jack the front end up, (use jack stands and proper safety)
grab the wheel at 9 and 3. try to shake it, pushing both sides alternately. (there will be some play because the wheels will turn with the steering. your feeling for the tie rods being loose.
next grab 12 and 6. same thing, push the top and bottom alternately. it should be pretty stiff. if its knocking around, then likely your ball joints are shot.
a bet￼ter way to check the tie rods, is to lift the car off its suspension but the tires still gripping the ground a little bit.
steering rack being loose should give you more of a wandering on the road feeling. popping or knocking sounds like ball joints/tie rods tho.