UDP Vs ICMP: What is the Difference?

Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) and User Datagram Protocol (UDP) are two communication protocols employed for the delivery of data in a network.

ICMP operates at the network layer of the TCP/IP suite, assessing network performance and reporting errors in network traffic. It is commonly utilized with the ping and traceroute commands.

The ping command involves sending a sized packet from one host to another, monitoring the success and time of delivery. This provides insights on how real traffic will perform in the network. It also assists in reporting network errors, such as “Destination host unreachable” or “packet timed out.”

On the other hand, UDP is a transport protocol operating at the transport layer, primarily used for fast data delivery in applications like audio calls, video streaming, and real-time gaming.

Overview of the ICMP

ICMP serves as a networking protocol for evaluating network performance. Ping and traceroute commands facilitate this assessment.

After network design, we use ICMP to gauge efficacy by employing the ping command to send packets between hosts, monitoring delivery success and time. This evaluation informs us about the expected performance of real traffic in the network. ICMP also plays a crucial role in reporting network errors, discreetly informing the sender about issues such as disconnectivity along the network path.

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Overview of the UDP

The User Datagram Protocol (UDP) is a communication protocol designed for rapid data delivery. It is used in applications where swift data transmission is critical. The data transmitted via UDP is referred to as a datagram.

Unlike TCP, UDP does not establish a handshake before transmitting datagrams. Once it locates the target host, it immediately begins transmitting data packets, irrespective of the receiver’s readiness.

While UDP ensures fast delivery, it may result in packet loss and unordered reception due to delays introduced by network routers.

When obstacles hinder packet delivery in UDP, an ICMP message is sent to the sender, updating them about the unsuccessful delivery. This diagnostic tool, however, introduces network unreliability, as it does not establish and verify connections before ICMP replies. Hackers exploit this vulnerability for DDOS attacks, overwhelming the receiver’s resources. One way to mitigate this risk is by utilizing distributed data centers.

UDP finds application in VoIP, video streaming, and online gaming, where rapid data delivery takes precedence.

UDP Vs ICMP: Key Differences

Now that we have had an introduction to each of these network protocols, let us go through the differences between each of them.

  1. Function: ICMP is primarily used for diagnostics and reporting network issues, while UDP is primarily used for transporting traffic, for which fast delivery is prioritized over data integrity.
  2. Connection Nature: Both ICMP and UDP are connectionless communication protocols.
  3. UDP targets ports before transmitting traffic, but ICMP does not target any ports. For example, domain name system (DNS) traffic uses UDP and targets port 53 of the receiver.
  4. Application: ICMP finds application in the use of the ping command and traceroute command to assess network performance, while UDP is used in DNS lookups, Trivial File Transfer Protocol (TFTP), SNMP, and DHCP.
  5. Use Cases: ICMP is perfect for troubleshooting and assessing network health, while UDP is ideal for real-time applications like online gaming, live streaming, and VoIP.
  6. Error Handling: ICMP provides feedback on network issues, aiding in troubleshooting, while UDP does not involve any type of error handling.
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ICMP Vs UDP: How they Collaborate

ICMP and UDP, having different purposes in data communication, can work together in a network to enhance efficient traffic delivery. ICMP will maintain its duty of reporting errors that come up in the network, while UDP will keep doing its work of enhancing connectionless, fast delivery of packets.

Here is a real-life scene:

Imagine you’re streaming a live concert online. ICMP ensures your network health is in check by reporting any issues to keep your experience smooth. Meanwhile, UDP takes care of delivering the live audio and video data to your screen with minimal delay.


Here are some FAQs on this topic;

Is there a UDP ping?

No, ping traditionally uses Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP), not User Datagram Protocol (UDP).

Is traceroute using UDP or ICMP?

Traceroute typically uses User Datagram Protocol (UDP) for its probing packets.

What does ICMP do?

ICMP (Internet Control Message Protocol) is used for network diagnostics, error reporting, and performance monitoring.

What port number is UDP on ICMP?

ICMP does not use port numbers; it operates at the network layer and is not associated with specific ports.

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Why does ICMP have no port number?

ICMP operates at the network layer, dealing with network-related messages, and doesn’t employ the concept of port numbers.

Is ping ICMP TCP or UDP?

Ping uses Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP), not Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) or User Datagram Protocol (UDP).


Both the Internet communication message protocol (ICMP) and the User Datagram Protocol have their roles in efficient data delivery.

ICMP handles the reporting of the health of the network, while UDP helps establish fast communication between sender and receiver.

These two communication protocols are often used in our daily lives to enhance seamless internet usage.

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