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A host that is receiving a stream of TCP data segments can increase efficiency in both the Internet and the hosts by sending fewer than one ACK (acknowledgment) segment per data segment received; this is known as a "delayed ACK" [TCP:5].

A TCP SHOULD implement a delayed ACK, but an ACK should not be excessively delayed; in particular, the delay MUST be less than 0.5 seconds, and in a stream of full-sized segments there SHOULD be an ACK for at least every second segment.


A delayed ACK gives the application an opportunity to update the window and perhaps to send an immediate response. In particular, in the case of character-mode remote login, a delayed ACK can reduce the number of segments sent by the server by a factor of 3 (ACK, window update, and echo character all combined in one segment).

In addition, on some large multi-user hosts, a delayed ACK can substantially reduce protocol processing overhead by reducing the total number of packets to be processed [TCP:5]. However, excessive delays on ACK's can disturb the round-trip timing and packet "clocking" algorithms [TCP:7].

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Connected: An Internet Encyclopedia When to Send an ACK Segment


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