network driver interface specification (NDIS)

Definition of network driver interface specification (NDIS) in The Network Encyclopedia.

What is NDIS (network driver interface specification)?

NDIS is a standard or specification that simplifies the process of writing drivers for network interface cards (NICs) and enables them to interact transparently with various transport protocols. The network driver interface specification (NDIS) is also a library of routines (or “wrapper”) in Microsoft Windows NT that is implemented through the file ndis.sys, which provides a uniform programming interface between NIC drivers and network protocols. NDIS simplifies the development of drivers for NICs.

NDIS was developed jointly by Microsoft and 3Com in 1989 and has gone through a series of revisions, as shown in the following table. The most recent versions allow one NIC to be bound to many protocols (which is ideal for heterogeneous networks) or allow one protocol to run on a system with multiple NICs (which helps increase network bandwidth for heavily used servers).

NDIS Versions

Version Platform 16-bit or 32-bit Features
Windows for Workgroups and OS/2
Real mode; each NIC must have its own driver.
Windows NT 3.5 x
Unlimited number of NICs can be bound to an unlimited number of protocols.
Windows 95
A superset of NDIS 3 with plug and play functionality and support for minidrivers. Windows 95 supports up to four NICs in a computer.
Windows NT 4
Unlimited number of NICs can be bound to an unlimited number of protocols. Also allows capturing of all frames on local network segment without the need to switch the NIC to promiscuous mode.
Windows 98 and Windows 2000
Adds support for connection-oriented networks such as Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) or Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM), including support for multiple virtual circuits on one network adapter.

See also