Q. What is a subnet?

A. A subnet is a range of IP addresses. The special attribute of a subnet is that all the computers within the subnet (a "sub-network") can talk directly to each other, and don't need a router to communicate.

As mentioned above, your computer delivers a packet directly to the destination computer or sends it to the router for ultimate delivery.

But how does your computer know whether the packet's destination is within its subnet? The answer is that your computer uses the subnet mask to determine the members of the subnet.

The chart below associates the number of IP addresses in a subnet to the subnet mask. For example, the subnet mask "" represents 254 consecutive IP addresses. If your computer's IP and the destination computer's IP addresses are in the same subnet address range, then they can send packets directly to each other. If they're not in the same range, then they must send their data through a router for delivery.