Virtual Bridged LAN (VLAN, IEEE 802.1Q)

A Virtual Bridged Local Area Network is used to logically group network devices together, which share the same physical network.

This way, the network traffic of a VLAN group is only visible to the network devices which are members of this group.

A specific VLAN (group) is distinguished by a unique 12 bit VLAN ID.

A network administrator will have to logically group the network devices together and provide a unique VLAN ID for each of these groups. Then he will attach each port on each participating (Ethernet) switch with one or several of these ID's. After that, the switch will forward incoming VLAN tagged packets (see below) only to the network devices which are in the specific VLAN.

VLAN is specified by the IEEE in the IEEE 802.1Q standard.

VLAN's are "working together" with several IEEE 802 technologies (Ethernet, WLAN, Token Ring, ...).

See CaptureSetup/VLAN for various details how to capture VLAN traffic.

(Ethernet) Packet Format

There are several different packet formats defined; see the standard for details.

However, a VLAN packet on an Ethernet will typically look like this:

Destination MAC address

Source MAC address

Type (VLAN: 0x8100)


User Data





46 - 1500

The green fields have the same meaning as in a usual Ethernet packet, the VLAN Ethernet Type is 0x8100.

Please note, that the maximum user data length is still 1500, so VLAN packets will have a maximum of 1518 bytes (which is 4 bytes longer than usual Ethernet packets).


The VLAN tag itself will look like this (length in bits):




Ethernet Type/Length






Protocol dependencies

Example traffic

 Frame 53 (70 bytes on wire, 70 bytes captured)
 Ethernet II, Src: 00:40:05:40:ef:24, Dst: 00:60:08:9f:b1:f3
 802.1q Virtual LAN
    000. .... .... .... = Priority: 0
    ...0 .... .... .... = CFI: 0
    .... 0000 0010 0000 = ID: 32
    Type: IP (0x0800)
 Internet Protocol, Src Addr: (, Dst Addr: (
 Transmission Control Protocol, Src Port: 1173 (1173), Dst Port: 6000 (6000), Seq: 0, Ack: 128, Len: 0


The VLAN dissector is fully functional.

Preference Settings

The VLAN dissector has two preferences:

Example capture file

The SampleCaptures page includes vlan.cap.gz which shows VLAN tags.

Display Filter

A complete list of VLAN display filter fields can be found in the display filter reference

Capture Filter

To quote the OS X 10.4.9 tcpdump man page (this isn't WinPcap-specific - it's common to all libpcap/WinPcap implementations):

As the second sentence says, "Note that the first vlan keyword encountered in expression changes the decoding offsets for the remainder of expression on the assumption that the packet is a VLAN packet." The "vlan" in "vlan and host x.x.x.x" causes the "host x.x.x.x" to check for VLAN-encapsulated packets with an IPv4 address of x.x.x.x.

To check for both VLAN-encapsulated and non-VLAN-encapsulated packets with that IPv4 address, try


VLAN (last edited 2017-01-07 12:11:36 by JaapKeuter)