Traceroute is a computer networking diagnostic tool that displays the path internet data takes from your computer to a specified destination, such as a website. This article will provide insight into how to run the Trace Route diagnostic test and how to understand the results of a Trace Route.
About Trace Route
Internet data is broken into small pieces by your computer before sending it to its destination, these small pieces are often referred to as packets. In modern computer networks, a packet can take many different paths to its destination. The purpose of performing a traceroute is to discover the path packets are taking.
An example of why you might choose to run a traceroute is if you are playing an online video game and want to see the pathway your connection is taking to arrive at the gaming server.
Understanding a traceroute can be difficult, as there are many factors that will affect the results. This article will help you run a traceroute and provide some context as to how our Shaw technical team uses these results to diagnose possible networking challenges. Although this process can be run on your own, in most cases interpreting the results will require the assistance of a Shaw Technical Support Representative.
How to run a Trace Route
To run a Trace Route follow these steps:
Open your Start menu
Select Command Prompt
On Windows 8 computers, press the Windows key then type "CMD" and hit Enter on your keyboard
On Windows 10 computers, right-click the Start menu, and click Command Prompt
A black window will open, similar to this:
Type the following into the window "tracert google.com" then press ENTER on your keyboard
After a few moments, your trace route results will populate
Results of a Trace Route to Google.com
Understanding the results of a Trace Route
Each line in the results of your traceroute is referred to as a "hop". Each hop displays one of the routers a packet crosses on its way to its destination (in this case Google.com). The traceroute command sends the trace three times for each hop and displays the time it takes for the next hop to respond, represented in milliseconds (ms).
In most cases, the response times shown in traceroute do not tell us with certainty if any one of the hops is slow. For most high-end routers (this is what the hops actually are) responding to traceroutes is a low priority activity (we prefer routers spend their time forwarding your packets). This means that answering the traceroute request may be slightly delayed and not represent the real round trip time.
If you’re a gamer looking for ways to bring down your lag, traceroute may not tell the whole story. Contact Us, we can help.
Trace Route Test Results
Please be aware that it is normal for a "hop" to sometimes result in a "request timed out" response. Provided that the following hops do not also time out, this does not indicate a problem with your network. However, if the traceroute ends with multiple “request timed out” responses you may require further troubleshooting.
Here’s a little bit more information on deciphering traceroute.
The first hop is the first “router” on your network.
If you have your own WiFi device or a third party firewall, it will respond first.
Not all the hops shown in the traceroute fall within the Shaw Network, many will be outside of Shaw, that’s OK, it’s how the internet works.
Shaw technicians or Moderators may ask you to perform a traceroute as a troubleshooting step. The goal is to determine what path a packet takes to get to its destination. While traceroute can provide clues about network performance it can equally send troubleshooting in the wrong direction.
It is very important when using traceroute to ensure that you are running it at different times of the day. Try running it during times when you are and are not experiencing network challenges. It is also useful to compare your results to different destinations.