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In computer networking, the Bootstrap Protocol, or BOOTP, is a network protocol used by a network client to obtain an IP address from a configuration server. The BOOTP protocol was originally defined in RFC 951.

BOOTP is usually used during the bootstrap process when a computer is starting up. A BOOTP configuration server assigns an IP address to each client from a pool of addresses. BOOTP uses the User Datagram Protocol (UDP) as a transport on IPv4 networks only.

Historically, BOOTP has also been used for Unix-like diskless workstations to obtain the network location of their boot image in addition to an IP address, and also by enterprises to roll out a pre-configured client (e.g., Windows) installation to newly installed PCs.

Originally requiring the use of a boot floppy disk to establish the initial network connection, manufacturers of network cards later embedded the protocol in the BIOS of the interface cards as well as system boards with on-board network adapters, thus allowing direct network booting.

The Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) is a more advanced protocol for the same purpose and has superseded the use of BOOTP. Most DHCP servers also function as BOOTP servers.


The BOOTP protocol was first defined in September 1985 in RFC 951 as a replacement for the Reverse Address Resolution Protocol RARP, published in RFC 903 in June 1984. The primary motivation for replacing RARP with BOOTP is that RARP was a data link layer protocol. This made implementation difficult on many server platforms, and required that a server be present on each individual IP subnet. BOOTP introduced the innovation of a relay agent, which allowed BOOTP packets to be forwarded from the local network using standard IP routing, so that one central BOOTP server could serve hosts on many subnets.[1]

Related RFCs

BOOTP Related RFCs

Note that grayed out RFCs are obsolete

RFC # Title Date Obsolete and Update Information
RFC 3942 Reclassifying Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol version 4 (DHCPv4) Options Nov-04 Updates RFC 2132
RFC 2132 DHCP Options and BOOTP Vendor Extensions Mar-97 Obsoletes RFC 1533, Updated by RFC 3442, RFC 3942, RFC 4361, RFC 4833, RFC 5494
RFC 1542 Clarifications and Extensions for the Bootstrap Protocol Oct-93 Obsoletes RFC 1532, Updates RFC 951
RFC 1534 Interoperation Between DHCP and BOOTP Oct-93  
RFC 1533 DHCP Options and BOOTP Vendor Extensions Oct-93 Obsoletes RFC 1497, RFC 1395, RFC 1084, RFC 1048, Obsoleted by RFC 2132
RFC 1532 Clarifications and Extensions for the Bootstrap Protocol Oct-93 Obsoleted by RFC 1542, Updates RFC 951
RFC 1497 BOOTP Vendor Information Extensions Aug-93 Obsoletes RFC 1395, RFC 1084, RFC 1048, Obsoleted by RFC 1533, Updates RFC 951
RFC 1395 BOOTP Vendor Information Extensions Jan-93 Obsoletes RFC 1084, RFC 1048, Obsoleted by RFC 1497, RFC 1533, Updates RFC 951
RFC 1084 BOOTP vendor information extensions Dec-88 Obsoletes RFC 1048, Obsoleted by RFC 1395, RFC 1497, RFC 1533
RFC 1048 BOOTP vendor information extensions Feb-88 Obsoleted by RFC 1084, RFC 1395, RFC 1497, RFC 1533
RFC 951 Bootstrap Protocol Sep-85 Updated by RFC 1395, RFC 1497, RFC 1532, RFC 1542, RFC 5494

See also


External links

  • BOOTP Sequence Diagram (PDF)
  • Multicast BOOTP for configuring a network device from a workstation
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