Traceroute is a network diagnostic tool that allows you to see how your internet traffic travels from your computer to the assigned location. This is probably the easiest way to describe this complex term.
Every time you are connected to the internet, every information request that you send from your device passes through other computers and networks in order to get to where it’s supposed to. This route consists of many jumps from place to place. Using a VPN adds at least one step, but even a simple Google search travels a long way.
To keep track of this route, every operating system has a tool that can show you exactly how many hops your request made before arriving at the final destination. This is what we know as “traceroute”. On a Windows device, you can also find it under the name of “tracert”. It’s important to add that this is also an excellent way of figuring out where the connection went wrong if you are experiencing any problems.
The procedure is simple but for people, without the proper background, the results will make no sense whatsoever. You will see a page with a bunch of letters and numbers, and unless you know what you are looking for, these lines will mean nothing.
So let’s go over a few terms first.
When it comes to tracerouting, you will hear many terms, and some of them might not sound familiar to you.
A packet is the information you are requesting or sending and that is traveling along the route.
A hop is a stop in the journey your request takes from one computer to another. When you are trying to open a website your packet travels through many hops, and the traceroute usually checks up to 30 hops. Each hop is checked 3 times.
The amount of time it takes for the information to pass from one computer to another is measured in milliseconds. The numbers you see on your screen next to every hop are milliseconds and the IP addresses of every hop your packet has made on its route.
If there is a “timed out” connection, it means the router did not respond.
With this being said, you have the basic knowledge on this tool and you can do the traceroute yourself to see how it works.
How To Run A Traceroute?
It’s quite possible for your device to have a traceroute tool included, but depending on which operating system you are using the ways to access it and use it can be slightly different. In each of the following cases, you need to know the domain or the IP address you are trying to reach.
If you are using a Windows PC, you need to open the Command Prompt which can be done easily by typing “cmd" in the Windows menu, or by pressing the Windows button + R on your keyboard then typing "cmd".
This will open the Command Prompt where you can run a traceroute by typing “tracert” plus the domain name or IP address you want to trace.
When it comes to IPv6 address you need to add “-6” between tracert and the address.
tracert -6 2a00:1450:400a:804::2004
For Mac OS
For Apple owners, the process is slightly different. First, what you need to do is open the Network Utility app.
You will then see the Traceroute tab where you should type the domain name or the IP address of the computer you want to trace.
Just press the start button and copy the results in a file if you want to save them.
To run traceroute on Linux you need to open the terminal window. The easiest way to do this is by pressing Ctrl + Alt + T on your keyboard.
After you open the window, on the command line prompt you need to type the following:
traceroute + domain name/IP address
traceroute6 + domain name/IP address
After typing this you only need to click enter. Slightly different from the example with Windows, on Linux traceroute for IPv4 would look something like this:
All in all, there are many benefits by utilizing the traceroute feature on your computer. As previously mentioned, this tool can help you troubleshoot if you are experiencing problems. If a certain website is unreachable, you will be able to see exactly where the connection drops.
If you have your own hosted website, it’s also a great tool to perform a check while the website is working, to be then able to compare the results when the website is down. Keep in mind each package takes a different route, but the networks it passes through are usually very similar.
As an alternative, you can also use a lot of online traceroute tools which are very easy to find with a simple Google search and are also quite simple to use.
If you have any questions about tracerouting, make sure you ask a question in the comment section below.