Definition

NetBIOS (Network Basic Input/Output System)

NetBIOS (Network Basic Input/Output System) is a program that allows applications on different computers to communicate within a local area network (LAN). It was created by IBM for its early PC Network, was adopted by Microsoft, and has since become a de facto industry standard. NetBIOS is used in Ethernet and Token Ring networks and, included as part of NetBIOS Extended User Interface (NetBEUI), in recent Microsoft Windows operating systems. It does not in itself support a routing mechanism so applications communicating on a wide area network (WAN) must use another "transport mechanism" (such as Transmission Control Protocol) rather than or in addition to NetBIOS.

NetBIOS frees the application from having to understand the details of the network, including error recovery (in session mode). A NetBIOS request is provided in the form of a Network Control Block (NCB) which, among other things, specifies a message location and the name of a destination.

NetBIOS provides the session and transport services described in the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model. However, it does not provide a standard frame or data format for transmission. A standard frame format is provided by NetBUI.

NetBIOS provides two communication modes: session or datagram. Session mode lets two computers establish a connection for a "conversation," allows larger messages to be handled, and provides error detection and recovery. Datagram mode is "connectionless" (each message is sent independently), messages must be smaller, and the application is responsible for error detection and recovery. Datagram mode also supports the broadcast of a message to every computer on the LAN.

Contributor(s): Melissa Beal
This was last updated in April 2007
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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