Network administrators can perform better if they have relevant information at their fingertips. There are certain tools that help network admins to capture and analyze network data so that they could figure out what is going on. Wireshark Network Analyzer is one such free tool and this review of Wireshark, in plain language, tells you what all it offers.

Wireshark is based on WinPcap as it requires the latter to be installed on your computer. If it is not already installed, Wireshark prompts and installs it for you. Certain other tools that I’ve used – like URL Snooper – too employ WinPcap to sniff on packets traveling through the network.

What is WinPcap

WinPcap is always installed as a separate program. It is a tool to capture network packets without the interference of any protocols. It includes kernel level packet filtering, network statistics engine and a driver. With the help of this driver, it bypasses all network protocols and accesses the low level network layers.

For your information, TCP/IP or ISO OSI etc. models used in a network scenario, for data communication, have different set of layers. We generally work at the application level and it is the topmost level in both protocols – TCP and OSI. Here is an image to make it clear. It shows layers in both OSI and TCP. WinPcap operates at network level — bypassing all other upper layers