Difference between Message and Packet Switching

When we connect one computer to another computer or more, we share the purpose of sending files, data, information, or media of such kind between them. It forms a network between these computers. But how does this data is transferred from one to other computers?

For example, in a network, we are sending one file to another computer in the room, so the data will be transferred within seconds. What is happening that made it so easy to transfer those files? That is what we are going to understand here in a very simple manner.

When we send messages and share any information between computers in a network, the computer that is sending the file is called the source and the computer which is going to receive the file or data is called the destination. The data transferred are in units which are called Packets. When your data is transferred from source to destination, there is a technique followed to perform this task, this technique is called Switching. So now we have our first question.

What is switching?

Switching is a technique or we can say it is a process of sending data from source to destination computers to build the connection and transfer between them.

Now as you get a simple definition of switching, it is better to understand deeply. Well, sharing data between two or three computers is easy and it is not so time-consuming but as you know, we are transforming day by day so rapidly that the data now is transferred between millions of computers in a network together, so now you can estimate the complexity that is going to increase when the data is transferred among them.

So, now consider this switching technique for a large network, it works efficiently for larger areas such as LAN and WAN, when they require data to be sent and received, switching is a great option.

Now, there are commonly three types of switching we are going to find−

  • Message Switching

  • Packet Switching

  • Circuit Switching

Here, we are only going to discuss Message and Packet Switching to understand what these are, their advantages and disadvantages, and what the difference between them is.

Which is Message Switching?

Message Switching Definition

First circuit switching was introduced where we set a physical path to build a single communication network between two nodes only. The best example to understand circuit switching is Voice call or service. It uses circuit switching.

The message is an evolved version of circuit switching. Consider whatever you are sending, the entire data is a message that is going to be shared between you and your receiver. It is a unit of data that you share which is messages. But keep in mind that messages shared are not directly connected, they have certain nodes in between where the message will reach at a time and then eventually at the destination which is the receiver.

All your data is wrapped in a single message and that message has a header that contains information like where it is going to be routed. Like when you write a letter to your friends physically, you are the source, your entire letter is the message, the post office is a node, and when it reaches your friend at the correct address which is the destination.

Advantages of Message Switching

  • It reduces traffic congestion in the network

  • We can prioritize the important messages

  • Messages can be of any length

Disadvantages of Message Switching

  • It uses middle nodes for reaching before it reaches the destination which is why it requires a large capacity to keep those messages during communication.

  • It is also dependable as the connection between source and destination is not direct.

  • It is not suitable for real-time delivery of messages.

Which is Packet Switching?

Consider packet switching is quite the opposite to message switching as the data will be divided into small units which are called packets and these work between the sender and the receiver. Your entire message is now multiple packets which help faster transfer of data. How can this happen? Let's now understand this.

Suppose, you send a message, this message is going to be divided into small packets, each packet has a header that contains the information about its route, every single packet is now going to be transferred at a time, afterward they are reordered and reassembled to form the original message you send, ultimately, it reaches the destination or the receiver.

Advantages of Packet Switching

  • The performance of transferring data is faster as compared to message switching due to the division of units into packets.

  • Better for real-time communication in a network.

  • Virtual links are established to build the communication path.

Disadvantages of Packet Switching

  • It is not a good option for voice calls and the packets may sometimes reach another destination.

  • It can increase traffic congestion if the path of any packets is diverted or lost.

  • If any packet is lost due to a high volume of data and complexity in a network, those lost packets cannot be recovered.

Difference between Message and Packet Switching

Let’s now deeply understand, what the actual differences between Message and Packet switching are −

Basis of Differences




When the message is sent entirely in a single unit from source to destination through nodes.

When the message is divided into smaller units called packets and then transferred in a network.

Language support

ASCII Language is used.

Binary type code is used.

Route for Travelling

It follows a dedicated path for the message to reach different nodes and destinations.

Independent of the path and once reaches, it is reordered and reassembled.

Prominent features

It is more reliable in terms of security.

It is better and ensures faster transfer of data.


The block size has no limit.

Single packets have a size limit.

Client request command

It has a physical link allocation.

It has a virtual link allocation.


To summarize what we have discussed the concept of switching, the types of switching techniques, and their advantages and disadvantages. Also, the difference between them. Since both of them have their special characteristics, it is difficult to choose the best between them. So, it depends upon the situation under which conditions we are going to use message or packet switching. Such as, if we want better and faster performance of data to be transferred rapidly, we can use packet switching. Otherwise, if you want a reliable connection where data has to be secured like voice calls, then message switching can be a better option.

Updated on: 17-May-2023


Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started