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Bridge vs. Switch: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on February 12, 2024
A bridge is a network device that divides a network into segments, filtering and forwarding traffic, while a switch connects multiple devices, managing and forwarding data to specific MAC addresses.

Key Differences

A bridge is a network device used to connect and segment different network sections, reducing traffic on each segment. It operates at the data link layer (Layer 2) of the OSI model. A switch, on the other hand, is a more advanced network device that connects multiple devices within the same network, forwarding data based on MAC addresses.
Bridges can filter network traffic, deciding whether to forward or block packets based on MAC addresses. This can reduce network congestion. In contrast, switches maintain a MAC address table, efficiently routing packets only to the intended recipient, which enhances network performance and security.
Bridges were commonly used in earlier networking setups to divide larger networks into manageable sections, while switches have largely replaced them in modern networks due to their ability to handle larger numbers of connections and more complex data routing.
Bridges typically have fewer ports and are suited for smaller networks. Switches come with a larger number of ports and are designed to handle more traffic, making them suitable for larger and more complex network environments.
The functionality of a bridge is more basic and limited compared to a switch. While bridges are used to filter and forward traffic between network segments, switches can do this more efficiently and support additional features like VLANs (Virtual Local Area Networks).

Comparison Chart


Connects network segments, reducing traffic
Connects multiple devices, managing data traffic

Layer of Operation

Data link layer (Layer 2)
Data link layer (Layer 2)

Traffic Management

Filters and forwards based on MAC addresses
Forwards data to specific MAC addresses


Smaller networks or segments
Larger networks with more devices

Advanced Features

Basic filtering and forwarding
Supports VLANs, greater port density, complex routing

Bridge and Switch Definitions


In computing, a link between two separate computer networks.
A bridge was set up to enable communication between the two different networks.


An act of changing direction or taking a different course.
After ten years in finance, she made a switch to the tech industry.


A physical or virtual device filtering and forwarding network traffic.
To reduce congestion, a bridge was used to segment the office network.


An electrical device for making and breaking the connection in a circuit.
He flipped the switch to turn on the lights.


A transitional path or link between two points or states.
The new policy served as a bridge between the old and new management practices.


A network device connecting multiple devices within a LAN.
We installed a switch to connect all the computers in the lab.


A network device that connects and segments different parts of a LAN.
The network bridge efficiently connected the two departmental LANs.


A change or exchange of one thing for another.
The company made a strategic switch from traditional marketing to digital.


A structure providing a connection over an obstacle or gap.
The Golden Gate Bridge spans across San Francisco Bay.


In rail transport, a mechanism for guiding trains from one track to another.
The train switch malfunctioned, causing a delay.


(computing) A device which connects two or more computer buses, typically in a transparent manner.
This chip is the bridge between the front-side bus and the I/O bus.


(computer science) A command line notation allowing specification of optional behavior.
Use the /b switch to specify black-and-white printing.


(programming) A software component connecting two or more separate systems.


A programming construct that takes different actions depending on the value of an expression.


(networking) A system which connects two or more local area networks at layer 2 of OSI model.
The LAN bridge uses a spanning tree algorithm.


A networking device connecting multiple wires, allowing them to communicate simultaneously, when possible. Compare to the less efficient hub device that solely duplicates network packets to each wire.


(telecommunication) A system of specialized relays, computer hardware, or other equipment which allows the interconnection of a calling party's telephone line with any called party's line.


What is a network switch?

A switch is a device that connects multiple devices within a LAN.

What is a network bridge?

A network bridge connects and segments different parts of a LAN.

Can bridges handle large networks?

Bridges are more suited for smaller networks or segments.

How does a bridge filter traffic?

A bridge filters traffic based on MAC addresses.

What layer do bridges operate at?

Bridges operate at the data link layer (Layer 2).

Can a switch route data efficiently?

Yes, switches are efficient in routing data to intended devices.

Can a switch manage network traffic?

Yes, a switch manages traffic by forwarding data to specific MAC addresses.

Are bridges commonly used in modern networks?

Bridges are less common in modern networks, often replaced by switches.

Do switches support VLANs?

Yes, many switches support VLANs for network segmentation.

How many ports do switches usually have?

Switches usually have a larger number of ports.

Are switches suitable for large networks?

Yes, switches are designed for larger networks with more devices.

Do bridges play a role in network topology?

Bridges help shape network topology by segmenting networks.

Do bridges have many ports?

Bridges typically have fewer ports.

Can switches be used in both home and business networks?

Yes, switches are versatile for use in both home and business networks.

What layer do switches operate at?

Switches also operate at the data link layer (Layer 2).

Do bridges enhance network security?

Bridges can improve security by segmenting traffic.

Do switches improve network performance?

Yes, switches enhance network performance and security.

Are switches easy to configure?

Modern switches are user-friendly and easier to configure.

Is a bridge a physical device?

Bridges can be physical or virtual devices.

Can a bridge connect different types of networks?

Yes, a bridge can connect different network types.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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