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What is ARP (Address Resolution Protocol)?

Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) is an important protocol of the network layer in the OSI model, which helps find the MAC (Media Access Control) address given the system’s IP address. The ARP’s main task is to convert the 32-bit IP address (for IPv4) to a 48-bit MAC address.

In other word, Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) is a protocol or procedure that connects an ever-changing Internet Protocol (IP) address to a fixed physical machine address, also known as a media access control (MAC) address, in a local-area network (LAN).

The MAC address is also known as the data link layer, which establishes and terminates a connection between two physically connected devices so that data transfer can take place. The IP address is also referred to as the network layer or the layer responsible for forwarding packets of data through different routers. ARP works between these layers.

What Does ARP Do and How Does It Work?

When a new computer joins a local area network (LAN), it will receive a unique IP address to use for identification and communication.

Packets of data arrive at a gateway, destined for a particular host machine. The gateway, or the piece of hardware on a network that allows data to flow from one network to another, asks the ARP program to find a MAC address that matches the IP address. The ARP cache keeps a list of each IP address and its matching MAC address. The ARP cache is dynamic, but users on a network can also configure a static ARP table containing IP addresses and MAC addresses.

ARP caches are kept on all operating systems in an IPv4 Ethernet network. Every time a device requests a MAC address to send data to another device connected to the LAN, the device verifies its ARP cache to see if the IP-to-MAC-address connection has already been completed. If it exists, then a new request is unnecessary. However, if the translation has not yet been carried out, then the request for network addresses is sent, and ARP is performed.

An ARP cache size is limited by design, and addresses tend to stay in the cache for only a few minutes. It is purged regularly to free up space. This design is also intended for privacy and security to prevent IP addresses from being stolen or spoofed by cyber attackers. While MAC addresses are fixed, IP addresses are constantly updated.

In the purging process, unutilized addresses are deleted; so is any data related to unsuccessful attempts to communicate with computers not connected to the network or that are not even powered on.

What Are the Types of ARP?

There are different versions and use cases of ARP. Let us take a look at a few.

Proxy ARP

Proxy ARP is a technique by which a proxy device on a given network answers the ARP request for an IP address that is not on that network. The proxy is aware of the location of the traffic’s destination and offers its own MAC address as the destination.

Gratuitous ARP

Gratuitous ARP is almost like an administrative procedure, carried out as a way for a host on a network to simply announce or update its IP-to-MAC address. Gratuitous ARP is not prompted by an ARP request to translate an IP address to a MAC address.

Reverse ARP (RARP)

Host machines that do not know their own IP address can use the Reverse Address Resolution Protocol (RARP) for discovery.

Inverse ARP (IARP)

Whereas ARP uses an IP address to find a MAC address, IARP uses a MAC address to find an IP address.

Example: How to check ARP table in windows machine


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Sanchit Agrawal

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