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DORA process in DHCP

DHCP (D)iscover | DHCP (O)ffer | DHCP (R)equest | DHCP (A)ck

Step 1: Your computer sends a "Discovery" request asking for it's IP information from any
listening DHCP servers.

Step 2:Any listening DHCP servers will "Offer" their configuration information to your workstation.

Step 3:You workstation chooses the best lease then "Requests" that lease from the
corresponding DHCP server.

Step 4:The DHCP server you requested the IP configuration information from then
"Acknowledges" your request and leases you the IP configuration information.

When the term "broadcast" is used there are two types of broadcasts: 1) Network Layer broadcast
and 2) Datalink Layer broadcast. For Internet Protocol the standard broadcast DESTINATION
address is For Ethernet the broadcast DESTINATION address is
FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF. You have to think of the DORA process in terms of encapsulation and
decapsulation as well as switch behavior with frames it receives.

So let's say you've got two computers a client host and a server host. The client host is the DHCP
client and the server host is the DHCP server. Let's call the client host PC and the DHCP server

Now when the PC is turned on the NIC has a MAC address but no IP address. So the PC tries to
"Discover" the DHCP server by sending out a "Discover" packet. In that packet the destination IP
address is and source IP address of (because the PC doesn't have an IP
address yet). That Discover packet is encapsulated into an Data Link layer Ethernet Frame. That
Ethernet Frame has a destination address of FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF and the source address of
whatever the MAC address of the PC's nic is let's call it PC:MA:CA:DD:RR:SS (I know this is not a
valid MAC address). Now since the destination address is FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF the first switch that
receives the frame will by definition send that frame out of every single switch port except the
switch port that received the frame. Since the switch doesn't know (from it's CAM table) who
FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF is it forwards the Discover packet out of every single switch port except the
switch port that received the frame. Let's say the DHCP server is directly connected to the switch.
So the DHCP server first receives the Ethernet frame with the destination address of
FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF (which by definition means itself) and a source address of
PC:MA:CA:DD:RR:SS. So when the DHCP server receives that Discover Packet it replies to it by
sending the Offer Packet. Since the DHCP server has no idea who was contacting them (since PC
currently has an IP address of the Offer packet has the destination address of But the DHCP server remembered the MAC address of whoever it was trying to
contact them so the DHCP server sends out the Offer packet in a frame with a destination address
of PC:MA:CA:DD:RR:SS and uses it's own source address of DH:CP:SE:RV:ER:MC (again I know
this is not a valid MAC address). So the Offer packet is sent from the DHCP server to the PC as a
unicast not a broadcast. So the switch receives the frame from the DHCP server and forwards it to
the PC which receives the Offer packet. Then the rest of the DHCP process of R and A occurs.

So that's why the "...the first two messages in the DHCP are broadcast messages..." refers to
Network Layer IP broadcast messages (destination IP address of Then "...only
the first message (the Discover message) is a LAN Broadcast..." because only the Discover
packet's frame had the Ethernet destination address of FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF (therefore a LAN
broadcast) and the Offer packet's frame had the Ethernet destination address of
PC:MA:CA:DD:RR:SS (therefore a LAN unicast).