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TCP slow start is an algorithm which balances the speed of a network connection. Slow start gradually increases the amount of data transmitted until it finds the network’s maximum carrying capacity.
One of the most common ways to optimize the speed of a connection is to increase the speed of the link (i.e. increase the amount of bandwidth). However, any link can become overloaded if a device tries to send out too much data. Overloading a link is known as congestion, and it can result in slow communications or even data loss.
Slow start prevents a network from becoming congested by regulating the amount of data that’s sent over it. It negotiates the connection between a sender and receiver by defining the amount of data that can be transmitted with each packet, and slowly increases the amount of data until the network’s capacity is reached. This ensures that as much data is transmitted as possible without clogging the network.

Slow Start Process Step by Step

1. A sender attempts to communicate to a receiver. The sender’s initial packet contains a small congestion window, which is determined based on the sender’s maximum window.

2. The receiver acknowledges the packet and responds with its own window size. If the receiver fails to respond, the sender knows not to continue sending data.

3. After receiving the acknowledgement, the sender increases the next packet’s window size. The window size gradually increases until the receiver can no longer acknowledge each packet, or until either the sender or the receiver’s window limit is reached.

Once a limit has been determined, slow start’s job is done. Other congestion control algorithms take over to maintain the speed of the connection.

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