What are Network Ports

A network port is a 16-bit decimal number that computer processor uses to establish a connection to various applications running. Each application you launch to use a particular port to connect to the internet.

Significance of Ports in Computers

In simple terms, a computer use network ports to multi-task.  You may be wondering do computers multitask? Yes, they do.

An example of computer multitasking is when you open a YouTube video, a Facebook page in Chrome, and at the same time, you are playing a computer game.

How computer use network port to multitask?

A computer connects to the internet using an IP address. If the computer was to use an IP address to connect to launch operations, you will only perform one service at a time.

A computer uses network ports to connect multiple services or applications. Below is an analysis of various network ports and their classification.

Network Ports Range

We have said a computer is a 16-bit decimal number. In binary, this means that there are 65536 combinations. Therefore, network ports range from 1 to 65,535.

A computer uses a single port to connect to run an application. Therefore, a computer can connect 65,536 services if its processing power can allow.

However, it would be chaotic if everyone was to connect using any port available. To avoid chaos, there are standards that dictate how the world use these ports. The standards classify the 65,535  port into three ranges as explained below.

Classification of Network Ports

Network ports range 0-65535 are classified into well-known ports, registered ports, and private ports as explained below.

1. Well-Known Ports (0-1023)

These are ports that are computer use to connect server services. These ports are popularly known as ephemeral ports or system ports.

Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is the body that assigns and manages well-known ports. IANA has pre-assigned each port in this range to a specific type of service.

Popular examples of well-know ports are port 80 assigned to HTTP, port 23 assigned to Telnet, and port 53 assigned to DNS.

2. Registered Ports (1024-49151)

These are ports that various application or programs use to communicate with other applications. However, one has to register with IANA to use these ports.

Perhaps, that is why they are registered ports. Application owners intending to use any registered port must, therefore, register with IANA first.

3. Private/Dynamic Ports (49151-65553)

These are ports that any application can use to connect to any other application that either uses UDP or TCP. No need to register with IANA to use these ports.

UDP stands for User Datagram Protocol and TCP stands for Transport Control Protocol.