comp.dcom.lans.token-ring FAQ

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Feb 18, 2006, 12:26:50 AM2/18/06
Archive-name: LANs/token-ring-faq
Posting-Frequency: monthly
Last-modified: 2005/01/06
Version: 050106
Copyright: (c) 2005 James Messer
Maintainer: James Messer <>

comp.dcom.lans.token-ring Frequently Asked Questions

This document is provided as is without any express or implied
warranties. While every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of
the information contained in this article, the authors assume no
responsibility for errors or omissions, or for damages resulting from the
use of the information contained herein. The contents of this article
reflect my opinions only and not necessarily those of my employer.

FAQ Table of Contents

1.0 FAQ Administration

[1.1] What is this FAQ?
[1.2] Who maintains this FAQ?
[1.3] Where can this FAQ be found?
[1.4] Who provides information to the FAQ?
[1.5] Can I use this FAQ on my web page?
[1.6] License Information

2.0 Introduction to Token Ring

[2.1] What is token ring?
[2.2] How do Ethernet and token ring networks compare?
[2.3] Where are the IEEE specifications?

3.0 General Token Ring Information

[3.1] How does token ring work?
[3.2] What is used to convert between Ethernet and Token Ring?

4.0 Token Ring Physical Layer

[4.1] What physical devices are required for a token ring network?
[4.2] What types of cables are used for token ring?
[4.3] What pin assignments are used in token ring cabling?
[4.4] What is the difference between a MAU, a CAU, and a LAM?
[4.5] Can two token ring stations be directly attached?
[4.6] What is the maximum distance between token ring stations?
[4.7] What is the formula for computing adjusted ring length (ARL)?
[4.8] Why is ring length important?
[4.9] At what speeds does token ring run?
[4.10] How many stations are supported by a single token ring network?
[4.11] What is High Speed Token Ring?

5.0 Token Ring Data Link Layer

[5.1] What is a token?
[5.2] What are MAC frames?
[5.3] What are LLC frames?
[5.4] What are Locally Administered Addresses (LAAs)?
[5.5] What are functional addresses?
[5.6] What is an Active Monitor and Standby Monitor?
[5.7] What is early token release?
[5.8] What is transparent bridging?
[5.9] What is spanning tree bridging?
[5.10] What is source route bridging?
[5.11] What is token ring switching?
[5.12] What is the process for inserting into a ring?
[5.13] How do you troubleshoot the insertion process?

6.0 Token Ring Errors and Troubleshooting

[6.1] What are isolating and non-isolating errors?
[6.2] What is the claim process?
[6.3] What is a beacon frame?
[6.4] What is promiscuous mode?
[6.5] What software is available to monitor a token ring network?

7.0 Other Information

[7.1] What companies make token ring adapter cards and MAUs?

1.0 FAQ Administration

[1.1] What is this FAQ?

This FAQ will attempt to explain and decipher the intricacies of
token ring networking and answer some of the most common questions
relating to token ring networks. Although it contains technical
information, this FAQ is best used as an introduction to token ring

[1.2] Who maintains this FAQ?

This FAQ is maintained by James Messer (
Questions, comments, corrections, and contributions are encouraged!

Because of the decrease in the popularity of token ring, updates to
this FAQ occur irregularly. The IEEE 802.5 working group is in
'hibernation,' and it is unlikely that additional standards work
related to IEEE 802.5 will continue.

[1.3] Where can this FAQ be found?

This FAQ will be posted to the comp.dcom.lans.token-ring newsgroup
on the first of each month. An archive of the FAQ can be found at:

A HTTP version of this FAQ can be found at:

[1.4] Who provides information to the FAQ?

In many cases, the FAQ questions and answers are summarized from the
comp.dcom.lans.token-ring newsgroup.

[1.5] Can I use this FAQ on my web page?

Since this FAQ can change without notice, a copy of the FAQ on your
web page would be out of date in a very short time. Please don't do
this! A more appropriate method would be to set a hyperlink to the
URL found in the secondary header of this FAQ. Please send an e-mail
to if you plan on adding a link to this FAQ
from your web page.

[1.6] License Information

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License. To view a copy of this
license, visit

or send a letter to

Creative Commons
559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, California 94305,
United States of America

2.0 Introduction to Token Ring

[2.1] What is token ring?

Token ring is the IEEE 802.5 standard that connects computers
together in a closed ring. Devices on the ring cannot transmit data
until permission is received from the network in the form of an
electronic 'token'.

[2.2] How do Ethernet and token ring networks compare?

Token Ring is single access, meaning there is only one token. Thus,
at any given time only one station is able to use the LAN. Ethernet
is a shared access medium, where all stations have equal access to
the network at the same time.

[2.3] Where are the IEEE specifications?

The IEEE specifications can be purchased from the IEEE at:

After an 802 standard has been published for six months, the
standard is availalble for free from the IEEE web site:

Information on all IEEE standards can be found at:

3.0 General Token Ring Information

[3.1] How does token ring work?

A token ring network uses a special frame called a token that
rotates around the ring when no stations are actively sending
information. When a station wants to transmit on the ring, it must
capture this token frame. The owner of the token is the only station
that can transmit on the ring, unlike the Ethernet topology where
any station can transmit at any time. Once a station captures the
token, it changes the token into a frame format so data can be sent.

As the data traverses the ring, it passes through each station on
the way to the destination station. Each station receives the frame
and regenerates and repeats the frame onto the ring. As each station
repeats the frame, it performs error checks on the information
within the frame. If an error is found, a special bit in the frame
called the Error Detection bit is set so other stations will not
report the same error.

Once the data arrives at the destination station, the frame is
copied to the destination's token ring card buffer memory. The
destination station repeats the frame onto the ring, changing two
series of bits on the frame. These bits, called the Address
Recognized Indicator (ARI) and the Frame Copied Indicator (FCI),
determines if the destination station had seen the frame and has had
ample buffer space available to copy the frame into memory. If the
frame is not copied into memory, it is the responsibility of the
sending station to retransmit the frame.

The frame continues around the ring, arriving back at the source
station who recognizes the sending address as it's own. The frame is
then stripped from the ring, and the source station sends a free
token downstream.

[3.2] What is used to convert between Ethernet and Token Ring?

There is no 'converter' that allows an Ethernet network and Token
Ring network to communicate between each other. A conversion process
must occur between the two topologies, since they both use different
signaling types, frame structures, and frame sizes.

There are two methods to accomplish this 'conversion'; bridging, and


Bridging is a method of communicating between devices at OSI layer
2, the data link layer. A bridge connects two networks together and
acts as a traffic director. If traffic is destined to the other
network, the bridge allows the traffic to pass. If the traffic is
local to a single network, the bridge does not pass the traffic
unnecessarily to the other connected network.

The bridge makes this determination based on the Media Access
Control (MAC) address of the workstations on the network. The bridge
keeps an updated list of everyone active on the network, and uses
this list to direct traffic from one network to another.

This method of operation makes the network appear as a single
logical network, since the only separation of traffic from one
network to another is done at the MAC address level.

There are many bridge manufacturers and bridge types on the market.
The newest version of this bridging technology is called a DLC
Switch or LAN Switch. These switches have a much higher port density
than the older two or three port bridges, allowing for much more
flexibility and network segmentation.


The second method of 'converting' from Ethernet to Token Ring is
called routing. Routing occurs at OSI layer 3, and separates
physical networks into separate logical networks. This
differentiates routing from bridging, since bridging maintains a
single logical network.

In a routed network, the sending workstation determines if outgoing
traffic is local or remote. If the traffic belongs to another
network, the originating station sends the frame directly to the
router for further processing.

Upon receiving the frame from the source workstation, the router
examines the frame for the destination address. The router maintains
a routing table which is used to determine the final destination of
the data packet through the router.

Routing is the most common method of connecting Ethernet networks to
Token Ring networks in most organizations. Most network operating
systems have routing capabilities built into the servers. By placing
a token ring and Ethernet card into a Novell NetWare 3.x/4.x or
Windows NT v4.x server, the two topologies can communicate between
each other.

One caveat; some protocols are not routeable. A good example is
Microsoft's NetBEUI, which has no OSI layer 3 network address and
therefore cannot be routed. Protocols which cannot be routed must be
bridged between physical networks.

4.0 Token Ring Physical Layer

[4.1] What physical devices are required for a token ring network?

Token ring connectivity requires three separate physical entities; a
Multistation Access Unit (MAU), a token ring lobe cable, and a token
ring adapter card.

A Multistation Access Unit (MAU or MSAU) is a hub-like device that
connects to all token ring stations. Although the token ring
stations are attached to the MAU in a physical star configuration, a
true ring is maintained inside the MAU.

Unlike an Ethernet hub, a MAU consists of physical or electronic
relays which keep each station in a loopback state until a voltage
is sent from the station to the MAU. Since this voltage does not
affect data communications, it is referred to as a 'phantom'
voltage. Once this phantom voltage is received by the MAU, a relay
is activated that inserts the token ring station onto the ring.

MAUs are connected together with Ring In/Ring Out (RI/RO) cables. To
maintain a true ring, both the RI and the RO ports must be connected
from one MAU to the other.

A token ring lobe cable connects the token ring station to the MAU.
This cable communicates over four wires; two for transmit and two
for receive. The cable can be Shielded Twisted Pair (STP) or
Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP).

A token ring adapter card is the physical interface that a station
uses to connect to a token ring network. There are token ring
adapter cards for almost every computer bus type.

[4.2] What types of cables are used for token ring?

There are three major physical token ring cabling systems; Shielded
Twisted Pair (STP), Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP), and optic fiber.

[4.3] What pin assignments are used in token ring cabling?

An IBM-type Data Connector or Universal Data Connector (IDC or UDC),
is a hermaphroditic connector (neither male nor female). These
connectors attach to each other without having a specified male or
female connector type on each end. These connectors are commonly
found on IBM Type 1 cabling, a two-pair shielded cable.

The UDC connector has the following cabling requirements:

Red - Receive +
Green - Receive -
Orange - Transmit +
Black - Transmit -

A DB-9 connector uses four wires (two pairs) for token ring

Pin 1 - Red - Receive +
Pin 5 - Black - Transmit -
Pin 6 - Green - Receive -
Pin 9 - Orange - Transmit +

A RJ-45 connector is an eight wire twisted pair cable:

Pin 3 - Blue/White - Transmit -
Pin 4 - White/Orange - Receive +
Pin 5 - Orange/White - Receive -
Pin 6 - White/Blue - Transmit +

RJ-11 connectors are rarely used:

Pin 2 - Blue/White - Transmit -
Pin 3 - White/Orange - Receive +
Pin 4 - Orange/White - Receive -
Pin 5 - White/Blue - Transmit +

[4.4] What is the difference between a MAU, a CAU, and a LAM?

A MAU is a 8228 Multistation Access Unit. This unit provides eight
workstation connectors and 2 MAU ports (also called Ring In/Ring Out

A CAU is a 8230 Controlled Access Unit (Basically a MAU with
intelligence). A CAU supports up to four LAMs. The Ring In/Ring Out
ports of a CAU are copper, but can replaced with fiber connectors.

A LAM is a Lobe Attachment Module for the 8230. Each LAM supports 20

[4.5] Can two token ring stations be directly attached?

Unlike Ethernet stations, token ring stations _cannot_ be directly
attached with a cross-over cable. Because of the process required
for inserting into a ring, a loopback process must complete and
phantom voltage must exist on a wire for a relay to open. A MAU must
be used to directly connect two workstations.

However, some token ring switches allow a station to directly
connect to a _switch_. This Direct Token Ring (DTR) connection is a
non-standard method of connecting a switch and a workstation onto a
single ring. This non-standard DTR connectivity does _not_ allow for
two workstations to be directly connected.

[4.6] What is the maximum distance between a MAU and a token ring
station, or between two token ring stations?

In token ring networking, distance requirements are different from
vendor to vendor. In general terms, the recommended standard
distance between stations for Type 1 cabling is approximately 300
meters, and the recommended standard distance between stations for
UTP cabling is about 150 meters.

Token ring distances are computed as the distance between repeaters.
IN a token ring network, each Network Interface Card (NIC) is a
repeater. Therefore, the length between stations cannot exceed the
cable lengths listed above.

Some manufacturers use 'active' MAUs which can regenerate the token
ring signal and act as a repeater. In these cases, the distances
between the token ring workstations and the MAUs can be much larger
than many 'passive' MAUs. Many active MAUs have other network
management features such as SNMP capabilities and auto-station
removal for stations inserting at the incorrect speeds.

[4.7] What is the formula for computing adjusted ring length (ARL)?

The adjusted ring length of a token ring network is the sum of all
cable lengths between wiring closets, minus the shortest cable
between wiring closets. The ARL is used to determine the total
length of the ring, and the maximum lobe distances (see section

This calculation determines the ring length if part of the ring is
removed for troubleshooting. When a cable is removed from a Ring
In/Ring Out port, the loop-back creates a much larger ring than
normal. The ARL calculation defines the largest ring size that can
occur, based on the shortest cable between wiring closets.

[4.8] Why is ring length important?

The design of any network is dependent on limits. In token ring
networks, ring length is a large factor in the physical design of an
error-free network. If the ring is too long, timing and attenuation
issues can create physical-layer errors, disrupting communication
over the entire ring.

In the design of a token ring network, total ring length dictates
the maximum length of cable between the workstation and the MAU.
This value, called the lobe length, can be computed with a series of
tables. These tables are computed for passive MAU networks. Active
MAUs provide capabilities that deviate greatly from the values in
these tables. Consult the manufacturer of the active MAUs for values
that are appropriate for that equipment.

[4.9] At what speeds does token ring run?

Token ring runs at speeds of 4 megabits per second (500,000 bytes
per second) and 16 megabits per second (2,000,000 bytes per second).
Some token ring switches support a non-standard referred to as
Direct Token Ring (DTR), or full-duplex token ring. This allows for
16 megabit speeds in the sending and receiving directions
simultaneously, for a maximum of 32 megabits per second (4,000,000
bytes per second).

[4.10] How many stations are supported by a single token ring network?

Again, this number is dependent on the token ring equipment that is
used in the network. Current standards list a maximum of 72 stations
on a UTP ring, and approximately 250 to 260 on a Type 1 network.

[4.11] What is High Speed Token Ring?

High Speed Token Ring, or HSTR, is a series of token ring standard
that pushed token ring speeds to 100 Mbps and 1 Gbps. The High Speed
Token Ring Alliance consisted of 3Com, Bay Networks, IBM, Madge,
Olicom, UNH Interoperability Lab, and Xylan.

The first HSTR specification (IEEE 802.5t) allows for 100 Mbps token
ring speeds, and other HSTR specifications (IEEE 802.5v) provides
for 1 Gbps HSTR over fiber.

Although these standards were completed and published, additional
interest in token ring was insufficient to drive these standards
into popular use. A limited number of companies created 802.5t 100
Mbps token ring equipment, and few (if any) companies ever created
802.5v gigabit token ring equipment.

5.0 Token Ring Data Link Layer

[5.1] What is a token?

A token frame is a three byte frame that takes this format:

| SDEL | AC | EDEL |
| 1 byte | 1 byte | 1 byte |

The Starting Delimiter (SDEL) byte is coded as JK0JK000, where the J
and K bits are intentional Manchester encoding violations. These
intentional violations delineate the token from normal traffic data.
J is the encoding violation of a 1, and K is the encoding violation
of a 0.

The Access Control (AC) byte is coded as PPPTMRRR. The priority bits
(PPP) provide eight levels of priority (000 through 111). The token
indicator bit (T) of 0 determines that the following information is
a token, a 1 designates the following information is a frame. The
Monitor bit (M) is used to prevent frames from constantly circling
the ring. The Priority Reservations bits (RRR) provide token
reservation to ring stations.

The Ending Delimiter (EDEL) byte is coded as JK1JK1IE, where the J
and K bits are encoding violations and the I and E bits are the
intermediate frame and error detection bits, respectively. The
intermediate bit is set to 1 if there are more frames to transmit in
this set. The error detection bit is set to 1 by a station that
recognizes a CRC error in the frame so other stations downstream do
not report the same error.

[5.2] What are MAC frames?

A Media Access Control (MAC) frame is used for management of the
token ring network. MAC frames do not traverse bridges or routers,
since they carry ring management information for a single specific

The MAC frame has this format:

| SD | AC | FC | DA | SA |Data | FCS | ED | FS |
Size 1 1 1 6 6 >=0 4 1 2
in bytes

Starting Delimiter (SD) - See section [5.1].

Access Control (AC) - See section [5.1].

Frame Control (FC) - The frame control field consists of eight bits,
coded as TT00AAAA. The Frame Type bits (T) indicate the frame type.
Bits 2 and 3 are reserved, and are always zero. Bits four through
eight are Attention Codes which provide the token ring adapter of
incoming MAC information that can be copied to a special Express
Buffer in the token ring adapter.

Destination Address (DA) - The Destination Address specifies which
station is to receive the frame. The Destination Address can be sent
to a specific station, or a group of stations.

Source Address (SA) - The Source Address is the MAC address of the
sending station.

Data - A MAC frame data field contains token ring management
information, and a non-MAC (LLC) data field contains user data.

Frame Check Sequence (FCS) - A 32 bit Cyclical Redundancy Check
(CRC) is performed on the frame data to provide an integrity check
of the frame data. As each station copies the frame, the CRC is
computed and compared with the value in the FCS frame to verify that
the frame data is correct.

Ending Delimiter (ED) - See section [5.1].

Frame Status (FS) - The Frame Status field provides information for
the sending station regarding the status of the frame as it
circulates the ring. The Frame Status field is coded as AF00AF00.
The bits of the Frame Status field are duplicated, since this field
does not fall under the CRC checking of the Frame Check Sequence
bytes. The Address Recognized Indicator (ARI) is set to 1 by the
destination station if the destination station recognizes the frame.
The Frame Copied Indicator (FCI) is set to 1 if the destination
station was able to copy the frame into the local adapter buffer

[5.3] What are LLC frames?

A Logical Link Control (LLC) frame is used to transfer data between

LLC frames have the same frame structure as MAC frames, except frame
type bits of 01 are used in the Frame Control (FC) byte.

[5.4] What are Locally Administered Addresses (LAAs)?

Token ring addresses are either locally administered or universally
administered. Locally administered addresses are assigned by a local
manager and universally administered addresses are assigned by a
standards organization. Locally administered addresses are
designated by bit one set to 1 in byte zero of the destination
address field.

[5.5] What are functional addresses?

Functional addresses are assigned by the token ring specification to
allow for communication to functional devices. Some devices include:

Device Functional Address
------ ------------------
Active Monitor C0 00 00 00 00 01
Ring Parameter Server C0 00 00 00 00 02
Ring Error Monitor C0 00 00 00 00 08
Configuration Report Server C0 00 00 00 00 10
Source Route Bridge C0 00 00 00 01 00

[5.6] What is an Active Monitor and Standby Monitor?

Devices are either active monitors or standby monitors. There can
only be a single active monitor on a physical token ring. Any
station on the ring can assume the role of Active Monitor. All other
stations on the ring are standby monitors.

The Active Monitor provides many functions on a token ring network:

* The Active Monitor is responsible for master clocking on the token
ring network and the lower level management of the token ring

* The Active Monitor inserts a 24-bit propagation delay to prevent
the end of a frame from wrapping onto the beginning of the frame.

* The Active Monitor confirms that a data frame or good token is
received every 10 milliseconds. This timer sets the maximum possible
frame size on a token ring network to 4048 bytes on a 4 megabit
ring, and 17,997 bytes on a 16 megabit ring.

* The Active Monitor removes circulating frames from the ring. As a
frame passes the Active Monitor, a special bit called a monitor
count bit is set. If the monitor count bit is set, the Active
Monitor assumes the original sender of the frame was unable to
remove the frame from the ring. The Active Monitor purges this
frame, and sends a Token Error Soft Error to the Ring Error Monitor.

If the Active Monitor is removed from the ring or no longer performs
the Active Monitor functions, one of the Standby Monitors on the
ring will take over as Active Monitor.

[5.7] What is early token release?

In normal token ring operation, a station sending information holds
the token until the sending data circles the entire ring. After the
sending station strips the data from the ring, it then issues a free

With Early Token Release (ETR), a token is released immediately
after the sending station transmits its frame. This allows for
improved performance, since there is no delay in the downstream
neighbor waiting for the token.

ETR is only available on 16 megabit rings. Stations running ETR can
coexist with stations not running ETR.

[5.8] What is transparent bridging?

Transparent bridging is a method to connect two similar network
segments to each other at the datalink layer. It is done in a way
that is transparent to end stations, hence end-stations do not
participate in the bridging algorithm.

Transparent bridges are sometimes called (self) learning bridges.
When they are turned on and receive data packets from a network
segment they

1) learn the relation between MAC address and segment/port, and
2) forward the packet to all (!) other segments/ports.

The first step in this process is essential to the "learning" aspect
of the bridge. After some time the bridge has learned that a
particular MAC address, say MACa, is on a particular segment/port,
say PORT1. When it receives a packet destined for the MAC address
MACa (from any port not being PORT1) it will no longer forward the
packet to all ports (step 2). It knows that MACa is associated with
PORT1 and will only forward the packet to PORT1.

Please note that transparent bridging is most often used in a
Ethernet environment. In a token-ring environment it can be used but
is not common. In a token-ring environment source route bridging is
most often used.

[5.9] What is the spanning tree protocol?

Spanning tree is a protocol defined in IEEE 802.1D to prevent
bridges from creating network loops. Using the spanning tree
protocol, bridges communicate to each other and disable certain
ports/segments to prevent looping of packets.

Many implementations of the spanning tree protocol are configured so
an alternate path is available to network traffic, should the
original path become disabled.

[5.10] What is source route bridging?

Source route bridging is a method to connect two similar network
segments to each other at the datalink layer. It is done in a
"distributed way" where end-stations participate in the bridging
algorithm, thus the name _source_ routing. (as compared to
transparent bridging, refer to 5.9]).

In a source-route bridging environment a source end-station will
sent out a "route explorer" frame (broadcast) to find out the route
to the destination end-station. Source route bridges will forward
these frames to all segments/ports. The source route bridge will add
route information (the segment the packet came from) to the frame
prior to forwarding it. This route information is called the Routing
Information Field (RIF).

Eventually, the route explorer frame reaches the destination
end-station INCLUDING THE COMPLETE ROUTE (via the RIF) the packet
took. The destination end-station then uses this RIF to reply to the
source end-station directly (i.e. no broadcast). Please note that
the reply traverses all bridges in reverse order of the route
explorer frame and INCLUDES THE RIF. When the reply reaches the
source end-station, the complete network route is known by both the
source and destination end-stations. Subsequent packets will use
this route information (i.e. no broadcast).

It is possible that a network has multiple routes to a destination
end-station. In this scenario, the source end-station will receive
more than one reply to the route explorer broadcast. In most cases,
the source end-station uses the route that was received first.

In a source-route bridging environment, the end-stations discover
and store information about the network topology. In a transparent
bridging environment, the (transparent) bridge discovers and stores
this information.

[5.11] What is token ring switching?

From a functional point of view switching is exactly the same as
bridging. However switches use specially designed hardware called
Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) to perform the
bridging and packet-forwarding functionality (as supposed to
implementations using a central CPU and special software).
Consequently, switches are much faster than ancient bridges.

When you compare token-ring switches to multiport (token-ring)
bridges in more detail you can find more differences. For example
switches forward packets directly and at wire-speed from port x to
port y. However ancient multiport bridges are often implemented
using a internal token-ring segment. Consequently a packet being
source-routed from port x to port y makes two (!) hops (from the
segment attached to port x to the internal ring and from the
internal ring to the segment attached to port y). Please note that
there is a maximum on the number of hops a packet is allowed to make
(8 or 16, don't remember) and that the maximum aggregate throughput
of the multiport bridge is limited by the capacity of the internal

Other goodies token-ring switches often offer are support for
virtual LAN's and full duplex connections.

[5.12] What is the process for inserting into a ring?

This information is derived from the TMS380 Second-Generation Token
Ring User's Guide from Texas Instruments published in 1990.

In order for any token ring adapter to insert successfully into a
ring, the adapter must successfully complete 5 steps known as the
phases of insertion. These phases are described as follows:

Phase 0 - Media Lobe Check,
Phase 1 - Physical Insertion,
Phase 2 - Address Verification,
Phase 3 - Participation in Ring Poll, and
Phase 4 - Request Initialization.

Phase 0: Media Lobe Check

The first step for any token ring device initialization is known as
the Lobe Media Check. This phase actually tests the transmitter and
receiver of the adapter and the cable between the adapter and the
Multistation Access Unit (MAU). A MAU physically wraps the
connection cable's transmit wire back to its receive wire. The
effect is that the adapter can transmit media test Media Access
Control (MAC) frames up the cable to the MAU (where it is wrapped)
and back to itself. The adapter will send lobe media test MAC frames
to destination address 00-00-00-00-00-00 (with the source address of
the adapter) and a Duplication Address Test (DAT) MAC frame
(containing the address of the adapter as both the source and
destination) up the cable during this phase. 2047 test MAC frames
and 1 DAT frame must be successfully transmitted in order to
complete phase 0. The adapter will only attempt this phase 2 times
before reporting a failure.

Phase 1: Physical Insertion

In phase 1, the adapter attempts to open the relay on the MAU by
sending a DC current (4.1-7.0 V for current less than 1mA or 3.5-7.0
V for current of 1-2 mA, in either case known as phantom since it is
transparent to any signals being transmitted on the same wires) up
the transmit wire pair. Once the phantom is applied and the relay on
the MAU opens (hopefully), the adapter waits to see one of the
following: an Active Monitor Present (AMP) MAC frame, a Standby
Monitor Present (SMP) MAC frame, or a ring purge MAC frame. Any one
of these frames indicates that there is an Active Monitor (AM)
present on the ring, which indicates successful completion of phase
1. If an AM is not detected within 18 seconds, the adapter initiates
the monitor contention process. The monitor contention process
determines a new AM based on the highest address of those contending
for AM status. Not all stations contend for AM every time contention
is initiated. If contention is not completed within one second, the
adapter fails to open. If the adapter becomes AM and initiates a
purge and the purge process does not complete within one second, the
adapter fails to open. If the adapter receives a beacon MAC frame or
a remove station MAC frame, the adapter fails to open.

Phase 2: Address Verification

This phase is also referred to as the duplicate address test. This
phase insures that the address of this adapter is unique to the
local ring. Since token ring allows Locally Administered Addresses
(LAAs), you could end up with two adapters with the same MAC address
if this check was not done. The adapter sends out a series of DAT
MAC frames like the ones used in phase 0. If there is no other
adapter on the local ring with the same address as the adapter in
phase 2, then it will receive all of its DAT frames back with the
ARI (Address Recognized Indicator) and FCI (Frame Copied Indicator)
bits set to zero. At this time, the adapter would enter phase 3. If
the adapter in phase 2 receives 2 frames with either the ARI or FCI
bits set to 1, then it de-inserts from the ring and reports a
failure to open. If phase 2 does not complete within 18 seconds, the
adapter reports a failure and de-inserts.

Phase 3: Participation in Ring Poll.

This process is where a station learns its upstream neighbor's
address and informs its downstream neighbor of the inserting
adapter's address. It is this process which creates a station list
or ring map. The adapter must wait until it receives an AMP or SMP
frame with the ARI/FCI bits set to zero. Upon receipt of an AMP or
SMP frame with the ARI/FCI bits set to zero, the station flips both
bits (ARI and FCI) to one (if enough resources are available) and
queues an SMP frame for transmission. If no such frames are received
within 18 seconds, the adapter reports a failure to open and
de-inserts from the ring. If the adapter successfully participates
in a ring poll, it proceeds into the final phase of insertion.

Phase 4: Request Initialization

The adapter sends four request initialization MAC frames to the
functional address of the Ring Parameter Server (RPS). If there is
no RPS present on the ring, the adapter uses its own default values
and reports successful completion of the insertion process. If the
adapter receives one of its four request initialization MAC frames
back with the ARI/FCI bits set to one, it waits 2 seconds for a
response. If there is no response, it re-transmits up to four times.
At this time, if is no response, it reports a request initialization
failure and de-inserts from the ring.

[5.13] How do you troubleshoot the insertion process?

Phase 0: Media Lobe Check Troubleshooting

Failure to complete phase 0 is one of the most common failures when
trying to configure a token ring network interface card into a PC.
Most token ring adapters, upon failing, will display some cryptic
error message like "Adapter failed to open." or "Failed
initialization.". Always check the cable connected to the adapter
and where it connects to the hub. In order for an adapter to pass
phase 0, it must have a closed circuit to test. Either use a wrap
plug or insure that the adapter is connected to a working MAU. Bad
cabling causes many adapter problems during the insertion process.
Things to look for include: "Is the adapter configured to use the
correct media port, UTP or STP?", "Is the cable run from the adapter
to the hub complete and correct?", "What exactly is between the
adapter and the hub, how many punch downs, what kind of cable, how
is it wired, where does it run, are there phones in the same cable,
etc.?", and "What kind of media filter are you using?". Keep in mind
that what will work at 4 Mbps will not always work at 16 Mbps.

Phase 1: Physical Insertion Troubleshooting

Many of the problems associated with phase 1 of insertion are the
same ones accounted for in phase 0, especially bad cabling and bad
media filters. The error messages at this stage are usually the same
as those received during phase 0 and are just as cryptic. If the
cabling checks out, look at the hub. Does the hub indicate
insertion? Does the hub make a chattering noise when the adapter is
trying to insert? Are there other stations on the ring? The problem
could be cabling or a faulty adapter (not supplying consistent
phantom can cause the relay to chatter). Some simple steps would be
to move the station to a working location or try a known working
station at this location. Can the station in question insert if the
other stations are turned off? It could be that there is a physical
layer problem (i.e. wiring, line noise, jitter, etc.) on the ring
which shows up as more stations insert, causing purges and beaconing
which will kick off a new inserting adapter. If you are sure that
the cabling is acceptable, you will probably need a protocol
analysis trace before making any prognosis as to why you can not
insert. The analyzer should be the immediate upstream neighbor to
the station trying to insert.

A normal insertion that completes successfully commonly causes
several token ring errors on the ring during phase 1. Common errors
at this time would include burst errors, line errors, token errors,
ring purges, and lost frame errors, due to the simple act of opening
the relay. Do not assume that the existence of these errors indicate
a problematic ring, as these are normal symptoms that occur during
the insertion process.

Phase 2: Address Verification Troubleshooting

The only time you need to worry about this phase is when you are in
an environment where the user is using LAAs. When users start
entering LAAs, the chance of duplicate addresses goes up
dramatically. The most common cause is copying a working adapter
configuration files (config.sys, autoexec.bat, net.cfg,
protocol.ini.) between stations. The symptom to look for is when the
adapter is trying to insert, it will (under most circumstances)
insert and de-insert twice in rapid succession and then quit trying.
It will also provide messages such as "Adapter failed to
initialize." or it might actually say "Failed Duplicate Address
Test.". Change the LAA or move to another ring and try to reinsert.
If you can get a trace of the failure to insert, you can look for
the duplicate address test frames. As in phase 1, insert your
analyzer directly upstream to the failing adapter.

Phase 3: Participation in Ring Poll Troubleshooting

Some probing is usually required to find out the root of the problem
at this phase. If you can not insert, time how long it takes for an
inserting adapter to fail. If the answer is 15-20 seconds, then it
is probably failing the ring poll. If the answer is less than 15
seconds, the problem could still be the ring poll failure but more
information will be required.

If you get a trace of a ring that is failing the ring poll process,
you will find a MAC frame issued by the AM called Neighbor
Notification Incomplete (NNI) or Ring Poll Failure. This frame
should be issued every 7 seconds in a failing ring just prior to an
AMP MAC frame. The NNI frame is important because it will contain
the address of the last station to successfully complete the ring
poll process. The downstream neighbor from this station is usually
the culprit and removing the downstream neighbor should cure the
problem. Exceptions will occur if there is more than one station
that is not participating in the ring poll process. Another way to
cure the problem is to have all stations on the ring power down for
30 seconds (at the same time) and then try to reinsert, however,
this is only a temporary cure and not a fix since the problem will
likely reappear. If the failure is proven to be a ring poll failure
and the problem persists, the customer may need to look at
contacting the vender of the failing adapter(s) or device(s) and see
if the vender has a newer driver available.

Phase 4: Request Initialization Troubleshooting

Failure at this stage is rare but could point to a failing adapter
on either the RPS or on the inserting station, a physical layer
problem on the ring (cabling, jitter, etc.), or some other
`undocumented' feature of the environment in which the failure
occurs. The only method to determine a failure at this stage is to
use an analyzer inserted as the upstream neighbor to the adapter in
question. An RPS is generally best serviced by bridges or routers
since they are usually running the server software required to
perform these services.

6.0 Token Ring Errors and Troubleshooting

[6.1] What are isolating and non-isolating errors?

An isolating error can be attributable to a specific station on the
ring. Non-isolating errors are usually reported by the Active
Monitor, and cannot be attributed to a specific station.

[6.2] What is the claim process?

This is when a the ring elects a new Active Monitor. It is also
called the monitor contention process. Election of a new active
monitor occurs due to one of the following events:

1. An active or standby monitor detects a loss of signal.

2. A station attaching to a ring does not detect an active monitor
(this can happen for 1st station on the ring).

3. A station's receive-notification timer expires.

4. A active monitor's ring purge timer expires.

5. A standby monitor's good_token timer expires (no management
frames from active monitor detected).

Once one of these conditions occurs, the ring station(s) go/goes
into Claim-Token-Transmit mode by broadcasting Claim Token MAC
frames. The station with the highest MAC address becomes active

[6.3] What is a beacon frame?

A beacon frame is sent generated by a station or stations that do
not detect a receive signal. A station or stations will broadcast
these beacon MAC frames with the until the receive signal is
restored. A beacon MAC frame indicates the station's nearest active
upstream neighbor (NAUN).

[6.4] What is promiscuous mode?

Promiscuous mode is used with protocol analysis or network
management software that allows visibility to all data traversing
the ring. Not all token ring adapters support promiscuous mode, and
special drivers and/or configurations are required for using an
adapter card in promiscuous mode.

[6.5] What software is available to monitor a token ring network?

A list of free software is available at:

7.0 Other Information

[7.1] What companies have manufactured token ring adapter cards and MAUs?

Madge ( is the only manufacturer that continues
to produce new token ring equipment.

There is a large market of used token ring equipment, and token ring
equipment from these companies continues to be used in token ring

Attachmate (formerly DCA) (
Black Box (
Cabletron (
Compaq (formerly Thomas Conrad) (
D-Link (
Intel (
Kingston (
NX Networks (formerly Proteon) (
Racore (
Relia Technologies
Olicom (
Sim Ware Technologies / Wiremold Communications
3Com (
Unicom (
Xircom (

--- End of comp.dcom.lans.token-ring FAQ ---

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