Stands for "Address Resolution Protocol." ARP is a protocol used for mapping an IP address to a computer connected to a local network LAN. Since each computer has a unique physical address called a MAC address, the ARP converts the IP address to the MAC address. This ensures each computer has a unique network identification.
The Address Resolution Protocol is used when information sent to a network arrives at the gateway, which serves as the entrance point to the network. The gateway uses the ARP to locate the MAC address of the computer based on the IP address the data is being sent to. The ARP typically looks up this information in a table called the "ARP cache." If the address is found, the information is relayed to the gateway, which will send the incoming data to the appropriate machine. It may also convert the data to the correct network format if necessary.
If the address is not found, the ARP broadcasts a "request packet" to other machines on the network to see if the IP address belongs to a machine not listed in the ARP cache. If a valid system is located, the information will be relayed to the gateway and the ARP cache will be updated with the new information. By updating the ARP cache, future requests for that IP address will be much quicker. While this may seem like a complex process, it usually takes only a fraction of a second to complete. If only it was just as easy to find old receipts when you need them.