Troubleshooting Spanning Tree Protocol

Spanning Tree Protocol Basics:
In a layer 2 environment with no routing, active redundant paths are neither allowed no desirable, because the can cause loops. Because a switch only segments collision domains it does not segment broadcast domains. STP helps find redundant links and place one in a blocking state.

STP Definitions:

  • Root bridge — Center of the spanning tree.
  • Nonroot bridge — Every switch not elected the root.
  • Root port — Every nonroot bridge has a single root port, decided based on root path cost.
  • Designated port — Each segment has a single designated port. All ports on a root bridge are designated.
  • Nondesignated port — Every switch port that is neither a root port nor designated port starts blocking.
    Basic Spanning Tree Operation:

  1. Elect root bridge — Lowest bridge ID wins, consists of 2 bytes from 0-65,535 defaults to 32,678 + VLAN and the MAC address of 6 bytes, for example 32769 000a.b7d1.9580 for VLAN 1.
  2. Select root port — One per switch, points toward the root bridge.
  3. Select designated port — One per segment with the lowest root patch cost.
  4. Block ports — Block non-root and non-designated ports.

Spanning Tree Port States:

STP State

The Port Can…

The Port Cannot…



Send/Receive Data


Receive BPDU's

Send/Receive Data
Learn MAC Addresses

Indefinite if loop detected

Send/Receive BPDUs

Send/Receive data

Forward Delay Timer
(15 Seconds)


S/R data

Forward Delay Timer
(15 Seconds)

S/R Data
Learn MAC Addresses

Securing STP
Root Guard — Is enabled on a per-port basis. When a port receives a superior BPDU, with a lower bridge ID, the local switch will not allow the new switch to become the root. Instead the port is changed to root-inconsistent state, no data can be sent or received until the BPDUs stop.

BPDU Guard — PortFast moves an end-user port to forwarding state without going through all of the STP checks and can induce loops in the network. If any BPDU is received on a port where BPDU guard is enabled that port is put into errdisable state. It can then be recovered manually or through the errdisable timeout function.

Strategy for troubleshooting STP:
Find the root bridge, then learn the designated ports on each subsequent switch. Cisco switches run PVST by default so you will have to work through each vlan.

Commands for STP Troubleshooting:
sh spanning-tree — View all STP parameters for all VLANs.
sh spanning-tree [int fa0/1] detail — View all STP details.
sh spanning-tree [vlan 2] summary — View ports in each of the STP states.
sh spanning-tree [vlan 2] root — Find root bridge ID, root port and root path cost.
sh spanning-tree [vlan 2] bridge — Show local switch bridge ID and STP timers.
sh spanning-tree uplinkfast — Show uplinkfast status.
sh spanning-tree backbonefast — Show the backbonefast status.

sh spanning-tree

ASW1#sh spanning-tree 

  Spanning tree enabled protocol ieee
  Root ID    Priority    32769
             Address     000a.b7d1.9580
             Cost        24
             Port        65 (Port-channel13)
             Hello Time   2 sec  Max Age 20 sec  Forward Delay 15 sec

  Bridge ID  Priority    32769  (priority 32768 sys-id-ext 1)
             Address     0013.c36a.4880
             Hello Time   2 sec  Max Age 20 sec  Forward Delay 15 sec
             Aging Time 300

Interface        Role Sts Cost      Prio.Nbr Type
---------------- ---- --- --------- -------- --------------------------------
Po13             Root FWD 12        128.65   P2p 
Po23             Altn BLK 19        128.66   P2p 

  Spanning tree enabled protocol ieee
  Root ID    Priority    32778
... output omitted for brevity ...

sh spanning-tree int po23 det

ASW1#sh spanning-tree int po23 det
 Port 66 (Port-channel23) of VLAN0001 is blocking 
   Port path cost 19, Port priority 128, Port Identifier 128.66.
   Designated root has priority 32769, address 000a.b7d1.9580
   Designated bridge has priority 32769, address 0018.1825.2500
   Designated port id is 128.232, designated path cost 12
   Timers: message age 3, forward delay 0, hold 0
   Number of transitions to forwarding state: 0
   Link type is point-to-point by default
   BPDU: sent 2, received 215029

sh spanning-tree vlan 10 summary

ASW1#sh spanning-tree vlan 10 summary 
Switch is in pvst mode
Root bridge for VLAN0010 is 32778.000a.b7d1.9580.
Extended system ID           is enabled
Portfast Default             is disabled
PortFast BPDU Guard Default  is disabled
Portfast BPDU Filter Default is disabled
Loopguard Default            is disabled
EtherChannel misconfig guard is enabled
UplinkFast                   is disabled
BackboneFast                 is disabled
Configured Pathcost method used is short

Name                   Blocking Listening Learning Forwarding STP Active
---------------------- -------- --------- -------- ---------- ----------
VLAN0010                     1         0        0          3          4

show spanning-tree root

ASW1#sh spanning-tree root 

                                        Root    Hello Max Fwd
Vlan                   Root ID          Cost    Time  Age Dly  Root Port
---------------- -------------------- --------- ----- --- ---  ------------
VLAN0001         32769 000a.b7d1.9580        24    2   20  15  Po13            
VLAN0010         32778 000a.b7d1.9580        24    2   20  15  Po13            
VLAN0020         32788 000a.b7d1.9580        24    2   20  15  Po13            
VLAN0021         32789 000a.b7d1.9580        24    2   20  15  Po13            
VLAN0200         32968 000a.b7d1.9580        24    2   20  15  Po13

show spanning-tree bridge

ASW1#sh spanning-tree bridge 

                                                   Hello  Max  Fwd
Vlan                         Bridge ID              Time  Age  Dly  Protocol
---------------- --------------------------------- -----  ---  ---  --------
VLAN0001         32769 (32768,   1) 0013.c36a.4880    2    20   15  ieee        
VLAN0010         32778 (32768,  10) 0013.c36a.4880    2    20   15  ieee        
VLAN0020         32788 (32768,  20) 0013.c36a.4880    2    20   15  ieee        
VLAN0021         32789 (32768,  21) 0013.c36a.4880    2    20   15  ieee        
VLAN0200         32968 (32768, 200) 0013.c36a.4880    2    20   15  ieee 
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