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My Thoughts, Trials and Adventures

Communicating between server and client using UDP

Posted at — Sep 6, 2020


This article provides a brief introduction to the UDP protocol, what makes it different from TCP. we further delve into how to set up a server and a client to communicate with each other using UDP protocol.

Gentle introduction to UDP

UDP (User Datagram Protocol) is a communications protocol that is primarily used for establishing low-latency and loss-tolerating connections between applications on the internet. It speeds up transmissions by enabling the transfer of data before an agreement is provided by the receiving party. As a result, UDP is beneficial in time-sensitive communications, including voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), domain name system (DNS) lookup, and video or audio playback. UDP is an alternative to Transmission Control Protocol (TCP).

Source: techtarget.com

Salient features of UDP:

  • UDP is a called “connection-less” protocol. no prior handshake is required to send data.
  • UDP has an infamous tagline “Fire and Forget”, unlike in TCP, UDP does not bother to check if the packets reached the destination or not.
  • UDP is the primary protocol for DNS resolution, most DNS servers support TCP as a fallback.
  • UDP is fast compared to TCP, because of the low overhead.

UDP Server

the code explained here can be found in my NetworkProgramming GitHub repository.

    struct addrinfo hints;
    memset(&hints, 0 , sizeof(hints));

    struct addrinfo *bind_addr;

    hints.ai_family = AF_INET; //ipv4
    hints.ai_socktype = SOCK_DGRAM; // UDP
    hints.ai_flags = AI_PASSIVE;

    getaddrinfo(0, "8080", &hints, &bind_addr);

  1. we start by declaring addrinfo struct. we set the contents of hints to 0 using memset()
  2. we need to set required fields in hints,

Notice the hints.ai_socktype is set to SOCK_DGRAM. this indicates that we want a UDP address. use SOCK_STREAM for TCP.

  1. we then call getaddrinfo() with the required parameters. the result will be stored in bind_addr struct.
    //bind it
    int socket_fd = socket(bind_addr->ai_family, bind_addr->ai_socktype, bind_addr->ai_protocol);
    printf("socket_fd: %d\n", socket_fd);

    if (socket_fd < 0){
        return 1;

    if ( bind(socket_fd, bind_addr->ai_addr, bind_addr->ai_addrlen) < 0 ){
        return 1;
        printf("UDP server listing on\n");
  1. create a socket. it returns a negative number on failure.
  2. we can then bind the address to the port, we do it by calling bind() with socket descriptor, address, and address length.
    struct sockaddr_storage client_address;
    socklen_t client_len = sizeof(client_address);

    char read[1024];
    int bytes_received = recvfrom(socket_fd, read, 1024, 0, (struct sockaddr*)&client_address, &client_len);

    printf("%s\n", read);

  1. declare sockaddr_storage struct. this is used to store the address of the client.
  2. declare client_len of type socklen_t. this stores the length of the client address.
  3. declare a char array of length 1024.
  4. we then call recvfrom(). this is where UDP defers from TCP in a major way. in UDP we do not need to call accept() or any other handshake procedure, the data can be directly sent to the client.
int bytes_received = recvfrom(socket_fd, read, 1024, 0, (struct sockaddr*)&client_address, &client_len);

socket_fd - socket descriptor.

read - message buffer. the response will be stored here.

1024 - length of read.

0 - Flags.

(struct sockaddr*)&client_address - client address will be stored in this on connection.

&client_len - length of client address.

we finally close the socket after reading from the client using close()

UDP Client

the code explained here can be found in my NetworkProgramming GitHub repository.

int main(int argc, char *argv[])

    if (argc < 3){
        printf("invalid no of args.\n");
        return 1;

    struct addrinfo hints;

    memset(&hints, 0, sizeof(hints));

    struct addrinfo *peer;
    hints.ai_socktype = SOCK_DGRAM;

    printf("args: %s %s %s\n", argv[1], argv[2], argv[3]);

    if (getaddrinfo(argv[1], argv[2], &hints, &peer) < 0)

        printf("addrinfo() error!\n");
        return 1;

  1. as always, we start by declaring hints and set required fields, in this case, we only need to set the required socket type i.e UDP hints.ai_socktype = SOCK_DGRAM;
  2. we call getaddrinfo() with user arguments, example (argv[1] = example.com and argv[2] = 80 or http). result is stored in peer struct.
    //create socket
    int socket_fd = socket(peer->ai_family, peer->ai_socktype, peer->ai_protocol);
    char msg[1024];
    strncpy(msg, argv[3], 1024);
    int bytes_sent = sendto(socket_fd, msg, strlen(msg), 0, peer->ai_addr, peer->ai_addrlen);

    printf("Sent %s (%d bytes)\n", msg, bytes_sent);

  1. create a socket.
  2. declare a char array of length 1024 msg.
  3. copy user input into msg.
  4. use sendto() to send data to the server. this works similar to recvfrom() and is the opposite of it.
  5. finally close the socket using close()

Let’s chat!

compile both server and client using GCC

gcc udp_server_select.c -o server

gcc udp_client.c -o client

  1. First, run the server
~/Documents/Projects/network_programming/udp(master*) ยป ./server                                              [email protected]
socket_fd: 3
UDP server listing on
  1. once the server is up and running, we can test it out by sending messages from our client
./client 8080 hello

you should see hello printed to in server window.

UDP Demo


this article demonstrates/code walkthrough on how to set up a server and client and communicate using UDP protocol.