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A Windows XP Network Bridge is a feature included in Microsoft Windows XP that allows a computer having multiple network adapters installed to act as a bridge connecting to multiple LAN segments together. This feature is exclusively designed for home networks. Computers on the network can then share files, printers and an Internet connection.
The network bridge provides an easy and inexpensive way of connecting LAN segments. It does not require purchase of any additional hardware bridge devices. However, network adapters must be installed on computers running Windows XP to connect to the LAN segments.
There are two types of bridging technologies used to create a single network segment by the Windows XP Network Bridge: layer 2 bridging and layer 3 bridging. The layer 2 bridging implements the transparent bridging, which uses network adapters and a special mode known as promiscuous mode. In this mode, a network adapter processes all received frames. In normal mode, they only process specific frames. Layer 2 bridging supports processing all frames received on all interfaces and tracks the source address of received frames. The Level 3 bridging allows TCP/IP hosts on different LAN segments to connect to the bridge computer transparently. The Level 3 bridging is different from level 2 bridging because the frame is sent by the bridge computer.
A network bridge establishes a loop-free forwarding topology by implementing the IEEE spanning tree algorithm (STA). This is a mechanism allowing selective disabling of the bridge forwarding on every single port, which is required to establish a loop-free forwarding topology. Configuration of the network bridge for STA is also not necessary.