An arriving client sends a DHCP discover with source IP and destination IP and the server replies with an offer having its IP to destination, then the DHCP request and ack happen the same way.

What if 2 (or more) clients arrive to the network at the same time? How do they communicate? How do the server and the clients distinguish between the packets?

2 Answers 2


They differentiate with a MAC address identifying a unique NIC.

  • uuuuh right LOL wasn't that simple XD
    – 842Mono
    Commented Dec 25, 2016 at 21:49
  • Lol no problem, Ron gave a full answer
    – helyousa
    Commented Dec 25, 2016 at 21:55
  • More precisely: IPv4 DHCP servers differentiate by the MAC address of the client. IPv6 DHCP servers differentiate by a unique identifier called the DUID provided by the client. If a DHCP relay is used then the relay can also provide information such as which switch port the client is connected to, a configured subscriber id etc. Commented Dec 25, 2016 at 22:46

The DHCP server knows the layer-2 (MAC) address of the requesting host because of the CHADDR (Client hardware address) field in the DHCPDISCOVER message. The DHCPOFFER message also contains a CHADDR field.

For DHCP requests to a DHCP server on a different LAN, a DHCP relay is used, and the DHCP server gets the DHCPDISCOVER message that includes DHCP Option 82 that tells the DHCP server to send the DHCPOFFER back to the DHCP relay. The DHCP relay stands in for the DHCP server on the host LAN.

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