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The TCP/IP Guide

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Table Of Contents  The TCP/IP Guide
 9  TCP/IP Lower-Layer (Interface, Internet and Transport) Protocols (OSI Layers 2, 3 and 4)
      9  TCP/IP Transport Layer Protocols
           9  Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and User Datagram Protocol (UDP)
                9  TCP/IP Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)
                     9  TCP Message Formatting and Data Transfer

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TCP Message (Segment) Format
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TCP Maximum Segment Size (MSS) and Relationship to IP Datagram Size
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TCP Checksum Calculation and the TCP "Pseudo Header"
(Page 1 of 3)

The Transmission Control Protocol is designed to provide reliable data transfer between a pair of devices on an IP internetwork. Much of the effort required to ensure reliable delivery of data segments is of necessity focused on the problem of ensuring that data is not lost in transit. But there's another important critical impediment to the safe transmission of data: the risk of errors being introduced into a TCP segment during its travel across the internetwork.

Detecting Transmission Errors Using Checksums

If the data gets where it needs to go but is corrupted and we do not detect the corruption, this is in some ways worse than it never showing up at all. To provide basic protection against errors in transmission, TCP includes a 16-bit Checksum field in its header. The idea behind a checksum is very straight-forward: take a string of data bytes and add them all together. Then send this sum with the data stream and have the receiver check the sum. In TCP, a special algorithm is used to calculate this checksum by the device sending the segment; the same algorithm is then employed by the recipient to check the data it received and ensure that there were no errors.

The checksum calculation used by TCP is a bit different than a regular checksum algorithm. A conventional checksum is performed over all the bytes that the checksum is intended to protect, and can detect most bit errors in any of those fields. The designers of TCP wanted this bit error protection, but also desired to protect against other type of problems.


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TCP Message (Segment) Format
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TCP Maximum Segment Size (MSS) and Relationship to IP Datagram Size
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Version 3.0 - Version Date: September 20, 2005

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