What Does Packet Mean?

In computer networks, a packet is a container or box that carries data over a TCP/IP network and internetworks. A packet is the most fundamental logical arbitration of data that is passed over a network.


A packet normally represents the smallest amount of data that can traverse over a network at a single time. A TCP/IP network packet contains several pieces of information, including the data it is carrying, source destination IP addresses, and other constraints required for quality of service and packet handling.

Techopedia Explains Packet

Whenever a node on a network sends some data over the network, it passes the data frame to the switch, and later to the router. The router, after looking at the destination IP addresses, encapsulates the data and routes it toward the recipient. This encapsulated data is the packet that is forwarded over the network.

Packets contain two distinct types of information to reach the destination completely and correctly, namely control information and the data it is carrying. The control information includes source destination addresses, sequencing format, error detection and correction mechanisms, all of which help to ensure the optimal delivery of data. The control information usually resides in the header and trailer, encapsulating the user data in between them.


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Margaret Rouse 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 explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…