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Bootstrap protocol

(also BOOTP)

Bootstrap protocol definition

Bootstrap protocol (BOOTP) is a network protocol used to assign IP addresses to devices in a TCP/IP network automatically.

See also: RARP, DHCP

History of the bootstrap protocol

Developed in the 1980s, BOOTP was a predecessor to the now more commonly used Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP). BOOTP was widely used in the early stages of the internet and in corporate networks for initializing diskless workstations and network devices like routers and switches. Its ability to bootstrap a system without a hard drive made it essential in many early network configurations, but today, BOOTP is no longer used.

How the bootstrap protocol worked

BOOTP worked on a client-server model. When a computer that's part of a network was powered on and didn’t have an IP address assigned, it needed a way to communicate with other devices on the network. BOOTP was designed to provide this functionality. The server assigned an IP address to the client from its pool and sent back network configuration details like a subnet mask, default gateway, and DNS server addresses.

Unlike DHCP, which leases IP addresses for a specific duration, BOOTP typically assigned IP addresses with the expectation that they will be permanent or at least not frequently changed.