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Expressing IPv6 addresses

Updated: January 21, 2005

Applies To: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2003 with SP1, Windows Server 2003 with SP2

Expressing IPv6 addresses

IPv4 addresses are represented in dotted-decimal format. This 32-bit address is divided along 8-bit boundaries. Each set of 8 bits is converted to its decimal equivalent and separated by periods. For IPv6, the 128-bit address is divided along 16-bit boundaries, and each 16-bit block is converted to a 4-digit hexadecimal number and separated by colons. The resulting representation is called colon-hexadecimal.

The following is an IPv6 address in binary form:


0010000111011010000000001101001100000000000000000010111100111011
0000001010101010000000001111111111111110001010001001110001011010

The 128-bit address is divided along 16-bit boundaries, as follows:


0010000111011010   0000000011010011   0000000000000000   0010111100111011
0000001010101010   0000000011111111   1111111000101000   1001110001011010

Each 16-bit block is converted to hexadecimal and delimited with colons. The result is:


21DA:00D3:0000:2F3B:02AA:00FF:FE28:9C5A

IPv6 representation can be further simplified by removing the leading zeros within each 16-bit block. However, each block must have at least a single digit. With leading zero suppression, the address representation becomes:


21DA:D3:0:2F3B:2AA:FF:FE28:9C5A

Compressing zeros

Some types of addresses contain long sequences of zeros. To further simplify the representation of IPv6 addresses, a contiguous sequence of 16-bit blocks set to 0 in the colon-hexadecimal format can be compressed to :: (known as double-colon).

For example, the link-local address of FE80:0:0:0:2AA:FF:FE9A:4CA2 can be compressed to FE80::2AA:FF:FE9A:4CA2. The multicast address of FF02:0:0:0:0:0:0:2 can be compressed to FF02::2. Zero compression can only be used to compress a single contiguous series of 16-bit blocks expressed in colon-hexadecimal notation. You cannot use zero compression to include part of a 16-bit block. For example, you cannot express FF02:30:0:0:0:0:0:5 as FF02:3::5.

To determine how many 0 bits are represented by the ::, you can count the number of blocks in the compressed address, subtract this number from 8, and then multiply the result by 16. For example, in the address FF02::2, there are two blocks (the FF02 block and the 2 block). The number of bits expressed by the :: is 96 (96 = (8 - 2) × 16).

Zero compression can only be used once in a given address. Otherwise, you could not determine the number of 0 bits represented by each instance of a double-colon (::).

IPv6 prefixes

The prefix is the part of the address that indicates the bits that have fixed values or are the bits of the network identifier. Prefixes for IPv6 routes and subnet identifiers are expressed in the same way as Classless Inter-Domain Routing (CIDR) notation for IPv4. An IPv6 prefix is written in address/prefix-length notation. For example, 21DA:D3::/48 is a route prefix and 21DA:D3:0:2F3B::/64 is a subnet prefix.

Note

  • IPv4 implementations commonly use a dotted decimal representation of the network prefix known as the subnet mask. A subnet mask is not used in IPv6. Only prefix-length notation is supported.

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