Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) is a client/server protocol that automatically provides an Internet Protocol (IP) host with its IP address and other related configuration information such as the subnet mask and default gateway.
1. DHCP DISCOVER
It is a DHCP message that marks the beginning of a DHCP interaction between client and server. This message is sent by a client (host or device connected to a network) that is connected to a local subnet. It’s a broadcast message that uses 255.255.255.255 as destination IP address while the source IP address is 0.0.0.0
2. DHCP OFFER
It is DHCP message that is sent in response to DHCPDISCOVER by a DHCP server to DHCP client. This message contains the network configuration settings for the client that sent the DHCPDISCOVER message.
3. DHCP REQUEST
This DHCP message is sent in response to DHCPOFFER indicating that the client has accepted the network configuration sent in DHCP OFFER message from the server.
4. DHCP ACKNOWLEDGE
This message is sent by the DHCP server in response to DHCPREQUEST recieved from the client. This message marks the end of the process that started with DHCPDISCOVER. The DHCPACK message is nothing but an acknowledgement by the DHCP server that authorizes the DHCP client to start using the network configuration it received from the DHCP server earlier.
When the client computer (or device) boots up or is connected to a network, a DHCPDISCOVER message is sent from the client to the server. As there is no network configuration information on the client so the message is sent with 0.0.0.0 as source address and 255.255.255.255 as destination address. If the DHCP server is on local subnet then it directly receives the message or in case it is on different subnet then a relay agent connected on client’s subnet is used to pass on the request to DHCP server. The transport protocol used for this message is UDP and the port number used is 67. The client enters the initializing stage during this step.
When the DHCP server receives the DHCPDISCOVER request message then it replies with a DHCPOFFER message. As already explained, this message contains all the network configuration settings required by the client. For example, the yaddr field of the message will contain the IP address to be assigned to client. Similarly the the subnet mask and gateway information is filled in the options field. Also, the server fills in the client MAC address in the chaddr field. This message is sent as a broadcast (255.255.255.255) message for the client to receive it directly or if DHCP server is in different subnet then this message is sent to the relay agent that takes care of whether the message is to be passed as unicast or broadcast. In this case also, UDP protocol is used at the transport layer with destination port as 68. The client enters selecting stage during this step.
The client forms a DHCPREQUEST message in reply to DHCPOFFER message and sends it to the server indicating it wants to accept the network configuration sent in the DHCPOFFER message. If there were multiple DHCP servers that received DHCPDISCOVER then client could receive multiple DHCPOFFER messages. But, the client replies to only one of the messages by populating the server identification field with the IP address of a particular DHCP server. All the messages from other DHCP servers are implicitly declined. The DHCPREQUEST message will still contain the source address as 0.0.0.0 as the client is still not allowed to use the IP address passed to it through DHCPOFFER message. The client enters requesting stage during this step.
Once the server receives DHCPREQUEST from the client, it sends the DHCPACK message indicating that now the client is allowed to use the IP address assigned to it. The client enters the bound state during this step.