Icon: Windows trace route guide Windows trace route guide

Written by Adam Reece - 25th July 2007.


  1. What is "tracert"?
  2. Opening the command prompt
  3. The "tracert" command
  4. Copying the results
  5. Perform a trace route via this web site

What is "tracert"?

tracert is short for Trace Route, a network diagnostic tool used to determine the route from one host to another. Each host's IP address along the route is pinged to determine it's response time. Using the results from a trace route you can discover faults in a route so you know who to rant at.

"Ping" is one of many Internet control messages, which allows you to determine how fast a host is responding to another host. It begins by sending a worthless packet (normally of 32 or 56 bytes) to the IP address being targeted, then the destination sends that same packet back to source (also known as a pong). The time it takes for the packet to make a full trip is the ping time, measured in ms (miliseconds).

This page will teach you how to use Windows' built-in trace route tool, although most operating systems have their own similar version of it.

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Open the command propmpt

Start by opening the Start Menu, select Run.

Type in cmd, and press Enter (if you are using Windows NT, 2000, XP, 2003, or Vista).
Type in command, and press Enter (if you are using Windows 95, 98, or ME).

The command prompt should pop up on your screen waiting for your command.

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The "tracert" command

Let's look at an example tracert:

tracert -w 200

tracert - This is telling Windows that we want to perform a trace route.
-w 200 - [OPTIONAL] This is telling tracert the maximum waiting time (in miliseconds) for each ping packet before it is considered lost. You should use something lower like 50 across a local area network, or something higher like 500 over a dial-up connection. - This is telling tracert the destination IP address we want to get to.

Type that command in (or paste it in) and hit enter. Here is what happens when I do it:

Tracing route to over a maximum of 30 hops

  1    <1 ms    <1 ms     1 ms  wireless.reece.net []
  2     1 ms    <1 ms     1 ms  server.reece.net []
  3     1 ms     1 ms     2 ms  router.reece.net []
  4    21 ms    23 ms    24 ms  loopback1.ar1.gs1.systems.pipex.net []
  5    21 ms    33 ms    20 ms  ge-0-0-0.cr1.gs1.systems.pipex.net []
  6    22 ms    21 ms    22 ms  ge-1-0-3.cr2.he1.systems.pipex.net []
  7    41 ms    44 ms    46 ms  pc2.cr05.hx2.bb.pipex.net []
  8    20 ms    26 ms    20 ms  g2-2.cr02.hx2.bb.pipex.net []
  9    20 ms    22 ms    21 ms  g0-0-0-2.ar02.hx2.bb.pipex.net []
 10    23 ms    24 ms    22 ms  v35.ar30.hx4.bb.pipex.net []
 11    24 ms    22 ms    22 ms

Trace complete.

Column 1 (numbered 1 to 11 in this case) is the hop number.
Columns 2, 3, and 4 are ping attempts to this address.
Finally, you have the hostname and IP address at the end. If an IP address has no DNS answer the IP is shown instead.

Each computer or network device along the route to has been ping'd 3 times. Also, a DNS resolution (IP to name) attempt is made for each of those IP addresses.

As you can see, there is no fault with this route. It is clear there is a 20 milisecond gap between my home router (router.reece.net), and my ISP realm gateway (loopback1.ar1.gs1.systems.pipex.net). This is because I have an ADSL Internet Connection, which must go through British Telecom's ATM network before it reaches my ISP (and that just sucks hard).

Let's see another example, this time my command is tracert -w 200 www.chipsfunhouse.com (yes, you can use domain names in here too).

Tracing route to chipsfunhouse.com [] over a maximum of 30 hops:

  1    <1 ms     1 ms     1 ms  wireless.reece.net []
  2     2 ms    <1 ms     1 ms  server.reece.net []
  3     1 ms     1 ms     1 ms  router.reece.net []
  4     2 ms    20 ms     *     loopback1.ar1.gs1.systems.pipex.net []
  5    24 ms    20 ms    20 ms  ge-0-0-0.cr1.gs1.systems.pipex.net []
  6    21 ms    21 ms    20 ms  ldn-b1-geth6-0-12.telia.net []
  7    22 ms    21 ms    20 ms  ldn-bb2-pos1-2-0.telia.net []
  8    22 ms    21 ms    20 ms  ldn-b3-pos9-0.telia.net []
  9    22 ms    22 ms    22 ms  verio-112851-ldn-b3.telia.net []
 10    23 ms    23 ms    21 ms  xe-0-2-0.r22.londen03.uk.bb.verio.net []
 11   198 ms   202 ms   203 ms  p64-1-0-0.r21.nycmny01.us.bb.verio.net []
 12   174 ms   175 ms   174 ms  p64-0-0-0.r21.sttlwa01.us.bb.verio.net []
 13   168 ms   167 ms   171 ms  xe-0-2-0.r20.sttlwa01.us.bb.verio.net []
 14   176 ms   176 ms   175 ms  p64-2-2-0.r21.mlpsca01.us.bb.verio.net []
 15   176 ms   175 ms   178 ms  p64-0-0-0.r21.lsanca03.us.bb.verio.net []
 16   246 ms   201 ms   232 ms  xe-4-1.r01.lsanca03.us.bb.verio.net []
 17   179 ms   177 ms   179 ms  ge-4-14.a01.lsanca18.us.ra.verio.net []
 18   177 ms   176 ms   176 ms  ge-3-1.a00.lsanca16.us.ce.verio.net []
 19   176 ms   176 ms   175 ms  fw01-ns2k-ut.neteng.powweb.com []
 20   175 ms   176 ms   176 ms  clust08.powweb.com []

Trace complete.

We have a few noteable things here.

Hop 4, the third ping appeared as a *. This means that the ping has timed out, but there is obviously not enough space to fit the phrase "timed out" in that gap.

Hop 10 to 11, the ping time goes up by ~180 ms. Sence of this can be made out by looking at the names. Hop 10 appears to be in London, where as hop 11 appears to be in New York; quite a distance which would easilly explain the ping increase.

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Copying this results

Now that you have done your trace route, you need to copy it. By default, the Windows command prompt has "quick edit" disabled, meaning you can't just drag and drop to copy straight away.

Instead, you must Right click the command prompt window, then select Mark.

You will now be able to drag over the area you want to copy. Hit Enter to copy it.

If you are pasting it over IRC, please do it through something like Paste Bin to prevent being killed for excess flood and annoying other users.

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Perform a trace route via this web site

Visit our looking glass to perform pings, trace routes, and DNS lookups from this web server.

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