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How to run a traceroute

This article will show you how to run a traceroute (trace route). A traceroute uses your internet connection to send out some packets of data to a specific web or IP address. As the data travels to the address, each server it passes along the way is recorded along with the latency (delay) it experienced getting there.

Traceroutes are useful for advanced users to identify connectivity or speed issues for specific servers. For example, a user may experience slow web browsing only to websites hosted in the USA because a server that directs Australian web traffic to USA servers has high latency.

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Traceroute in Windows

These instructions should work for Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista and XP. Screenshots have been taken using Windows 10.

  1. Open the Command Prompt program. You’ll find this by typing “cmd” into your computer’s search bar. It can also be found in Start menu > All Programs > Accessories folder.
     
  2. A black box with a flashing cursor will open; this is the Command Prompt. Type “tracert” and then hit the space bar, followed by the address to trace (e.g. "tracert google.com") and then hit the Enter key on your keyboard.
     

     
  3. Wait for the test to run. The trace results will be listed in the Command Prompt.
     

Traceroute in Mac OSX

  1. On the home screen, open the Spotlight search tool and type “network utility” in the search bar. Double click the Network Utility app to open it.

    You can also find this app at /System/Library/CoreServices/Applications.
     

     

  2. Select the Traceroute tab and then type the address you’d like to traceroute in the text box. Click Trace and wait for the results.
     

 

Understanding Traceroute results

Traceroute results are similar for both Windows and Mac OSX.

  • During a traceroute, each new server the data goes to is called a hop. By default, a maximum of 30 hops will be traced.
     
  • In a list of traceroute results, these hopes will be numbered, with the last hop always being your destination address (unless the data is unable to reach teh destination).
     
  • Three latency times (in milliseconds) will be shown next to each hop. The mean average of these times is considered to be the latency for that server.
     
  • Following the latency times, the server's domain and/or IP address will be shown. Typically you'll be able to search online for a specific IP address to get a better idea of where it is.
     
  • It's not uncommon for certain hops to be traced as "* * * Request timed out", such as hop 3 in the example below. This is because the server is deliberately ignoring the ICMP packets sent by a traceroute program, so there's nothing to worry about.
     

 

Copy-pasting results

In some cases you may need to copy-paste your results to save them as a Word document, .txt file or simply paste them in an email so you can send them to us. Here's some advice on how to do that.

Command Prompt for Microsoft Windows

  1. Right-click in the black window and select Mark. A highlighter cursor will show up on the text.
     
  2. Use the up/down arrow keys on your keyboard, move the cursor to the beginning of the text you wish to select.
     
  3. Hold down the Shift key and use the down/right arrow keys on your keyboard to highlight the entire block of text you wish to copy, then simply press the Enter key. Please note that the usual CTRL+C shortcut will not successfully copy the text; you must use the Enter key while the text is highlighted.
     
  4. The text is now copied. Open Word, Notepad or any other text editor or email program and use CTRL+V to paste the copied text.
     

 

Network Utility for Mac OSX

  1. Simply click and drag the cursor to select the text you'd like to copy.
     
  2. Either right-click on the highlighted text and select Copy, or use the COMMAND+C shortcut on your keyboard to copy your text.
     
  3. The text is now copied. Open TextEdit or any other text editor or email program and use COMMAND+V to paste the copied text.

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