What Does XMODEM Mean?

XMODEM is a popular file transfer protocol developed by Ward Christensen in 1977. It sends data blocks associated with checksums and waits for the acknowledgment of a block receipt. Xmodem is implemented in both hardware and software.


XMODEM was simple to implement, but it lacked efficiency. As a result, modified versions of XMODEM were created to address some of the issues with the protocol. Eventually, XMODEM was replaced by YMODEM and then ZMODEM.

Techopedia Explains XMODEM

XMODEM is a half-duplex communication protocol that has an effective error detection strategy. It breaks the original data into a series of packets, which are sent to the receiver together with additional information that permits the receiver to determine whether packets were properly received.

Files are marked complete with an end-of-file character that is sent after the last block. This character is not in the packet, but is sent as a single byte. Because file length is not passed as part of the protocol, the last packets are padded with known characters, which can be dropped.

Files are transferred one packet at a time. On the receiving side, the packet checksum is calculated and compared to the one received at the end of the packet. When the receiver sends an acknowledgment message to the sender, the next set of packets is sent. If there is a problem with the checksum, the receiver sends a message requesting retransmission. Upon receiving the negative acknowledgment, the sender resends the packet and retries the transmission continuously for about 10 times before aborting the transfer.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.