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TCP Connection States and Netstat Output

This article was previously published under Q137984
This article has been archived. It is offered "as is" and will no longer be updated.
This article describes TCP connection states and how to read Netstat(NETSTAT.EXE) output.

Before data transfer takes place in TCP, a connection must be established.TCP employs a three-way handshake (the details of this can be found inRFC793, Chapter 3: "Functional Specification").

TCP Connection States

Following is a brief explanation of this handshake. In this context the"client" is the peer requesting a connection and the "server" is the peeraccepting a connection. Note that this notation does not reflectClient/Server relationships as an architectural principal.

  1. Connection Establishment

    • The client sends a SYN message which contains the server's port and the client's Initial Sequence Number (ISN) to the server (active open).
    • The server sends back its own SYN and ACK (which consists of the client's ISN + 1).
    • The Client sends an ACK (which consists of the server's ISN + 1).
  2. Connection Tear-down (modified three way handshake).

    • The client sends a FIN (active close). This is a now a half-closed connection. The client no longer sends data, but is still able to receive data from the server. Upon receiving this FIN, the server enters a passive close state.
    • The server sends an ACK (which is the clients FIN sequence + 1)
    • The server sends its own FIN.
    • The client sends an ACK (which is server's FIN sequence + 1). Upon receiving this ACK, the server closes the connection.
A half-closed connection can be used to terminate sending data while sillreceiving data. Socket applications can call shutdown with the secondargument set to 1 to enter this state.

Netstat Output

The above TCP connection states can be monitored in a network trace underthe TCP flags. It is also possible to determine the status of theconnection by running the Netstat utility and looking at the State column.Netstat is shipped with Windows NT, Windows 95, and TCP/IP-32 for Windowsfor Workgroups.

State explanations as shown in Netstat:
State Explanation
------------ --------------------------------------------------------

SYN_SEND Indicates active open.

SYN_RECEIVED Server just received SYN from the client.

ESTABLISHED Client received server's SYN and session is established.

LISTEN Server is ready to accept connection.

NOTE: See documentation for listen() socket call. TCP sockets in listening state are not shown - this is a limitation of NETSTAT. For additional information, please see the following article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
134404 NETSTAT.EXE Does Not Show TCP Listen Sockets
FIN_WAIT_1 Indicates active close.

TIMED_WAIT Client enters this state after active close.

CLOSE_WAIT Indicates passive close. Server just received first FIN from a client.

FIN_WAIT_2 Client just received acknowledgment of its first FIN from the server.

LAST_ACK Server is in this state when it sends its own FIN.

CLOSED Server received ACK from client and connection is closed.
As an example, consider the following scenario:

A socket application has been terminated, but Netstat reports the socket ina CLOSE_WAIT state. This could indicate that the client properly closed theconnection (FIN has been sent), but the server still has its socket open.This could be the result of one instance (among all threads or processes)of the socket not being closed.

NOTE: It is normal to have a socket in the TIME_WAIT state for a longperiod of time. The time is specified in RFC793 as twice the MaximumSegment Lifetime (MSL). MSL is specified to be 2 minutes. So, a socketcould be in a TIME_WAIT state for as long as 4 minutes. Some systemsimplement different values (less than 2 minutes) for the MSL.

Additional references:
  • "Internetworking with TCP/IP, Volume 1" by Douglas Comer
  • "TCP/IP Illustrated, Volume 1" by Richard Stevens.
  • "Computer Networks" by Andrew Tanenbaum
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Article ID: 137984 - Last Review: 12/04/2015 12:08:17 - Revision: 3.0

Microsoft Windows NT Workstation 3.5, Microsoft Windows NT Workstation 3.51, Microsoft Windows NT Server 3.5, Microsoft Windows NT Server 3.51, Microsoft TCP/IP for Windows for Workgroups 3.11, Microsoft Windows 95

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