How to Read a Traceroute

A traceroute can help you see what's happening to your information.
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One of the technical terms used in Internet troubleshooting is "traceroute." A traceroute tracks the path of your Internet connection to various websites. You might have performed a traceroute, for instance, if you've had trouble reaching a specific website and wanted to determine where the problem lies. Properly understanding the feedback from the traceroute you've performed can save you a call to your Internet service provider's technical support team.

Step 1

Look at the first line under your traceroute command on your computer screen; this line acknowledges your request and lets you know what the traceroute is doing. You will see the domain name to which you are tracing the route, along with the IP address for that domain name. The line also indicates how many hops (lines) the traceroute will allow before terminating.

Step 2

Note the subsequent numbered lines. Each line represents a router that you are passing through to reach your target website. The routers appear in sequence, showing you the exact route your Internet connection is taking. For example, "1" is the first stop, and "2" is the second.

Step 3

View the first part of each line to find the name of the router you are hitting. Following the name of the router, you will see the router's IP address. After the router IP address, you will see two to three sets of numbers followed by "MS" for millisecond. These numbers tell you how long it takes for data packets to make a round trip from your computer to that router and back to your computer. The round trip is made two to three times, so you can get a feel for the average time the data packets take to travel. When your traceroute has completed, you will see "Trace Complete."

Step 4

Check the traceroute for "***" in place of the router name. The line will end with "Request Timed Out." This may mean that the router has a firewall that is blocking your computer. It also may indicate the source of the breakdown that is preventing you from reaching a website. Unless that router belongs to your Internet service provider, all you can do is wait for the router to become operable again; however, you at least will know that the problem is not on your end, saving you the time and trouble of attempting unnecessary repairs or adjustments.


These instructions apply regardless of your computer's operating system.