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The maximum segment size (MSS) is a parameter of the TCP protocol that specifies the largest amount of data, specified in octets, that a computer or communications device can receive in a single TCP segment. It does not count the TCP header or the IP header. The IP datagram containing a TCP segment may be self-contained within a single packet, or it may be reconstructed from several fragmented pieces; either way, the MSS limit applies to the total amount of data contained in the final, reconstructed TCP segment.
The default TCP Maximum Segment Size is 536. Where a host wishes to set the maximum segment size to a value other than the default, the maximum segment size is specified as a TCP option, initially in the TCP SYN packet during the TCP handshake. Because the maximum segment size parameter is controlled by a TCP option, a host can change the value in any later segment.
Each direction of data flow can use a different MSS.
To avoid fragmentation in the IP layer, a host must specify the maximum segment size as equal to the largest IP datagram that the host can handle minus the IP header size and TCP header sizes. Therefore IPv4 hosts are required to be able to handle an MSS of 536 octets (= 576 - 20 - 20) and IPv6 hosts are required to be able to handle an MSS of 1220 octets (= 1280 - 40 - 20).
For most computer users, the MSS option is established by the operating system.
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