Difference in Hub, Switch, Bridge, & Router

In an ethernet network there are 4 devices that from the the outside look very similar. In this article we will look at the difference between hubs, switches, bridges, and routers.

Hub
A hub is the simplest of these devices. Any data packet coming from one port is sent to all other ports. It is then up to the receiving computer to decide if the packet is for it. Imagine packets going through a hub as messages going into a mailing list. The mail is sent out to everyone and it is up to the receiving party to decide if it is of interest.

The biggest problem with hubs is their simplicity. Since every packet is sent out to every computer on the network, there is a lot of wasted transmission. This means that the network can easily become bogged down.

Hubs are typically used on small networks where the amount of data going across the network is never very high.

Bridge
A bridge goes one step up on a hub in that it looks at the destination of the packet before sending. If the destination address is not on the other side of the bridge it will not transmit the data.

A bridge only has one incoming and one outgoing port.

To build on the email analogy above, the bridge is allowed to decide if the message should continue on. It reads the address bob@smith.com and decides if there is a bob@smith.com on the other side. If there isn't, the message will not be transmitted.

Bridges are typically used to separate parts of a network that do not need to communicate regularly, but still need to be connected.

Switch
A switch steps up on a bridge in that it has multiple ports. When a packet comes through a switch it is read to determine which computer to send the data to.

This leads to increased efficiency in that packets are not going to computers that do not require them.

Now the email analogy has multiple people able to send email to multiple users. The switch can decide where to send the mail based on the address.

Most large networks use switches rather than hubs to connect computers within the same subnet.

Router
A router is similar in a switch in that it forwards packets based on address. But, instead of the MAC address that a switch uses, a router can use the IP address. This allows the network to go across different protocols.

The most common home use for routers is to share a broadband internet connection. The router has a public IP address and that address is shared with the network. When data comes through the router it is forwarded to the correct computer.

This comparison to email gets a little off base. This would be similar to the router being able to receive a packet as email and sending it to the user as a fax.

Need some practice?
I just put up a new quiz site called EasyQuiz.info. As it works out, the first quiz I put online was a set of questions that I wrote on the "Connecting to the Network" chapter from the Cisco Discovery 1 curriculum.

If you're needing a bit of practice with network addressing, I've just put up a new site at network-practice.info where you can practice working with network addressing and binary to decimal conversions and back.

And if don't want to do it yourself, I've also got a JavaScript network calculator available.

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68 thoughts on “Difference in Hub, Switch, Bridge, & Router

  1. priyanka says:

    can you please give all this comparioson between network control devices in chart form? which will be helpful to understand it easily and comparitively.

  2. ... says:

    thx dude!

  3. Ammar Anas says:

    can u tell me that what is subnetting and subnet masks ?

  4. Ryan says:

    @Ammar - That's something that could be several pages of explanation and not something that would neatly fit in a blog comment.

  5. Hari says:

    nice.. these simple explanations wud b helpful for the begineers :)

  6. srinath says:

    Hi dude,
    Thanks for the info its very useful.

  7. meandmyself says:

    Short, clearly, easy to understand.

    Thanks for this overlook! It helped me very much to get access to my learning stuff for the university. This introduction was exactly what I was looking for after having taken the first look inside my study documents.

    Thanks a lot! Greetings from Germany!

  8. sriram says:

    hey this is highly helpful. Thanks a lot...

  9. angie says:

    Thank you so much for breaking all of this down! I really needed this for a course paper.

  10. sudha says:

    tanx for valuable information

  11. vandana varghese says:

    thanx 4 urs valuble info....it helps me a lot...thanx ...

  12. sash says:

    its really useful for me to understand the difference between these LAN devices. thanx :D

  13. hari says:

    thanks buddy..
    it helped me alot

  14. arjun v nair says:

    thanks buddy it will help in my seminar presentation........ cheers

  15. asim says:

    thanhs a lot for helping me

  16. Gurdeep says:

    thx man really helped out. this info is brief and to the point. its greta for beginners

  17. Foogie says:

    Very nice article. Exactly what I was looking for.
    Thx dude ;)

  18. sumit sinha says:

    thnx a lot Ryan....your way of description is nice and is a good starting point for this topic.....it helped a lot :)

  19. Avinash says:

    hey it was quite helpful, thnx bro...............

  20. misgan says:

    it is cool for beginners
    n it is better to explain it diagramatically.
    tnx anyways

  21. guna says:

    It's really good.... i appreciate this....

  22. amrit says:

    thanks for this simple explanation...

  23. pradeep kumar verma says:

    It is very simple and useful description ,thanks

  24. Ilesanmi Daniel says:

    Good document. Brief, clear and easily understandable.

  25. pooja chopra says:

    really good and helpful for a begineer

  26. Ava says:

    Not to be a jerk (and perhaps I'm even wrong), but when you talk about a switch forwarding a packet shouldn't it really be a frame?

  27. gproy says:

    It's really helpful for the beginners; but it is one step up to the good understanding of the device functions.

  28. ali imran says:

    good article......but I donot understand exactly the difference b/w bridge and switch......if both checks for destination address and then only forward the data.........

    • Ryan says:

      A bridge typically changes from one type of connection to another. For example, my computer is plugged in to an Apple Airport Express that acts as a bridge to the rest of my wireless network. So it bridges between a wired cat5 connection and a wireless connection.

      A switch typically is multiples of the same type of connection. So you might have a switch with 5 ethernet connections that can all talk, but the switch acts as traffic control between them.

  29. Jason says:

    Thank you for simple yet very clear explanation of these things.

  30. Abi says:

    simple and clear explanation

  31. mohan says:

    excellent review........1

  32. Kranti says:

    thanks....

  33. chirag says:

    thankx...
    it is realy simplest documents....thankx a lot.....

  34. Yan Hudon says:

    Simple and concise. Thanks!

  35. md asadullah ghalib says:

    it is a good and simple language. thanks

  36. Simran says:

    thx alot
    this make me understand the correct difference between router,bridge,switch and hub..........
    without reading this i m not able to understand..
    it helps a lot and make me tens. free
    yyuuuuuuuuupppppppppiiiiiiiiii
    thnx

  37. salman khan says:

    can router use as a switch?

  38. simon sohfor says:

    Easy and really explicit breakdown of knowledge,nice.More.

  39. balamurugan says:

    Explained in easily understandable English

  40. usman says:

    Can we manage a bridge? can we make VLANs in a bridge?

  41. Santosh Sharma says:

    Thanx for information

  42. Anonymous says:

    Bridges are software based, whereas switches are hardware based. Bridges too can have mutiple ports. Am I wrong?

    • Ryan says:

      Windows lets you create a software bridge if you have a computer with 2 or more network connections. I did this for a while with my media center computer to bridge its wired and wireless connections so that a couple other devices could also connect via wireless. A little hinky, but it did what it needed to do.

      But bridges can be hardware too. I'm using an Apple Airport Express under my desk to connect two sections of wired networks together. DHCP server is on one side and both sides have a switch connecting multiple ethernet devices together. One switch connects to the Airport Express which gives that entire side access to the wireless connection.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thanks Ryan!!!

      • Scott says:

        Thank you for taking the time to explain all this stuff. Would you mind drawing this out visually? It doesn't have to be pretty... hand drawn on a piece of paper and scanned or just draw boxes / lines in like Paint or whatever would be so helpful. I'm really having a hard time visualizing your setup to see the benefits of a bridge over a switch.

  43. Pankaj Chaurasia says:

    This is really helpful and very simple language and understandable doc. I just tell you I become always confused about all devices. Now I can distinguish them all.

  44. Anudeep says:

    Hello,
    Could you please give me an example for the communication between Hub to Bridge ,Brdige to switch and Switch to Router ...please let us know where ARP and NAT is used in these devices

  45. parthasarathy says:

    perfect explanations in short n sweet lines...

  46. Magesh says:

    Nice way of explaining to beginners

  47. Sam says:

    Thanks, this is a very nice concise explanation, cleared it right up for me.

  48. Santanu says:

    Brief n to the point answer.Very easy method of explanation

  49. VinhTQ says:

    "A bridge only has one incoming and one outgoing port."
    Wrong! Bridge has many ports.

    • Ryan says:

      The bridge is the part that switches from one type of connection to another and is one connection to one connection. It may be that a switch or router has a bridge built in though, and that would have multiple ports.

      Look at the Apple Airport Extreme. I've got one on my network that acts as a bridge to an Airport Express on another part of my network. Yes, the extreme is acting as a bridge and has multiple ports. but that's because it's also a router. All the bridge is doing is connecting an ethernet section of the network to a wireless.

      For that matter, the Express is acting as a bridge and only has one port. The second port is wireless.

  50. nahuel says:

    It's a simple but great explanation, thanks!!

  51. shanthi says:

    really helpful :) Thanks a lot :)

  52. Nikoo says:

    Very useful
    Tanks for using simple words to explain the difference,it was easy to understand this way.
    Thank a lot

  53. Victor Adeshina says:

    The material is comprehensive enough for a non technical person to understand. Many thanks to you guys for your wonderful contribution of knowledge to the Field of ICT.

  54. Junaid says:

    Thank You fr sharing! Helped!

  55. Nathan says:

    thanks ....very useful for me...

  56. FrauLyoner says:

    Very helpful, thanks for this great post! :-)

  57. Chandrashekhar Pomu Chavan says:

    What are the differences b/w regenerator, repeator and transparent bridge ?

  58. bibhu prasad behera says:

    it need some diagrams and some more features.

  59. Dave says:

    wow.... this is a great explanation. I have checked on youtube and several other websites and yours was the first article that i understood properly.

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