Why doesn't IPReassemblytimeout registry key take effect on Windows 2000 or later systems?


I had to deal with a number of support cases where IPReassemblytimeout reg key was set but didn't take effect on Windows 2003 or a later system and I thought I should be sharing more information about this here. Here are some details:

IP fragmentation is needed when an upper layer packet whose payload is bigger than the IP MTU needs to be sent to a destination. This could happen when the packet initially leaves the host or could happen when a router needs to forward a packet that it received through one interface (with a bigger MTU) to another interface (Smaller MTU). That also happens when packets need to traverse VPN links where there's an additional VPN related overhead causing the original packet to be fragmented.

The final receiver of the fragmented IP packets re-assembles those fragments and forms the original packet before passing to upper layer protocols. Receiver waits for a period called "re-assembly timeout" for all the fragments that belong to the original packet to be received. If any one of the fragments is dropped on the way, receiver drops the other fragments belonging to the original packet.

In NT 3.1, there was a registry key called "IPReassemblytimeout" (which is referred to by KB 102973). But that registry key doesn't apply to Windows 2000, XP, 2003, Vista, 2008, Windows 7 or 2008 R2!

Some more facts:

1) IP Re-assembly timeout is hardcoded on Windows 2000, Windows 2003, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 2008, Windows 7 and Windows 2008 R2 and cannot be changed by any means (registry, netsh etc)

2) For Windows Vista, Windows 2008, Windows 7 and Windows 2008 R2, it's hardcoded to 60 seconds as per section 4.5 of RFC 2460:

"If insufficient fragments are received to complete reassembly of a packet within 60 seconds of the reception of the first-arriving fragment of that packet, reassembly of that packet must be abandoned and all the fragments that have been received for that packet must be discarded."

For more information, please see RFC2460 (http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc2460.txt)

3) For Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows 2003, it's at least 60 seconds but it may be higher depending on the value of TTL in the IP header and it may go up to 120 seconds.

Hope this helps..