Cisco Portfast Configuration

Portfast is a Cisco proprietary solution to deal with spanning tree topology changes. If you don’t know how spanning tree reacts to topology changes then I highly recommend you to read this lesson before you continue reading. It helps to understand why we need portfast.

Portfast does two things for us:

• Interfaces with portfast enabled will go to forwarding mode immediately. The interface will skip the listening and learning state.
• A switch will never generate a topology change notification for an interface that has portfast enabled.

It’s a good idea to enable portfast on interfaces connected to hosts because these interfaces are likely to go up and down all the time. Don’t enable portfast on an interface to another hub or switch.

Let’s look at the difference between an interface with and without portfast. I’ll be using the following topology for this:

cisco portfast example topology

I have two switches and one host connected to SW1. The only reason I have two switches is so SW1 has another switch that it can send topology notification changes to. Let’s look at the without portfast scenario first…

Portfast disabled

To see the interesting stuff, I will enable a debug on SW1:

SW1#debug spanning-tree events
Spanning Tree event debugging is on

Once I plug in the cable to connect the host to SW1, this is what happens:

STP: VLAN0001 Fa0/1 -> listening
STP: VLAN0001 Fa0/1 -> learning
STP: VLAN0001 Fa0/1 -> forwarding

This is just normal spanning tree behavior. It walks through the listening and learning states and ends up in forwarding.

Each time I unplug the cable, spanning tree will generate a topology change notification. There’s a nice command that you can use to check how many have been sent so far:

SW1#show spanning-tree detail

 VLAN0001 is executing the ieee compatible Spanning Tree protocol
  Bridge Identifier has priority 32768, sysid 1, address 0019.569d.5700
  Configured hello time 2, max age 20, forward delay 15
  Current root has priority 32769, address 0011.bb0b.3600
  Root port is 26 (FastEthernet0/24), cost of root path is 19
  Topology change flag not set, detected flag not set
  Number of topology changes 5 last change occurred 00:02:09 ago
          from FastEthernet0/1
  Times:  hold 1, topology change 35, notification 2
          hello 2, max age 20, forward delay 15
  Timers: hello 0, topology change 0, notification 0, aging 300

As you can see, there have been five topology changes on VLAN 1. Let’s unplug the cable to the host to see what happens:

STP: VLAN0001 sent Topology Change Notice on Fa0/24

Spanning tree will send a topology change notification on the interface towards SW2, and the counter will increase:

SW1#show spanning-tree detail | include changes
  Number of topology changes 6 last change occurred 00:01:12 ago

In short, whenever we unplug the cable, the switch generates a TCN. Let’s see the difference when we enable portfast…

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Forum Replies

  1. Your articles are so useful, it totally saved me.
    It’s a pleasure to read a text so well detailed and clear, you went straight to the point and also used a very interesting methodology to keep our focus in the subject.

    Thank you

  2. Rene,

    Do you make any labs in packet tracer?

  3. Hi Vik,

    The labs on GNS3Vault were created in GNS3, I haven’t created anything in packet tracer but it should be simple to recreate. Nowadays people use GNS3, IOU, packet tracer, the 1000v VMware image and real hardware. It takes too much time to create a startup config for any possible method.


  4. Rene,

    Thanks for this explanation :slight_smile:


  5. Rene

    Hop you are well - do you know at all if the current CCNA blueprint / exam covers any other additional spanning tree enhancement features besides Portfast such as UDLD , Backbonefast, Uplinkfast - I ask since after searching the current blueprint there is not reference or doesn’t seem to be to any of these

    Many thanks in advance


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