How to Install and Configure Multihomed ISC DHCP Server on Debian Linux?


The ISC DHCP server is a popular open-source software package that allows network administrators to dynamically allocate IP addresses and configure network settings to clients on a local area network (LAN). In some cases, it may be necessary to configure a server with multiple network interfaces, which is known as a multihomed server. This tutorial will guide you through process of installing and configuring ISC DHCP server on a Debian Linux system with multiple network interfaces.


Before you begin, you will need −

  • A Debian Linux system with root access

  • Two or more network interfaces installed on your system

  • Basic knowledge of networking and Linux command line

Step 1: Install ISC DHCP Server

To install ISC DHCP server, use following command −

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install isc-dhcp-server

This will install DHCP server software on your system.

Step 2: Configure DHCP Server

The DHCP server configuration file is located at /etc/dhcp/dhcpd.conf. Open file in your preferred text editor.

sudo nano /etc/dhcp/dhcpd.conf

By default, DHCP server is configured to listen on all available network interfaces. In a multihomed server, you will need to specify which interfaces DHCP server should listen on. You can do this by adding following lines to configuration file −

subnet netmask {
   interface eth0;
   option routers;
   option subnet-mask;
subnet netmask {
   interface eth1;
   option routers;
   option subnet-mask;

In this example, we have specified two subnets, one on eth0 with IP range to and another on eth1 with IP range to You can modify these values to suit your network requirements.

Step 3: Configure Network Interfaces

Next, you will need to configure your network interfaces. To do this, create a new file called /etc/network/interfaces.d/interfaces and add following lines −

auto eth0
iface eth0 inet static

auto eth1
iface eth1 inet static

In this example, we have specified that eth0 should have IP address and eth1 should have IP address You can modify these values to suit your network requirements.

Step 4: Restart Networking and DHCP Services

After configuring network interfaces and DHCP server, you will need to restart networking and DHCP services to apply changes. To do this, use following commands −

sudo service networking restart
sudo service isc-dhcp-server restart

Step 5: Verify DHCP Functionality

To verify that DHCP server is working correctly, you can use dhcping utility. Install it using following command −

sudo apt-get install dhcping

Once installed, use following command to test DHCP server −

sudo dhcping -c <client-ip-address> -s <dhcp-server-ip-address>

Replace <client-ip-address> with IP address of a client machine on your network and <dhcp-server-ip-address> with IP address of your DHCP server.

If DHCP server is working correctly, you should see output similar to following −

Got answer from:
received DHCP answer from
DHCP answer has 6 items:
   Server Identifier :
   IP Address Lease Time : 86400
   Subnet Mask :
   Router :
   Domain Name Server :
   Domain Name :

This indicates that DHCP server is responding to requests from client machine.

There are several additional steps you can take to improve security and performance of your multihomed DHCP server −

  • Configure DHCP Failover − DHCP failover is a mechanism that allows two DHCP servers to share responsibility of serving IP addresses and options to clients on a shared subnet. This can help ensure that clients always receive IP addresses and options, even if one of DHCP servers is unavailable.

  • Configure DHCP Server Logging − DHCP server logs can help you troubleshoot problems with your DHCP server configuration and monitor DHCP lease activity. You can configure ISC DHCP server to log to a local file or send logs to a remote syslog server.

  • Enable DHCP Snooping − DHCP snooping is a security feature that helps prevent rogue DHCP servers from assigning IP addresses to clients on your network. DHCP snooping can be configured on switches that support feature.

  • Configure DHCP Options − DHCP options are additional settings that can be assigned to clients by DHCP server. These options can include default gateway, DNS server, and domain name. You can configure DHCP options in dhcpd.conf configuration file.

  • Implement DHCP Reservations − DHCP reservations allow you to assign specific IP addresses to clients based on their MAC addresses. This can be useful for servers or other devices that require a consistent IP address.

  • Configure Firewall Rules − Make sure to configure firewall rules to allow DHCP traffic to pass through. DHCP traffic typically uses UDP ports 67 and 68. You can use a firewall such as iptables or ufw to configure these rules.

  • Use Secure Communication − DHCP communications are typically not encrypted, which can pose a security risk. To mitigate this risk, consider using a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt DHCP traffic between your DHCP server and clients.

  • Enable Dynamic DNS Updates − Dynamic DNS updates allow DHCP clients to register their DNS names and IP addresses with a DNS server automatically. This can be useful for keeping DNS records up to date and reducing need for manual DNS management.

  • Monitor DHCP Lease Expirations − DHCP leases have a limited duration, after which they expire and are released back to DHCP pool. It is important to monitor lease expirations to ensure that IP addresses are being released correctly and that there are no conflicts with IP address assignments.

  • Consider DHCPv6 − If you are using IPv6 on your network, consider using DHCPv6 to assign IP addresses and other network settings to clients. ISC DHCP server supports both IPv4 and IPv6 and can be configured to work with both.

  • Use DHCP Relay − If you have multiple subnets on your network, you can use a DHCP relay agent to forward DHCP requests from clients on one subnet to DHCP server on another subnet. This can help reduce network traffic and simplify DHCP configuration.

  • Use DHCP Client Classes − DHCP client classes allow you to assign different DHCP options to different types of clients based on their characteristics, such as their vendor or MAC address. This can be useful for assigning specific settings to certain types of devices, such as printers or servers.

  • Enable DHCP Options Filtering − DHCP options filtering allows you to filter out certain DHCP options from being sent to clients. This can be useful for security purposes, such as preventing clients from receiving certain DNS or NTP server settings.

  • Configure Lease Time − DHCP lease time determines how long a client can hold on to an assigned IP address before it must renew lease. You can adjust lease time in dhcpd.conf configuration file. Consider setting a longer lease time for stable devices and a shorter lease time for devices that frequently join and leave network.

  • Monitor DHCP Server Performance − It is important to monitor performance of your DHCP server to ensure that it is handling client requests efficiently and effectively. You can use tools such as dhcpd-pools and dhcpstats to monitor DHCP server performance and activity.

By following these additional tips, you can further optimize security, performance, and management of your multihomed ISC DHCP server on Debian Linux. Remember to always test your configuration thoroughly before deploying it in a production environment, and regularly review and update your DHCP configuration to meet evolving needs of your network.


Configuring a multihomed DHCP server on Debian Linux can be a bit more complex than a single interface setup, but it is an essential tool for managing complex networks. By following this guide, you should be able to install and configure ISC DHCP server to work with multiple network interfaces. Remember to always test your configuration thoroughly to ensure that it is working correctly.

Updated on: 12-May-2023

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