TCP vs UDP: What is the Difference Between TCP and UDP?


Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and User Datagram Protocol (UDP) are important networking protocols to know when it comes to computer networking, and they often even come up in a general conversation about how the internet works.

But there are a lot of people who don’t understand exactly what the difference between TCP and UDP is. TCP and UDP both help to transfer data over the Internet, but while the former is slower, the latter is faster. However, the difference between the two go far beyond just that.

With today’s modern devices consuming more bandwidth than ever before, knowing the difference between TCP and UDP can help decrease your download time. Let’s compare the two protocols to understand when each should be implemented.

What is TCP?

Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) is one of the most important parts of the internet protocol suite. It establishes an end-to-end channel with error control, flow control, congestion control and packet sequencing.

TCP provides reliable transportation of data across the internet. Its purpose is to provide reliable, ordered, and error-checked delivery of a stream of octets between applications running on hosts communicating via an Internet Protocol (IP) network.

What is UDP?

User Datagram Protocol (UDP) is a core Internet protocol widely used by applications to send data packets across a computer network that is not guaranteed to arrive at the destination or deliver the packets in the same order it was sent.

UDP is best when speed of transfer is more important than reliability. It supports a connectionless communication model, giving applications the ability to send messages, without first establishing the connection (this is opposed to TCP).

UDP is a network protocol for sending packets of information. Routers, switches, firewalls and gateways use the packet format to locate and route packets. There are many options to consider when messaging or networking with others using UDP, due to its simplicity and speed.

What is the Difference Between TCP and UDP?

When setting up your server it is important to know whether or not you should use TCP or UDP. Both of these protocols play an important role in the delivery of information over the internet. There are many important factors to consider when deciding which protocol to use.

Computers use these protocols to share resources. Each of these network layer protocols has its advantages and disadvantages, but there are some basic differences between TCP and UDP presented below:

1. Data Sequencing

TCP is a reliable “connection-oriented” protocol, meaning there are mechanisms in place to ensure successful data delivery. These sequence numbers are used within the protocol to manage this process. UDP, on the other hand, is a “connectionless” protocol that means that data does not have an acknowledgement or verification step.

2. Retransmission of Data

During sending and receiving data, there are times when errors due to transmission can occur. A variety of protocols are designed over time to minimize the negative aspects of the error transmission of data. TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) is one such protocol.

Through this protocol, not only lost transmission information can be transmitted again, but also the information previously received correctly will be confirmed. But in UDP, retransmission of lost packets is not available.

3. Error Checking

Error checking consists of error detection and error recovery. In error detection, errors that were introduced during the transmission process are discovered. TCP provides a mechanism for detecting errors and recovering from them. UDP allows an application to request that specific actions be taken when errors occur.

4. Broadcasting in TCP and UDP

Broadcasting is the process to send information from one computer, or device, to another without directly addressing either of them. TCP does not support broadcasting while UDP supports broadcasting.

TCP vs UDP: A Head-to-Head Comparison Table

The following table enumerates the various differences between the two types of network protocols so that you can easily decide which one to choose, TCP or UDP:

TCP vs UDP: Comparison Table




DeveloperRobert Elliot “Bob” KahnDavid P. Reed
Released in1978 (Adopted as protocol standard by ARPANET in 1983.)1980
Data SequencingAble to sequence.Unable to sequence.
Retransmission of DataRetransmission of lost packets is available.In UDP, retransmission of lost packets is not available.
Error CheckingExtensive error checking.Basic error checking.
BroadcastingDoes not support broadcasting.Support available for broadcasting.
UsesUsed by HTTPS, HTTP, SMTP, POP, and FTP.Video conferencing, streaming, DNS, and VoIP uses UDP.

TCP or UDP: Which One to Choose?

The implementation of TCP or UDP in an application largely depends on the nature of the application. While TCP is ideal for reliability, UDP is best for speed. The main difference between TCP and UDP is in terms of their reliability and transmission extension.

TCP is a connection-oriented protocol, so data is exchanged between two hosts with a handshake procedure to establish the connection. For example, when you open a web page in your browser, the HTTP protocol is responsible for requesting information from the web server and establishing a connection with the server.

If the server accepts, it sends back an HTML file to your computer. After that, many small packets of information can be sent using this connection, and each packet contains certain data about the exchange.


That was all about the difference between two of the most popular computer network protocols, i.e. TCP vs UDP. It’s clear that using streaming services is becoming more important in business and personal endeavors as well, and that UDP can help ensure that your business is successful.

However, TCP is still as important as it was during its reign in the 1980s and 90s. Therefore, if you have an interest working in the field of computer networking, it becomes essential for you to understand how both the popular computer networking protocols work and how they differ from one another.

Share Your Thoughts, Queries and Suggestions!