Flow Control

What Does Flow Control Mean?

Flow control is the mechanism that ensures the rate at which a sender is transmitting is in proportion with the receiver’s receiving capabilities.


Flow control is utilized in data communications to manage the flow of data/packets among two different nodes, especially in cases where the sending device can send data much faster than the receiver can digest.

Techopedia Explains Flow Control

Networks of any size have many different devices connected and each device has unique data transmission parameters. For instance, a router is built to manage the routing of data whereas a desktop, at the receiving end of that data, has far less sending/receiving abilities.

These differences sending/receiving abilities may lead to conflict if the sender starts transmitting data faster than the receiving node’s ability. To counteract this problem, flow control is used. This technique manages the flow of data between nodes, keeping the sending/receiving capabilities of both nodes as the primary concern.

Xon-Xoff is an example of a flow control protocol that sync the sender with the receiver. It transmits a transmit off signal when the receiver no longer has space in its buffer and a transmit on signal when the receiver can resume taking data. Xon-Xoff works on asynchronous serial connections.


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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…