Is it possible to setup a Linux system so that it provides more than 65,535 ports? The intent would be to have more than 65k daemons listening on a given system.

Clearly there are ports being used so this is not possible for those reasons, so think of this as a theoretical exercise in trying to understand where TCP would be restrictive in doing something like this.

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    What is the motivation for this question? Why do you want to have that many daemons listening? Commented May 18, 2014 at 9:07
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    Also, you're going to have a hard time starting that many processes. (I assume you mean one process per daemon.) Commented May 18, 2014 at 9:16
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    While there is nothing that formally restricts you from wearing 65 pairs of trousers at once, it would be practical idiocy to try. If you can show me a machine that can fruitfully process 10'000 TCP ports concurrently, then this might be an interesting abstract question.
    – msw
    Commented May 18, 2014 at 11:28
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    The nature of this Q is completely theoretical, no intended purpose other than to understand the limitations of TCP & the # of ports.
    – slm
    Commented May 18, 2014 at 13:07
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    The thing is, though, you have phrased it in a way that ties it to various practical matters involving RAM space required by 64k+ daemon processes. Any machine you're likely to have now or for the next decade or so will run out of RAM before you hit the listener limit. If you rephrase the question to talk only about TCP listeners, leaving the talk about daemons out of it entirely, that problem goes away. You can amortize stack space by assigning a thousand sockets to each single-threaded event-driven daemon, for instance. Commented May 18, 2014 at 13:47

3 Answers 3


Looking at the RFC for TCP: RFC 793 - Transmission Control Protocol, the answer would seem to be no because of the fact that a TCP header is limited to 16-bits for the source/destination port field.

    ss #1

Does IPv6 improve things?

No. Even though IPv6 will give us a much larger IP address space, 32-bit vs. 128-bits, it makes no attempt to improve the TCP packet limitation of 16-bits for the port numbers. Interestingly the RFC for IPv6: Internet Protocol, Version 6 (IPv6) Specification, the IP field needed to be expanded.

When TCP runs over IPv6, the method used to compute the checksum is changed, as per RFC 2460:

Any transport or other upper-layer protocol that includes the addresses from the IP header in its checksum computation must be modified for use over IPv6, to include the 128-bit IPv6 addresses instead of 32-bit IPv4 addresses.

                 ss #2

So how can you get more ports?

One approach would be to stack additional IP addresses using more interfaces. If your system has multiple NICs this is easier, but even with just a single NIC, one can make use of virtual interfaces (aka. aliases) to allocate more IPs if needed.

NOTE: Using aliases have been supplanted by iproute2 which you can use to stack IP addresses on a single interface (i.e. eth0) instead.


$ sudo ip link set eth0 up
$ sudo ip addr add dev eth0
$ sudo ip addr add dev eth0
$ ip addr show dev eth0
2: eth0: <NO-CARRIER,BROADCAST,MULTICAST,UP> mtu 1500 qdisc
      pfifo_fast state DOWN qlen 1000
    link/ether 00:d0:b7:2d:ce:cf brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff
    inet brd scope global eth1
    inet scope global secondary eth1

Source: iproute2: Life after ifconfig


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    It would not be possible to select among 65,536+ daemons using the destination port alone, but if one had unlimited memory and bandwidth, could have over 32,000 connections with every distinct TCP address on every incoming port.
    – supercat
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 3:18

Is it possible to setup a Linux system so that it provides more than 65,535 ports?


The intent would be to have more than 65k daemons listening on a given system.

Then you need:

  • an iptables configuration that redirects on traffic content or

  • a "service broker service" or "multiplexor service" that will accept incoming connections on a single port and route it to the appropriate daemon "behind it". If you want standard protocols to pass unmodified you may have to implement protocol sniffing/recognization in this multiplexor service, in a fashion that an IDS or layer-7 firewall would anaylze; completely possible with the great majority of protocols.

Per the second item, you could design this service to handle more than 2^16 "ports" if you really wanted to. I'm sure the performance impact will be minimal compared to the load of 2^16+ listeners running.

Daemons in Linux can be listening on unix sockets which exist in the filesystem, so your "multiplexor service" could maintain an internal mapping of external port <-> internal unix socket. You'll likely run into a kernel process limit (32Kbyte processes?) before running out of inodes on any modern filesystem.

  • I downvoted this because you say it's not possible, then go on to explain how to do it using multiple IPs and load balancing, albeit in a very confusing roundabout way.
    – suprjami
    Commented Oct 7, 2014 at 12:22
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    More than 64K ports on a single system is impossible. More than 64K listeners is probably possible, but you have to have proxy or frontend listeners that would "split" incoming connections to the right real "backend" listeners. You could do something insane like an internal NAT to multiple internal IP addresses, for example.
    – LawrenceC
    Commented Oct 7, 2014 at 12:46
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    Wrong. People have managed to get half a million concurrent connections on a single system. Yes, multiple IPs and load balancers (not necessarily on the same system) are required, but a single system can open more than 64k ports and even more than 64k listeners if done right.
    – suprjami
    Commented Oct 7, 2014 at 12:53

Just because there is no good answer I wanted to chime in.

One way to do this would be to add an IP option which specifies the port extension. The option must be designed to fit within the optional portion of the IP header and would be skipped by unknown hops.

You would use this option and it's information information to extend the source, destination or both port numbers.

The limitations are not going to automatically work in existing software just by adding the option anyway, they will have to be rewritten to take advantage of the option no matter how it's implemented, existing software and firewalls will either ignore the packet or process it as usual using the value in the source and destination port fields.

In short it is not easy to do and would be better done using a single reusable listener and data contained in the payload of the packet.

You can also more easily allow port reuse in the software, which can help to overcome this limitation by reusing ports of the server for multiple client connections.

Rtsp for example can use the SessionId header in conjunction with various other headers in the payload of the IP packet to determine what connection the request was issued for and act accordingly e.g. if the socket from which the message was delivered is not the same as the socket's remote address to which the session corresponds then then one can either allow a session to be updated with the new socket for processing, deny the message or a variety of other actions depending on the application.

An Http server can also do this or any other type of server.

The key thing to remember when allowing reuse of ports is that you must also take into account the source IP address.

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