Bootstrap Protocol

What Does Bootstrap Protocol Mean?

The Bootstrap Protocol is a networking protocol used to by a client for obtaining an IP address from a server. It was originally defined as specification RFC 951 and was designed to replace the Reverse Address Resolution Protocol (RARP), also known as RFC 903. Bootstrap protocol was intended to allow computers to find what they need to function properly after booting up. BOOTP uses a relay agent, which allows packet forwarding from the local network using standard IP routing, allowing one BOOTP server to serve hosts on multiple subnets.


BOOTP was largely replaced by the more efficient Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), which has more options and flexibility. However, it has found renewed utility in diskless media center PCs.

Techopedia Explains Bootstrap Protocol

Bootstrap Protocol is used to establish a network connection during a computer’s initial boot up during the bootstrap process. Originally, the protocol used floppy disks, but it was soon integrated into computer hardware in motherboards and network adapters, so that no external drive is needed.

BOOTP is a broadcast protocol as it needs to send messages out to all the available hosts in the network in order to get answers or resources. BOOTP is used during the bootstrap process when the computer is initially starting up, hence the name. BOOTP initially required the use of floppy disks to establish the initial network connection but soon the process was integrated into the BIOS of network interface cards and motherboards to allow direct network booting.

BOOTP was intended for diskless systems because they require such a protocol in order to contact a server to obtain a network address and some information on which operating system to use. The computer then downloads the OS via Trivial File Transfer Protocol.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…