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TCP vs. UDP: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) is a connection-oriented protocol that ensures reliable data transmission, while UDP (User Datagram Protocol) is a connectionless protocol that allows faster, but less reliable, data exchange.
TCP vs. UDP

Key Differences

Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) is designed for reliable communication, establishing a connection between the sender and receiver before data transfer. User Datagram Protocol (UDP) does not create such connections, which allows it to transmit data more quickly, though with the potential for packets to be lost or received out of order.
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Nov 20, 2023
TCP provides error checking and guarantees the order of data packets, ensuring that messages are delivered as sent. Conversely, UDP performs no such checks, resulting in a lower overhead and, thus, higher potential throughput, but with the risk of errors and unordered packets.
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TCP is analogous to a phone call with acknowledgment of receipt, making it suitable for applications like web browsing where reliability is key. UDP is like sending a letter without confirmation, used in scenarios like live broadcasts where speed is more critical than precision.
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TCP's flow control moderates data transfer to prevent overwhelming the receiver, while UDP allows senders to flood recipients with packets, which is ideal for real-time applications that can tolerate some loss, such as online gaming or video conferencing.
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In TCP, packet loss triggers retransmission, ensuring data integrity at the cost of latency. UDP, lacking such mechanisms, is better suited for applications where latency is a greater concern than packet loss, such as VoIP (Voice over IP) services.
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Comparison Chart

Connection

Connection-oriented
Connectionless
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Reliability

High (ensures packet delivery)
Low (no guarantee of delivery)
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Order

Maintains data order
Does not guarantee order
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Speed

Slower due to overhead
Faster due to minimal overhead
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Use Case

Web browsing, emails, file transfers
Streaming, online gaming, live broadcasts
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TCP and UDP Definitions

TCP

TCP provides error-checking mechanisms for data transfer.
TCP's error correction is essential for file downloads to prevent corruption.
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UDP

UDP does not confirm the receipt of data packets.
UDP's lack of acknowledgment allows for quicker voice packet delivery in VoIP calls.
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TCP

TCP includes flow control to manage data packet delivery rates.
TCP's flow control prevented the server from being overwhelmed by the client's requests.
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UDP

UDP enables faster data transmission at the expense of reliability.
The gaming server used UDP to ensure real-time responsiveness.
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TCP

TCP is a protocol that ensures all data packets arrive at their destination.
Websites often use TCP to make sure that all page content loads correctly.
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UDP

UDP is a protocol that sends data without establishing a connection.
UDP is used for broadcasting live sports events due to its low latency.
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TCP

TCP is used where data integrity is more critical than speed.
Online banking transactions use TCP for secure and accurate data transfer.
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UDP

UDP is used for broadcasting messages over a network.
The streaming service utilized UDP to efficiently send video to multiple subscribers.
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TCP

TCP coordinates packet transmission for reliable communication.
TCP retransmitted the lost packets to deliver the complete message.
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UDP

UDP is suitable for applications where speed trumps data integrity.
UDP facilitated the fast exchange of messages in the chat application.
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TCP

A protocol developed for the internet to get data from one network device to another;
TCP uses a retransmission strategy to insure that data will not be lost in transmission
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

What is TCP?

TCP is a reliable, connection-oriented protocol used for secure data transmission.
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What is UDP?

UDP is a connectionless protocol that allows for rapid data transfer with less overhead.
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Are TCP connections stateful?

Yes, TCP maintains the state of the connection through its control mechanisms.
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Is UDP faster than TCP?

Yes, UDP is generally faster than TCP because it has less overhead.
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Why is TCP considered reliable?

TCP is reliable because it confirms packet delivery and corrects errors.
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Does TCP use handshaking?

Yes, TCP uses a three-way handshake to establish a connection.
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Does TCP control flow and congestion?

Yes, TCP has mechanisms for flow control and congestion avoidance.
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Can UDP be used for video streaming?

Yes, UDP is often used for streaming video due to its low latency.
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Is TCP suitable for real-time applications?

TCP is less suitable for real-time applications compared to UDP due to its focus on reliability.
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How does TCP ensure data reliability?

TCP uses acknowledgments, retransmissions, and sequence numbers to ensure packets are received correctly.
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Does UDP guarantee packet order?

No, UDP does not ensure that packets arrive in order.
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Can TCP be used for live broadcasts?

TCP is generally not preferred for live broadcasts due to latency introduced by its reliability features.
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Can UDP handle multicast?

Yes, UDP can support multicast, sending data to multiple recipients simultaneously.
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What is a TCP segment?

A TCP segment is a packet of data encapsulated with a TCP header that contains control information.
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What applications use TCP?

Applications like web browsers, email, and file transfers typically use TCP.
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How does TCP handle lost packets?

TCP retransmits lost packets until they are correctly received.
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What does connectionless mean for UDP?

Connectionless means UDP does not establish a session before sending packets.
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What type of applications prefer UDP?

Real-time applications, such as online games or VoIP, prefer UDP.
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Is UDP good for high-latency networks?

UDP can be better for high-latency networks where timely delivery is more important than reliability.
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What is a UDP datagram?

A UDP datagram is a packet of data sent over UDP without sequential checks or acknowledgments.
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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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