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Address resolution or name resolution is the process of acquiring a physical address from a machine or virtual address that a network node or computer peripheral has sent. This term is used generally in the context of networking for locating different nodes on a network, but it is also used to refer to addressing within the computer itself in the event of executing instructions. A computer always requires a physical storage or memory address to point to in order to pass data around. To help in locating the physical hardware, names are used to identify such objects, although the real machine address still needs to be supplied in order to perform the hardware operation.
An address resolution simply serves to translate a name address like a computer name in a network into an address that a machine or network understands. For example, in a TCP/IP network environment, Internet users type in the domain name of the website they want to access and the Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) completes address resolution in order to get the IP and MAC address of the node being named. This is important because computers cannot understand human-language so they need a component to convert the human-readable name into a machine-readable one. Address resolution is simply the process of locating or pointing the actual machine address of the node that the user wants to access by reading the human-readable name and relating it to a look-up table, or broadcasting an address lookup request to all nodes in the event that the machine address is not found on the table. The node in question then replies and provides its machine address.
For example, when PC ALPHA wants to send data to PC BETA, it needs to look up PC BETA’s IP address on a lookup table to find its MAC address in order to know exactly where to send the data. In the event that the address is not found, PC ALPHA sends a request that is received by all nodes, and it is then PC BETA that replies with its IP and MAC addresses.