Running A Trace Route ( TRACERT )

TRACERT (derived from "Trace Route") is a DOS command-prompt program adopted from Unix. It reports on the path traveled by a packet between your computer and the destination server. The basic syntax of the program is "TRACERT address" where address is either the DNS name or the IP address of the destination server. (As with PING, type "TRACERT" alone at the DOS prompt and press Enter to see the optional switches and parameters.) You should results similar to those below.

Tracing route to [] over a maximum of 30 hops:
1 78 ms 61 ms 62 ms []
2 64 ms 71 ms 64 ms
3 71 ms 65 ms 65 ms []
4 69 ms 73 ms 68 ms Serial5-0-0.core1.phl1.IConNet.NET []
5 69 ms 69 ms 67 ms Serial10-0-0.core1.bwi1.IConNet.NET []
6 73 ms 78 ms 70 ms Serial2-0-0.core1.dca1.IConNet.NET []
7 74 ms 76 ms 76 ms
8 82 ms 81 ms 84 ms []
Trace complete.

The above results indicate that it takes eight hops to get to the destination, and that the packets are transmitted quickly (under 100ms). The first column shows the number of hops taken—consequently, the first column, last row, shows the total hops to reach the final destination (in this example,, in eight hops). The next three columns indicate the round-trip times required to reach a given point in the route. An asterisk in any of these columns would mean the attempt timed out (that is, the destination didn't return the packet before the time limit for that packet expired), but no attempts timed out in this example. A round trip of 100ms or less is a good result in any column. The (very long) fifth column shows the host name (if available) and the IP address of the router or server at that point in the route.

Sometimes TRACERT produces results that indicate why you're having trouble reaching a specific destination server. For example, below TRACERT shows a search caught in a loop.

8 98 ms 89 ms 90 ms Serial3-0-0.core1.dca1.IConNet.NET[]
9 91 ms 90 ms 92 ms Serial11-1-0.core1.nyc1.IConNet.NET[]
10 94 ms 96 ms 95 ms Serial3-0-0.core1.dca1.IConNet.NET[]
11 98 ms 98 ms 103 ms Serial11-1-0.core1.nyc1.IConNet.NET[]
12 101 ms 101 ms 100 ms Serial3-0-0.core1.dca1.IConNet.NET[]
13 106 ms 102 ms 104 ms Serial11-1-0.core1.nyc1.IConNet.NET[]

These results indicate that the two routers were simply passing the packets back and forth to each other. They had been misprogrammed and didn't hand the packets off to another router able to get them to their destination. This loop continued until TRACERT reached its default limit of 30 hops and stopped. (Only hops 8 to 13 are shown.) In this case, we sent the information to the ISP, which in turn was able to get the routers fixed so they sent packets correctly to other sites.

It's easy to capture the results from a PING or TRACERT command so you can send them to your ISP as part of a problem report. The syntax for a text file of the output is "PING address > filename.txt" or "TRACERT address > filename.txt" where address is the DNS name or IP address of the destination server you want to test, and filename is the name of the text file you wish to create. It might be useful to put the date in the filename, such as PING1024.TXT, so you can keep track of different versions. You can then attach or import the text files into e-mail messages to your ISP's technical support.

It's not always possible to determine the cause of a slow Web connection with certainty. However, with PING, TRACERT, and a modest understanding of the Internet, you at least stand a chance of diagnosing problems and narrowing down the list of suspects that may be causing your slowdown.

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