Using TRACERT to Diagnose Internet Problems

TRACERT is a system command that can be used to trace out and diagnose connection problems between one computer and another on the internet. The internet is a collection of computers, servers and devices that communicate with eachother by sending information through and between them. TRACERT maps out and tests the connection response time of each along the way to a destination computer or server.

To run TRACERT within Microsoft Windows ®, you must first run the DOS Command Prompt. To do this, go to the Windows Start Menu, click "All Programs / Accessories", and click on the "Command Prompt".

From the DOS Command Prompt, type in "TRACERT" followed by the domain name of the server you are having problems connecting to. The example below shows a TRACERT to www.Google.com.

C:\>tracert www.google.com

Tracing route to www.l.google.com [74.125.45.105]
over a maximum of 30 hops:

 1   1 ms  <1 ms  <1 ms  10.24.5.1
 2   1 ms  <1 ms  <1 ms  172.16.85.31
 3   1 ms  <1 ms  <1 ms  192.168.0.1
 4  42 ms  29 ms  29 ms  c-76-22-250-1.hsd1.tn.comcast.net [76.22.250.1]
 5  25 ms  28 ms  29 ms  c-76-22-250-1.hsd1.tn.comcast.net [76.22.250.1]
 6  11 ms  13 ms  20 ms  xe-11-0-0-0-sur02.hicksrd.tn.nash.comcast.net [68.86.151.181]
 7  16 ms  15 ms  15 ms  xe-1-1-2-0-ar01.goodslettvll.tn.nash.comcast.net [68.86.176.41]
 8  23 ms  22 ms  26 ms  pos-2-1-0-0-cr01.atlanta.ga.ibone.comcast.net [68.86.90.101]
 9  26 ms  26 ms  22 ms  pos-0-2-0-0-pe01.56marietta.ga.ibone.comcast.net [68.86.86.166]
10  33 ms  21 ms  22 ms  75.149.231.86
11  57 ms  22 ms  23 ms  64.233.174.2
12  22 ms  25 ms  22 ms  209.85.248.53
13  24 ms  20 ms  20 ms  yx-in-f105.1e100.net [74.125.45.105]

Trace complete.

C:\>

If a connection or hop along the way fails, the line will look like the following:

13 * * * Request timed out.

One or two timed out hops may not be anything to worry about. However, if all hops after a certain point time out, then a connection with the destination computer / server can't be achieved because of a problem.

Internal Network Problems

In the example above, if a "Request timed out" problem occured within the first three hops, the internet connection problem would likely be caused by malfunctioning hardware with the firm's network. This is because the first three IP addresses are non-routable, internal private network IP addresses. See this article for more information on private network IP addresses.

Internet Service Provider Problems

In that same example, if a time out error occured within hopes 4 to 10, the problem would be inside of the ISP's network - in this particular example, Comcast. That 10th hop doesn't clearly identify itself as a Comcast IP address, but other tools on the internet verified that it is.

Destination Network / Server Problems

Finally, if the timeouts start in hops 12 or 13, the problem would be with the Google hardware or servers.

by Alfred Heyman

Spectrum TimeClock Spectrum Research
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