Difference between Layer-2 and Layer-3 Switch

Open System Interconnection (OSI) model consists of seven major layers. The layer−2 of the OSI stack and the switches working in this layer is layer−2 switch. Similarly, the third layer of this model is called the network layer and the switches working in this layer is layer−3 switch. Initially, Local Area Network uses hubs as a central devices connected to other devices. Later bridges were introduced but had less number of ports and then only switches were developed which includes more ports.

What is a Layer−2 switch?

The Layer−2 switches are the physical component of the network, in these, the packets are transferred between the devices depending on the Medium Access Control address. In the layer−2 switch, the packets are transferred using the physical address so it works very faster than routers. As in the case of routers, the packets are transferred based on the header information. Some of the popular features of these switches are,

  • The Time taken is very less.

  • The cost implementation of the layer−2 switch is low.

Some common examples of layer−2 switches are Ethernet switches.

Features of Layer−2 switch

  • The switches can transmit data between the client and the server very easily.

  • The destination address of the specific nodes from the table is arranged in some particular order.

  • When the LAN network is very large, it breaks into smaller parts for easier access.

Applications of Layer−2 switch

  • If an organization deploys this type of layer−2 switch, it can enhance the performance of the enterprise.

  • If the switches are used, it minimizes the need for an Internet connection.

What is a Layer−3 Switch?

Layer−3 switches use an Internet Protocol (IP) address instead of a MAC address in the network. In the case of the MAC address used in the layer−2 switch, would not have any changes in the address, while the IP address of the layer−3 switch changes accordingly. This implies that it can split the network into several smaller broadcast domains, each with its collection of devices capable of exchanging broadcast messages. This can help to enhance network performance by lowering the quantity of broadcast traffic on the network.

Layer−3 switch supports both static and dynamic routing. Static routing occurs when the routing table's routes are manually configured by the network administrator. When there are only a few routes to handle in small networks, this can be helpful, but in bigger networks, it can be laborious. The paths in the routing database are automatically learned and updated via dynamic routing, on the other hand. This can be helpful in larger networks with numerous paths to manage and potentially unstable network circumstances.

Features of Layer−3 Switch

  • It performs two main functions as a normal routing device and also tracks the packets based on the IP address.

  • It is especially used for large Local Area Networks.

  • Layer 3 switches give slower performance compared to layer−2 switches.

  • It simplifies the routing table and thus reduces the network traffic.

Difference between Layer−2 and Layer−3 Switch

Basic Parameters

Layer−2 switch

Layer−3 switch

Open System Interconnection model

Out of the two sub−layers of layer−2 it works on MAC address.

It works on the network layer of the OSI stack model.

Routing Function

It does not provide any routing functions.

It can route packets between different networks using either pre−configured static routes or dynamically learning the best path to a destination using routing protocols.


It uses a Medium Access Control address to route the packets.

It uses Internet Protocol Address to route the packets between networks.

Broadcast Domain

It follows a single broadcast domain in which all the devices are connected to the switch to make communications easier

It follows multiple broadcast domains in which it is divided into smaller ones and all the devices are connected to the switch to make communications easier.


It can communicate only within the network.

It can communicate inside and outside the network


As it can only deals with the physical or MAC address, it gives faster speed and reroutes the packets from the source to the destination.

It is slower because it must inspect the packet first before choosing the best route to transfer it to the desired port.

Bandwidth usage

It reduces the network traffic of the Local area network.

It can measure and record the amount of traffic flowing through the network, and it can handle increasing amounts of traffic without a decrease in performance.


Layer−3 switch replaces the conventional router and switches which use Internet Protocol (IP) address, which makes it easier for very large Local Area Networks. On the other side, the Layer−2 switch uses a MAC address. Ethernet and routers are examples of layer−2 and layer−3 switches respectively.

Updated on: 07-Jul-2023


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