The Internet is constructed on a series of switches and routers that move data packets through the shortest path to the destination. Tracing this path is easy and involves a simple process with a tool that is already integrated into your operating system. It is important to trace your packets if you have to troubleshoot your Internet connection. You can see exactly what points your packet hits before it reaches the endpoint (the server you are connected with). This is known as the “route.”
Go to your Start menu and click “Run.” If you do not see "Run" in your Start menu, hold down the Windows key (the key with the Windows logo on it) while pressing the “R” key, then release both. This will open the Run dialog.
Type “cmd” in the Run dialog box and click “OK.” This will take you to the command line of Windows.
Type “tracert” in the command line, followed by a website address (for example, www.google.com) and press "Enter" or "Return."
Wait for the results to finish showing. When the trace is finished, you will see the full route of your packets toward that particular Web destination. If your first attempt fails, try other destinations. If the trace operation ran well, you will get a notification at the end of the operation saying “Trace complete.”
Tips & Warnings
- You know the trace operation did not go past your own Internet gateway if the last IP on the list is the same IP as your computer. You can find your computer’s IP using “ipconfig” in the command line. Another way to see the trace operation failed is if you get an error message saying the program was unable to resolve the target system name. This means either you typed the address incorrectly, or your Internet connection is not working properly.
- If the trace operation fails, it is not always the fault of your own particular Internet connection. The remote server you are trying to reach might be down or your Internet service provider might not be routing the packet properly. The latter cause can be determined by looking at the list of addresses to see if the final address on the list is the destination address. You can match the IP address to the one on the top where it says “Tracing route to” followed by an address and an IP address in brackets. If they do not match, there is something wrong with the packet’s route.
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