the device.

You can then enable that device by using ip in this way:

sudo ip link set DEVNAME up

where DEVNAME is the actual name of the device.

Take the device down with the command:

sudo ip link set DEVNAME down

If you need to add a default gateway to a machine, ip is ready to serve. Say your default GW is To set that on the machine, use:

sudo ip route add default via

The ip command can also show/control the routing table on your machine. Use sudo ip route show to see the routing information (Figure 2).

Figure 2: The ip show route command in action.

You can also add a static route to the machine. Say you have a 10.10.10.x address scheme as well as a 192.168.1.x scheme and you want the 10.10.10.x addresses to bypass the default gateway of the network, via This can be achieved with the help of the ip command like so:

sudo ip route add via dev DEVNAME

where DEVNAME is the actual name of the device.

For more information on the ip command, issue man ip and read the entire man page to garner as much knowledge as you can.


The route command is there to show and manipulate the IP routing table. With this command, there are a number of tasks you can undertake. Let’s walk through a few examples.

The first thing you’ll want to do is display the IP routing table. To do that, issue the command route -n. This will list out destination, gateway, genmask, flats, metric, and more. The output of this command will look similar to that found in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Displaying the routing table with route.

To add and remove a 10.10.10.x network with a gateway of using route, the commands would look like:

  • sudo route add -net gw

  • sudo route del -net gw

If you only need to add or remove a default gateway of, the route commands would resemble:

  • sudo route add default gw

  • sudo route del default gw

What if you want to add a route to a specific host of on your network with a gateway of That is also possible with a command similar to this:

route add -host gw eth0

Now let’s say you have two LANs, one with a 10.10.10.x network scheme and the other with a 192.168.1.x scheme. There’s a firewall between each LAN that contains two Ethernet cards: eth0 (attached to the 10.10.10.x network) and eth1 (attached to the 192.168.1.x network). Your firewall needs to be able to route packets from the 10.10.10.x network through the 192.168.1.x network (which will forward packets to the external internet).

To manage this, you would set up the firewall with two IP addresses. For our example, we’ll use on eth1 and on eth0. The gateway to the external internet on 192.168.1.x network is On the firewall machine, you would use the route command like so:

  • sudo route add -net netmask dev eth1

  • sudo route add default gw

  • sudo route add -net netmask dev eth0

On all computers in the 10.10.10.x network, you would issue the route command like this:

  • sudo route add -net netmask dev eth0

  • sudo route add default gw

The above commands instruct each computer that the default gateway is (your firewall/router).

On all computers in the 192.168.1.x network, you have to add a specific routing statement to each machine so the routing packets do not get lost (as they are unaware of the 10.10.10.x network). On those machines (on the 192.168.1.x network), issue the command:

route add -net netmask gw

The above command instructs the kernel to route all packets destined for the network to, which has been defined as a gateway to the 192.168.1.x network.

By using the route command in this way, the following things will happen:

  • All packets to are handled without a gateway

  • All packets to are routed to the defined gateway

  • All other packets are routed to the default gateway,

The above is really just an example of how to make use of the route command. Considering there are many variables involved in mapping out your network routing, you will want to make sure to issue man route and learn as much as you can about this helpful command.


The arp (Address Resolution Protocol) command is quite helpful in that it manipulates or displays the kernel’s IPv4 network neighbour cache. With the help of arp, you can add/delete entries to the table, view the current content, or map an IP network address to a corresponding hardware MAC address. It is that last task which is most helpful.

You can view your local arp table by issuing the command:

arp -a

This will list all addresses (hostname, IP, and MAC) for all associated ethernet devices on the machine.

Say you want to map IP address to MAC address 80:1b:68:30:e9:74. To do that, the arp command would be:

sudo arp -s 80:1b:68:30:e9:74

That command will tell arp that the host with the IP address has a MAC address of 80:1b:68:30:e9:74.

You can then delete the arp entry with the command:

sudo arp -d 

Make sure to read the arp man page to find out more.


The hostname of a machine is used to identify said machine on a network. If you issue the command hostname with no arguments, the hostname of the machine will be displayed. You can change the hostname of the machine by issuing the command:

hostname NAME

where NAME is the new hostname to be used.
The only caveat to using this command to change the hostname, is that the machine will revert back to the permanent name set by /etc/hostname and /etc/hosts. To avoid the hostname reverting, you will have to manually edit those files and change the name there. Once changed, the hostname will remain, even upon rebooting.

Stop/start/restart the network

At some point, you’re going to need to stop, start, or restart your network. How this is done will depend upon your distribution. For example, on a Ubuntu-based system, the network can be stopped, started, restarted with the commands:

  • sudo service networking stop

  • sudo service networking start

  • sudo service networking restart

On CentOS/RHEL/Fedora/openSUSE, those commands are:

  • service network stop

  • service network start

  • service network restart

That’s it…you can now stop, start, or restart your network.


You now have a basic understanding of some of the more important commands for network configuration on your Linux machines. This is, by no means, an exhaustive list. As I’ve said numerous times, you will want to make sure to read the man pages for every command you use, in order to get a full understanding of each tool.

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