TCP or UDP – Which is Better? | Best Guide 2022

TCP or UDP - Which is Better?

The internet traffic runs through two different protocols named TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) and UDP (User Datagram Protocol).

TCP is a connection-restricted protocol, the bilateral data cannot be sent without establishing a connection. On the other hand, UDP is a connection-free protocol that allows the transportation of data in the form of packets. 

Both of these internet protocols are in vogue. Less tech-savvy users are often confused about what to pick or what to drop.

Here, in this blog, we would describe all the nitty-gritty of both internet protocols so, at the end of the blog, the user will be able to cherry-pick the better one. Let’s start!

Also, Read this: What should I know before using a VPN?

Comparison Chart: TCP vs UDP

ComparisonTCPUDP
Acronym Transmission Control ProtocolUser Datagram Protocol
ConnectivityConnection-orientedConnectionless
FunctionConnection-based message transportation from source to destination.Sending lots of data packets without establishing any connection. 
Ideal forSituations require high reliability with no critical time limits.  Situations require less reliability with critical time limits. 
Portability with other ProtocolsHTTP, HTTPS, SMTP, FTP, and Telnet.DNS, TFTP, DHCP, RIP, VOIP, and SNMP. 
Traffic SequencingTCP reorders the packet according to its theme. UD does not have any ordering sequence. 
SpeedSlower than UDP.Faster than TCP.
Reliability100% reliable Less reliable
Header Size20 bytes8 bytes
Streaming MethodByte stream with no segment boundariesIndividual packets with segment boundary checks
WeightHeavyweightLightweight
Flow ControlThree packets to establish a socket connectionNo data flow control option
Error Filtering Error checking as well as recoveryError checking without recovery 
AcknowledgmentYesNo
HandshakeSYN, ACK, SYN-ACKNot supported 
Fields 1. Ack number, 2. Sequence number, 3. Reserved, 4. Data offset, 5. Window, 6. Control bit, 7. Options, 8. Urgent Pointer, 9. CheckSum, 10. Padding, 11. Destination port, 12, Source port. 1. Length, 2. Source port, 3. CheckSum, Destination port. 

Aspect-wise Comparison

After the chart-based quick comparison, it is pertinent to sketch an elaborate sketch-wise comparison for deep insights. 

Reliability

TCP ensures optimal reliability thanks to acknowledgments and retransmission of lost chunks. On the other hand, UDP does not have a communication check system in place. Moreover, it does not acknowledge the reception of data. Also, there are no concepts of retransmission or time-out intact with UDP. 

Winner: TCP (high reliability). 

Data Transfer

TCP maintains an order of sending and receiving data. In case, the data is received in the wrong sequence, TCP reorders the data packets automatically. On the flip side, UDP does not maintain any order. There is a no-holds-barred situation all over UDP. 

Winner: TCP (disciplined transmission) 

Connection

TCP established a heavy-weight connection requiring at least three packets for a well-structured socket connection. Nonetheless, UDP is lightweight and does not require any conditions for establishing the connection. 

Winner: UDP (lightweight connection). 

Mode of Transfer

TCP reads data in byte streams and adheres to segment boundaries. Nevertheless, UDP sends data packets individually. There is no data stream, while the boundaries are defined by default. 

Winner: UDP (easy transfer). 

Error Filtration

The error filtration mechanism of TCP is two-pronged; error detection as well as recovery. TCP uses checksum for detection. It believes in a flawless operating mechanism known as Positive Acknowledgement with Retransmission (PAR). Leveraging PAR, TCP does not acknowledge any erroneous data packet. 

The working philosophy of UDP is based on “best efforts”. It detects the errors through checksum and spontaneously discards the errors. Having said that, UDP does not attempt retransmission.

This error-detection mechanism makes UDP popular for voice transmission or gaming. The reason behind not recovering is that by the time the packet is received again, it will not be of any use. 

 Winner: TCP (detection with recovery). 

Header Size

TCP ensconces several details in its header ranging from field acknowledgment to the sequence of the packets. This is why the header size is extraordinarily large.

On the flip side, UDP does not carry these articulated details and carries less burden. In the long run, speed is the common causality of the large header size carried by TCP. 

Winner: UDP (less header size – fast speed). 

Acknowledgment

TCP believes in acknowledgment. Every TCP packet costs up with the receipt of acknowledgment on behalf of the sender. The corrupt packets are then again vetted.

Having said that, UDP does not care about acknowledgment; the sender never knows whether the packet has been delivered or not. 

Winner: TCP (100% acknowledgment). 

Congestion Control

TCP has the features of flow or congestion control. As TCP is connection-oriented, it ensures there is no congestion in the medium.

On the flip side, UDP is connectionless and neither cares nor knows about the medium congestion. If any data has been lost amid the chaos of congestion, the user is hapless at best. 

Winner: TCP (better congestion management)

Working Mechanism of TCP and UDP

It is also important to know the working mechanisms of TCP and UDP. Let’s consider how these internet protocols execute data transportation. 

TCP establishes a connection through a three-way handshake. This way, it initiates and acknowledges the connection simultaneously.

Connectivity is the prerequisite for data transmission with TCP, it does not transfer an iota of data without establishing a connection in the first place. For wrapping up the transmission, all virtual circuits are closed forthwith. 

 UDP utilizes a basic transmission model without taking hand-shaking dialogues on board. The non-availability of hand-shaking dialogue results in compromise on sequencing, integrity, and reliability.

This unreliable mode enhances the possibility of out-of-order transmission, duplicate appearance, or loss of data packets without intimation. UDP also does not believe in error detection and identification.

It usually sacrifices error filtration for the sake of speed. UDP is compatible with multicasting as well as single broadcast to all local networks. 

Similarities between TCP and UDP

Both network protocols are used for data packet transportation. The data packets are the bits of data that travel all over the internet. Your every online activity requires some bits of data to be transferred whether you are simply browsing or chatting with a friend over Skype. 

TCP and UDP forward the data while taking leverage of different ports and routers to push the data to the final destination. The data packets are sent to the desired IP addresses. 

Another similarity is that both TCP and UDP function on top of the Internet Protocol. This is why users often hear the terms UDP/IP or TCP/IP. 

Although TCP and UDP are the most sought-after protocols, they are not the only ones. There is another less-known protocol known as ICMP (Internet Control Message Control). 

Gaming Special Protocol: UDP

If you miss a couple of UDP datagrams, you will feel that the walking character has suddenly teleported from one point to another point in a jiffy. Or if you are playing a shooter role, you have shot three bullets instead of two.

But, the million-dollar question is whether these anomalies matter? 

The answer is No, and this NO is a big one. There is no point in requesting the missing data packets while playing online games. You just ignore the glitch and focus on the game.

This is why UDP is considered a Gaming Special Protocol Edition. It is far better than TCP which just freezes the moments.

UDP is a real-time expert and provides you with u optimal levels of speed through swift data transfers to and fro. It does care about losing data packets like you don’t give a damn to small glitches during gaming. 

Desired Applicability of TCP and UDP

TCP caters to a diverse range of applications meandering from web browsing and file transferring to email support. It also entertains network congestion, data exchange rate, flow control, as well as segment sizes. TCP aptly entertains the situations where error correction is required at the network interface level. 

On the other hand, UDP is highly solicited for time-sensitive scenarios whether in the form of servers or applications. UDP aptly entertains the bogglesome situations of answering small queries from surging numbers of requests.

It is also compatible with two different modes; multicasting (sending a broadcast to all subscribers in one go) and packet broadcast (sending to all on a single network). UDP is a sought-after protocol for online gaming, Voice over IP, Domain Name Systems, and Trivial File Transfer Protocol. 

Pros of TCP

  • Establish connections between different computer types. 
  • Operates independently from the OS. 
  • Supports all routing protocols. 
  • Enables internetworking. 
  • Highly scalable.
  • Operated independently. 

Pros of UDP

  • Low latency. 
  • Ensures block boundaries. 
  • Multicast and broadcast transmission. 
  • Swift and small transactions. 
  • Saving bandwidth. 

Cons of TCP

  • Cannot be used for multicast or broadcast transmission. 
  • No block boundaries. 
  • Lavish bandwidth consumption. 

Cons of UDP

  • No acknowledgment. 
  • Zero congestion control.
  • Frequent packet losses.

Beware of Port Viability! 

Data from the internet to the computer travels through ports. These ports are either TCP or UDP. This is the IP address that identifies the computer.

An IP address is the identification number. Consider the IP address as the street while the port is just like a house number. So, each IP address has several ports. There are a total of 65,535 TCP and UDP ports each. 

The gist of the debate is that TCP protocol can only be sent or received through TCP ports. On the other hand, UDP protocols are only recognized by UDP ports. So, the user should also double-check the hardware (port) viability too. 

FAQs

Does TCP support online gaming?

  • Yes, it does, but with some reservations. Just like UDP, TCP can also be used for playing online games. Nevertheless, the experience is not as seamless as you enjoy through UDP. The frames of TCP are heavy and may spoil your gaming party. 

Which protocol is secure?

  • Both TCP and UDP ensure some basic standards of security. Nevertheless, you can bolster the existing security editions with a VPN. Virtual Private Network encrypts the internet traffic and makes you anonymous. This additional security can be laced into both protocols. 

Which protocol should I use, TCP or UDP?

  • The answer is not definite. This all depends on your applicability. You can use either TCP or UDP considering the demand of the situation, or you may just use a blend of these. 

An Alternate Option 

As we all know the good debate about choosing TCP or UDP hovers around speed, reliability, error detection, and some other data points.

However, there is an amazing way that works well whether you are going along TCP or UDP. This way out is known as a VPN aka Virtual Private Network. 

Let’s know how VPN helps in killing this odd confusion of TCP and UDP in the first place. 

VPN boosts the internet speed

VPN boosts the internet speed by taking leverage of extensive virtual servers. This way, the speed deficiency of TCP is evenly reduced. 

VPN ensures reliability

A prominent trade-off of UDP is less reliability. VPN ensures this reliability by ensuring strong encryption and end-to-end connectivity.  

VPN enhanced privacy

The verve of VPN is encryption through a blend of protocols and algorithms. It bolsters the existing Internet Protocols. No matter you are accessing a sensitive or confidential assignment, you are always safe and sound thanks to VPN. 

Not all VPNs are the same, some are very good, but at the same time, some have dwindling quality aspects.  Our editors have done extensive research on this genre and declared FastVPN as the prime option. You can pick it blindly! 

Conclusion

In the end, TCP cuts above the rest thanks to its sophisticated modicum of transmission, sequencing, error detection, and retrieval, as well as high reliability.

But, if your preference is speed, you can sacrifice the good vibes like foolproof error detection, reliability, and data ordering then you can go for UDP protocol.

Both protocols are popular and their applicability is scenario-based. For clarity, our editors pick TCP as the first choice while UDP stands just behind – all set to help you for online gaming or voice-over IP. 

Also, read this: 8 ways the NSA spies on you

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