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Posted 1 May 2013


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Networking and Socket Programming Tutorial in C

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21 Aug 2014CPOL5 min read
Networking and Socket programming tutorial in C.

This article is for programmers with the following requirements:


Before you start learning socket programming, make sure you already have a certain basic knowledge of network such as understanding what is IP address, TCP, UDP.

Before we start our tutorial, keep in mind that the following tutorial only works for Linux OS environment. If you are using Windows, I have to apologize to you because Windows has its own socket programming and it is different from Linux even though the connection concept is the same. Well, first copy and paste the following code and run it on server and client, respectively.

Both codes can be run on the same computer.

It is always easy to understand after getting the code to work.


#include <sys/socket.h>
#include <netinet/in.h>
#include <arpa/inet.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <unistd.h>
#include <errno.h>
#include <string.h>
#include <sys/types.h>
int main(void)
  int listenfd = 0,connfd = 0;
  struct sockaddr_in serv_addr;
  char sendBuff[1025];  
  int numrv;  
  listenfd = socket(AF_INET, SOCK_STREAM, 0);
  printf("socket retrieve success\n");
  memset(&serv_addr, '0', sizeof(serv_addr));
  memset(sendBuff, '0', sizeof(sendBuff));
  serv_addr.sin_family = AF_INET;    
  serv_addr.sin_addr.s_addr = htonl(INADDR_ANY); 
  serv_addr.sin_port = htons(5000);    
  bind(listenfd, (struct sockaddr*)&serv_addr,sizeof(serv_addr));
  if(listen(listenfd, 10) == -1){
      printf("Failed to listen\n");
      return -1;
      connfd = accept(listenfd, (struct sockaddr*)NULL ,NULL); // accept awaiting request
      strcpy(sendBuff, "Message from server");
      write(connfd, sendBuff, strlen(sendBuff));
  return 0;


#include <sys/socket.h>
#include <sys/types.h>
#include <netinet/in.h>
#include <netdb.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <string.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <unistd.h>
#include <errno.h>
#include <arpa/inet.h>
int main(void)
  int sockfd = 0,n = 0;
  char recvBuff[1024];
  struct sockaddr_in serv_addr;
  memset(recvBuff, '0' ,sizeof(recvBuff));
  if((sockfd = socket(AF_INET, SOCK_STREAM, 0))< 0)
      printf("\n Error : Could not create socket \n");
      return 1;
  serv_addr.sin_family = AF_INET;
  serv_addr.sin_port = htons(5000);
  serv_addr.sin_addr.s_addr = inet_addr("");
  if(connect(sockfd, (struct sockaddr *)&serv_addr, sizeof(serv_addr))<0)
      printf("\n Error : Connect Failed \n");
      return 1;
  while((n = read(sockfd, recvBuff, sizeof(recvBuff)-1)) > 0)
      recvBuff[n] = 0;
      if(fputs(recvBuff, stdout) == EOF)
      printf("\n Error : Fputs error");
  if( n < 0)
      printf("\n Read Error \n");
  return 0;

After debugging both source files, run Socket-server.out, then run Socket-client. Attention here, never mess up with the order of executing Socket-server.out and Socket-client. Socket-server must be executed first, then execute Socket-client.out and never try to break Socket-server forever loop. It means, you need to open two terminals to run each of the outputs.

When you execute Socket-cli, I guess you will get the following result:

network2 network1

If you see the message above, congratulations, you have success with your first step to networking programming. Otherwise, do some checking on your development environment or try to run some simple code for instance hello world.

Why Both Server and Client on the Same Computer?

The answer is the server and client both are software but not hardware. It means what is happening on the top is there are two different software executed. To be more precise, the server and client are two different processes with different jobs. If you are experienced with constructing a server, you might find out that a server can be built on a home computer by installing a server OS. It is because server is a kind of software.

Understand Sockets

Imagine a socket as a seaport that allows a ship to unload and gather shipping, whereas socket is the place where a computer gathers and puts data into the internet.


Configure Socket

Things that need to be initialized are listed as follows:

  1. Using TCP or UDP
  2. Additional protocol
  3. Permit the incoming IP address
  4. Assign the port used

At the beginning, a socket function needs to be declared to get the socket descriptor.

int socket(int domain, int type, int protocol)
Domain AF_UNIX - connect inside same machine AF_INET – connect with different machine
Type SOCK_STREAM – TCP connection SOCK_DGRAM – UDP connection
Protocol Define here when there is any additional protocol. Otherwise, define it as 0

Next, decide which struct needs to be used based on what domain is used above.

struct sockaddr_un
    sa_family_t sun_family ;
    char sun_path[];
struct sockaddr_in
    short int  sin_family ;
    int        sin_port;
    struct in_addr sin_addr;
Use struct sockaddr_un if you are using AF_UNIX on your domain. It is required to include <sys/un.h> Use struct sockaddr_in if you are using AF_INT on your domain.

In this article, I will explain sockadd_in that showed in the code above.

serv_addr.sin_family = AF_INET;
Define the domain used
serv_addr.sin_addr.s_addr = htonl(INADDR_ANY);
Permit any incoming IP address by declaring INADDR_ANY
serv_addr.sin_port = htons(5000);
Declare port 5000 to be used.

Based on the example above, server is using port 5000. You can check it by the following command:

sudo netstat -ntlp

Then, you will see the following list:


Inside red bracket, you will find and Socket-server, it means port 5000 is used and listen to any valid incoming address.

On client side, serv_addr.sin_port = htons( is declared in order to listen to the internal network.

The flow chart below shows the interaction between client and server. The flow chart might look complicated but make sure you don’t lose your patience due to the following flow chart. Because every process on the flow chart is needed and it acts as a very important role on network connection.


After all setup on struct sockaddr_in is done, declare bind function. As flow chart, bind function must be declared on both server and client.

bind function

server_socket & client_socket Put socket description retrieved on the top
address Put struct sockaddr_in into it as domain is AF_INET. If your domain is AF_UNIX, try and put struct sockaddr_un here.
address_len Put the length of the address

Server and client will start interacting with each other after the bind function and it is the most important session. From what flow chart shows, listen, accept, connect, three functions play very important roles.

Imagine that server looks like an ATM, and only one person can be used the ATM. So, what happens if there are 2 or more people that come at one time? The answer is simple, lining up and wait for the front people to finish using with ATM. It is exactly the same as what is happening in the server.

Listen function acts as a waiting room, asking the traffic wait on the waiting room. Accept function acts as the person who is asking the traffic waiting inside the waiting room to be ready for the meeting between server. Last, connect function acts as the person who wants to carry out some work with the server.

listen function

server_socket Put socket description retrieved on the top
backlog Define the maximum of awaiting request

accept function

server_socket Put socket description retrieved on the top
client_address Put null here if there is no special request to specify address.
address_len Put null here if second parameter is null
return Return information of client socket description. Use it for interaction between client and server.

connect function

client_socket Put socket description retrieved on the top
address Put the struct sockaddr defined on the top
address_len Put the length of the address

Finally, after the request is accepted, what should server and client do is send and read data. It is the most simple part in this entire article. read function is used to read the buffer data and write function is used to send the data. That’s all.

read function

socket_description Put server or client socket description depending on reading data from server or client
read buffer Content of the data retrieved
read buffer length Length of the output string

write function

socket_description Put server or client socket description depending on sending data to server or client
write buffer Data to be sent
write buffer length Length of the output string

Personal Comment

This article was published on 2013/5/1 and I was still new to networking programming at that time. Maybe there is some point that I am not making clear enough. I have tried my best to present all my knowledge to this article. Hope you can get the good basic beginning over here. Thank you!


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

Edison Heng
Japan Japan
Hi! Thank you everyone who reading my article. My major is electronic and programming. Right now I am doing foreign study at Japan. I will like sharing to everyone with my works and if you do interesting with my works, please leave you comment on my blog. Any comments is welcoming.

Comments and Discussions

QuestionLong-distance connection Pin
loho9723-Oct-21 13:26
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Questionthanking.. Pin
Member 1335948913-Aug-17 9:25
MemberMember 1335948913-Aug-17 9:25 
Generalgood one Pin
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QuestionSocket programming in C Pin
Member 128357426-Nov-16 11:55
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GeneralRe: Socket programming in C Pin
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GeneralRe: Socket programming in C Pin
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GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
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QuestionHow to find Time Delay. Pin
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QuestionVery nice article Pin
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Questiontcp ip/ TCP ACK unseen packet Pin
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professionalMuhammad Azym28-Aug-15 5:24 
QuestionImplementation in LabVIEW? Pin
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Questionbind() in Client Pin
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QuestionI don't see bind in client side Pin
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AnswerRe: I don't see bind in client side Pin
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GeneralRe: I don't see bind in client side Pin
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QuestionReally good one Pin
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SuggestionGeneralize this example for Windows and Unix Pin
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Bugmemset() error Pin
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GeneralRe: memset() error Pin
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