What Is DHCP?

DHCP simplifies the administrative management of IP address configuration by automating address configuration for network clients. The DHCP standard provides for the use of DHCP servers, which are defined as any computer running the DHCP service. The DHCP server automatically allocates IP addresses and related TCP/IP configuration settings to DHCP-enabled clients on the network.

Every device on a TCP/IP-based network must have a unique IP address in order to access the network and its resources. Without DHCP, IP configuration must be done manually for new computers, computers moving from one subnet to another, and computers removed from the network.

By deploying DHCP in a network, this entire process is automated and centrally managed. The DHCP server maintains a pool of IP addresses and leases an address to any DHCP-enabled client when it logs on to the network. Because the IP addresses are dynamic (leased) rather than static (permanently assigned), addresses no longer in use are automatically returned to the pool for reallocation.

The DHCP service for Microsoft Windows 2000 Server is based on Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) standards. DHCP specifications are defined in Requests for Comments (RFCs) published by the IETF and other working groups. RFCs are an evolving series of reports, proposals for protocols, and protocol standards used by the Internet community. The following RFCs specify the core DHCP standards that Microsoft supports with its DHCP service:

  • RFC 2131: Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (obsoletes RFC 1541)

  • RFC 2132: DHCP Options and BOOTP Vendor Extensions