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Definition

flow control

Flow control is the management of data flow between computers or devices or between nodes in a network so that the data can be handled at an efficient pace. Too much data arriving before a device can handle it causes data overflow, meaning the data is either lost or must be retransmitted. For serial data transmission locally or in a network, the Xon/Xoff protocol can be used. For modem connections, either Xon/Xoff or CTS/RTS (Clear to Send/Ready to Send) commands can be used to control data flow.

In a network, flow control can also be applied by refusing additional device connections until the flow of traffic has subsided.

This was last updated in April 2005

Next Steps

Manage and track the flow of information with a data flow map. Expert Bill Hayes explains how to create one.

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What mechanisms does TCP use for flow control?
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