Payload (computing)

In computing and telecommunications, the payload is the part of transmitted data that is the actual intended message. The payload excludes any headers or metadata sent solely to facilitate payload delivery.[1][2]

The term is borrowed from transportation, where "payload" refers to the part of the load that pays for transportation.


In computer security, the payload is the part of malware such as worms or viruses which performs the malicious action; deleting data, sending spam or encrypting data.[3] In addition to the payload, such malware also typically has overhead code aimed at simply spreading itself, or avoiding detection.


In computer programming, the most common usage of the term is in the context of message protocols, to differentiate the protocol overhead from the actual data. For example, a JSON web service response might be:

      "message":"Hello, world!"

The string "Hello, world!" is the payload, while the rest is protocol overhead.


In the computer networking, data to be transmitted is the payload, but is almost always encapsulated in some type of a "frame" composed of framing bits and a frame check sequence.[4][5] Examples are Ethernet frames, Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP) frames, Fibre Channel frames, and V.42 modem frames.


  1. "Payload definition". 1994-12-01. Retrieved 2012-02-07.
  2. "Payload definition". Retrieved 2012-02-07.
  3. "Payload definition". Retrieved 2012-02-07.
  4. "RFC 1122: Requirements for Internet Hosts Communication Layers". IETF. October 1989. p. 18. RFC 1122. Retrieved 2010-06-07.
  5. "Data Link Layer (Layer 2)". The TCP/IP Guide. 2005-09-20. Retrieved 2010-01-31.

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