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Microsoft DHCP
Microsoft DHCP

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Published by: api-3724716 on Oct 15, 2008
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Windows Server TechCenter> Windows Server 2003 Technical Library> Windows Server 2003: Technical Reference>
Windows Server 2003 Technical Reference> Technologies Collections> Networking Collection>
Network Configuration Technologies> DHCP Technical Reference

How DHCP Technology Works
Updated: March 28, 2003
How DHCP Works

DHCP provides an automated way to distribute and update IP addresses and other configuration information on a network. A DHCP server provides this information to a DHCP client through the exchange of a series of messages, known as the DHCP conversation or the DHCP transaction. If the DHCP server and DHCP clients are located on different subnets, a DHCP relay agent is used to facilitate the conversation.

In this section
Top of page
DHCP Architecture
The DHCP architecture consists of DHCP clients, DHCP servers, and DHCP relay agents on a network. The clients
interact with servers using DHCP messages in a DHCP conversation to obtain and renew IP address leases.
DHCP Client Functionality

A DHCP client is any network-enabled device that supports the ability to communicate with a DHCP server in compliance with RFC 2131, for the purpose of obtaining dynamic leased IP configuration and related optional information.

DHCP provides support for client computers running any of the following Microsoft operating systems:
\u2022It is necessary to have an understanding of basic TCP/IP concepts, including working knowledge of subnets
before you can have a full understanding of DHCP. For more information about TCP/IP, see \u201cTCP/IP
Technical Reference[ ht tp : / /t e chn et 2. m ic ro so ft .c om /W ind ow s S er v er / e n/ lib r a r y/ 58 51 1c 7c - fb 5c - 418 6 - a a 69 -
6f598d59a9731033.mspx] .\u201d

\u2022DHCP Architecture
\u2022DHCP Protocols
\u2022DHCP Processes and Interactions

\u2022Windows NT version 4.0
\u2022Windows 2000
\u2022Windows XP

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Automatic IP Configuration

DHCP supports Automatic Private IP Addressing (APIPA), which enables computers running Windows 2000,
Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003 to configure an IP address and subnet mask if a DHCP server is
unavailable at system startup and the Automatic private IP address Alternate Configuration setting is selected.
This feature is useful for clients on small private networks, such as a small-business office or a home office.

The DHCP Client service on a computer running Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 uses the following process
to auto-configure the client:

If the DHCP client obtained a lease from a DHCP server on a previous occasion, and the lease is still valid (not expired) at system startup, the client tries to renew its lease. If, during the renewal attempt, the client fails to locate any DHCP server, it attempts to ping the default gateway listed in the lease, and proceeds in one of the following ways:

Local Storage

Windows Server 2003 DHCP supports local storage, which allows clients to store DHCP information on their own hard disks. Local storage is useful because it enables the client to store its last leased IP address, so that when the client starts it first attempts to renew the lease of its previous IP address. Local storage also enables a client to be shut down and restarted and it will use its previously leased address and configuration, even if the DHCP server is unreachable or offline at the time that the client computer is restarted.

\u2022Windows Server 2003
\u2022Windows 98
\u2022Windows Millennium Edition

1. The DHCP client attempts to locate a DHCP server and obtain an IP address and configuration.
2. If a DHCP server cannot be found or does not respond after one minute, the DHCP client checks the
settings on the Alternate Configuration tab of the properties of the TCP/IP protocol.

If Automatic private IP address is selected, the DHCP client auto-configures its IP address and subnet
mask by using a selected address from the Microsoft-reserved Class B network,, with the
subnet mask The DHCP client tests for an address conflict to ensure that the IP address is not
in use on the network. If a conflict is found, the client selects another IP address. The client retries auto-
configuration up to 10 times.

If User Configured is selected, the DHCP client configures a static IP address configuration. The DHCP client tests for an address conflict to ensure that the IP address is not already in use on the network. If a conflict is found, the DHCP client indicates the error condition to the user.

3. When the DHCP client succeeds in self-selecting an address, it configures its network interface with the IP
address. The client then continues to check for a DHCP server in the background every five minutes. If a
DHCP server responds, the DHCP client abandons its self-selected IP address and uses the address offered
by the DHCP server (and any other DHCP option information that the server provides) to update its IP
configuration settings.

\u2022If the ping is successful, the DHCP client assumes that it is still located on the same network where it
obtained its current lease, and continues to use the lease as long as the lease is still valid. By default the
client then attempts, in the background, to renew its lease when 50 percent of its assigned lease time has

\u2022If the ping fails, the DHCP client assumes that it has been moved to a network where a DHCP server is not
available. The client then auto-configures its IP address by using the settings on theA l t er n at e
Configuration tab. When the client is auto-configured, it attempts to locate a DHCP server and obtain a
lease every five minutes.
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DHCP Server Responsibilities
The DHCP servers maintain scopes, reservations, and options as set by the administrator.

A scope must be properly defined and activated before DHCP clients can use the DHCP server for automatic
TCP/IP configuration. A DHCP scope is an administrative collection of IP addresses and TCP/IP configuration
parameters that are available for lease to DHCP clients of a specific subnet. The network administrator creates a
scope for each subnet.

A scope has the following properties:
Each DHCP scope can have a single continuous range of IP addresses. To use several address ranges within a
single scope you must first define the entire address range for the scope, and then set exclusion ranges.
Lease Durations

When a scope is created, the lease duration is set to eight days by default. However there are situations when the administrator might want to change the lease duration. The following are examples of adjusting the lease duration due to individual network consideration:

For example, consider the ratio between connected computers and available IP addresses. If 40 computers share
254 available addresses, the demand for reusing addresses is low. A long lease time, such as a few months, might
be appropriate in such a situation. However, if 230 computers must share the same address pool, demand for
available addresses is greater, and a shorter lease time, for example a few days, is more appropriate.

Exclusion Ranges

When you create a new scope, immediately exclude the addresses of existing statically configured computers from
the scope. By using exclusion ranges, you can exclude specific IP address ranges within a scope so that those
addresses are not offered to clients. Assign IP addresses within exclusion ranges to computers or devices that

\u2022A scope name, assigned when the scope is created.
\u2022A range of possible IP addresses from which to include or exclude addresses used in DHCP lease offers.
\u2022A unique subnet mask, which determines the network ID for an IP address in the scope.
\u2022Lease duration values.

\u2022An organization has a large number of IP addresses available and configurations that rarely change. The administrator increases the lease duration to reduce the frequency of lease renewal exchanges between clients and the DHCP server. Because the DHCP clients are renewing their leases less frequently, DHCP- related network traffic is reduced.

\u2022A limited number of IP addresses are available and client configurations change frequently or clients move
often in or out of the network. The administrator reduces the lease duration. This increases the rate at
which unused addresses are returned to the available address pool for reassignment.
\u2022Although it is possible to configure a client with infinite lease duration, use infinite lease durations with

caution. Even relatively stable environments have a certain amount of client turnover. At a minimum,
computers might be added and removed, moved from one office to another, or network adapters might be
replaced. If a client with an infinite lease is removed from the network without releasing its lease, the DHCP
server is not notified, and the IP address is not automatically reused. Also, when using an infinite lease,
options set on the DHCP server are not automatically updated on the DHCP client, because the client is
never required to renew its lease and obtain the new options. It is recommended that reservations be used
rather than infinite lease durations.

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