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physical topology
Last modified: Monday, August 05, 2002 

The physical layout of devices on a network. Every LAN has a topology, or the way that the devices on a network are arranged and how they communicate with each other. The way that the workstations are connected to the network through the actual cables that transmit data -- the physical structure of the network -- is called the physical topology. The logical topology, in contrast, is the way that the signals act on the network media, or the way that the data passes through the network from one device to the next without regard to the physical interconnection of the devices.

A network's logical topology is not necessarily the same as its physical topology. For example, twisted pair Ethernet is a logical bus topology in a physical star topology layout. While IBM's Token Ring is a logical ring topology, it is physically set up in a star topology.

For network diagrams, see Network Topology Diagrams in the Quick Reference section of Webopedia.

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Related Links

Topologies
Understanding the topology of LAN technologies can tell you a lot about your alternatives when installing or expanding a LAN.

related categories

Network Protocols

Network Topologies

Networks

related terms

5-4-3 rule

local-area network

LocalTalk

logical

logical topology

physical

ring network

star network

token bus network

token-ring network

topology


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