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How do IP addresses work on Layer 2 switches?

Learn how IP addresses work on Layer 2 switches from our networking fundamentals expert.

How does an IP address work on a Layer 2 switch?

Layer 2 switches can "read" only Layer 2 information, which means they can understand the source and destination MAC address of a frame, but are unable to process any Layer 3 (IP header) information.

When a Layer 2 switch receives a frame, it will lookup its MAC address table and forward the frame out the correct port, based on the frame's destination MAC address.

Layer 3 switches work in a similar way, but are also able to process Layer 3 information effectively. This means they can perform IP routing between subnets or virtual LANs (VLANs).

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This was first published in November 2007

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