4. DHCP Server Setup

4.1. DHCP server for UNIX

There are several DHCP servers available for U*X-like OSes, both commercial and free. One of the more popular free DHCP servers is Paul Vixie/ISC DHCPd. Currently the latest version is 2.0 (suggested for most users) but 3.0 is in beta testing. You can get them from


Some of the distributions provide binary packages for dhcpd so skip the following section if you got it installed that way.

After you download unpack it. After you do cd into the distribution directory and type: ./configure

It will take some time to configure the settings. After it is done type: make and make install.

4.2. DHCP server configuration

When done with installation type ifconfig -a. You should see something like this:

eth0      Link encap:10Mbps Ethernet  HWaddr 00:C0:4F:D3:C4:62
          inet addr:  Bcast:  Mask:
          RX packets:2875542 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0
          TX packets:218647 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0
          Interrupt:11 Base address:0x210

If it doesn't say MULTICAST you should reconfigure your kernel and add multicast support. On most systems you will not need to do this.

Next step is to add route for Quoted from DHCPd README:

"In order for dhcpd to work correctly with picky DHCP clients (e.g., Windows 95), it must be able to send packets with an IP destination address of Unfortunately, Linux insists on changing into the local subnet broadcast address (here, that's This results in a DHCP protocol violation, and while many DHCP clients don't notice the problem, some (e.g., all Microsoft DHCP clients) do. Clients that have this problem will appear not to see DHCPOFFER messages from the server."

Type: route add -host dev eth0

If you get a message " Unknown host", you should try adding the following entry to your /etc/hosts file: all-ones

Then, try:

route add -host all-ones dev eth0


route add dev eth0

eth0 is of course the name of the network device you are using. If it differs change appropriately.

4.3. Options for DHCPd

Now you need to configure DHCPd. In order to do this you will have to create or edit /etc/dhcpd.conf. There is a graphical interface for dhcpd configuration under KDE ( http://www.kde.org/ ) called kcmdhcpd that is very similar to the DHCP configurator on Windows NT. When KDE 2.0 comes out it should come with kcmdhcpd or you could get it directly from:


If you want to configure it by hand follow instructions below.

Most commonly what you want to do is assign IP addresses randomly. This can be done with settings as follows:

# Sample /etc/dhcpd.conf
# (add your comments here) 
default-lease-time 600;
max-lease-time 7200;
option subnet-mask;
option broadcast-address;
option routers;
option domain-name-servers,;
option domain-name "mydomain.org";

subnet netmask {

This will result in DHCP server giving a client an IP address from the range or It will lease an IP address for 600 seconds if the client doesn't ask for specific time frame. Otherwise the maximum (allowed) lease will be 7200 seconds. The server will also "advise" the client that it should use as its subnet mask, as its broadcast address, as the router/gateway and and as its DNS servers.

If you need to specify a WINS server for your Windows clients you will need to include the netbios-name-servers option e.g.

option netbios-name-servers;

You can also assign specific IP addresses based on clients ethernet address e.g.

host haagen {
   hardware ethernet 08:00:2b:4c:59:23;

This will assign IP address to a client with ethernet address 08:00:2b:4c:59:23.

You can also mix and match e.g. you can have certain clients getting "static" IP addresses (e.g. servers) and others being alloted dynamic IPs (e.g. mobile users with laptops). There are a number of other options e.g. nis server addresses, time server addresses etc., if you need any of those options please read the dhcpd.conf man page.

4.4. Starting the server

There is only one thing to do before starting the server. In most cases DHCP installation doesn't create a dhcpd.leases files. This file is used by DHCPd to store information about current leases. It is in the plain text form so you can view it during the operation of DHCPd. To create dhcpd.leases type:
touch /var/state/dhcp/dhcpd.leases

This will create an empty file (file size = 0). Some of the older version of dhcpd 2.0 placed the file in /etc/dhcpd.leases. You do not need to make any changes to the leases file it will be manipulated by the dhcpd. If you get a message saying that file exists simply ignore it and go to the next step.

You can now invoke the DHCP server. Simply type (or include in the bootup scripts)


This will invoke dhcpd on eth0 device. If you want to invoke it on another device simply supply it on the command line e.g.

/usr/sbin/dhcpd eth1

To verify that everything is working fine you should first turn on the debugging mode and put the server in foreground. You can do this by typing

/usr/sbin/dhcpd -d -f

Then boot up one of your clients and check out the console of your server. You will see a number of debugging messages come up. If everything works out fine you are done :-). Quit dhcpd and start it without the -d -f and arguments. If you want dhcpd to start at boot-up include dhcpd in e.g.


4.5. Other interesting documents

Linux Magazine has a pretty good article in their April issue called Network Nirvana: How to make Network Configuration as easy as DHCP that discusses the set up for DHCP.