How to Understand a Traceroute Output

Traceroute is a utility program that is run from a computer at one IP address (or host name) on the internet to another, tracing the path of the connection through interim servers, or “hops”. Traceroute is often used to assist network administrators in troubleshooting TCP/IP connectivity issues. Traceroute output lists the origin connection in the first line of the output, and the last line indicates the destination host. All listings in between the first and last entries are “hop” points.


    • 1

      Click the Windows “Start” button and select the “Accessories” folder to expand.

    • 2

      Click the “Command Prompt” option to open a DOS window.

    • 3

      Type “tracert” without quotes, along with the hostname or IP address of the destination site at the command prompt. For example, enter “tracert” to trace the route from your connection to Microsoft.

    • 4

      Press the “Enter” key. The traceroute program will run and display the output on the screen in the DOS window.

    • 5

      Right-click in the DOS window and click “Select All” from the context menu. This action will copy the traceroute output to the clipboard.

    • 6

      Right-click on the computer desktop and select “New” from the context menu. Select “Text Document” from the options to create a new text document on the desktop.

    • 7

      Double-click the New Text Document to open in the Notepad application, and then click inside the blank page in Notepad.

    • 8

      Right-click and select “Paste” from the context menu. The traceroute output will be pasted to the text document in Notepad.

    • 9

      Examine the traceroute output. An example of traceroute output is listed below:

      1 3 ms 3 ms 2 ms my.router []
      2 35 ms 36 ms 35 ms []
      3 36 ms 37 ms 36 ms []
      4 41 ms 40 ms 41 ms 571.Hssi5-0.GW1.EWR1.ALTER.NET []
      5 42 ms 44 ms 52 ms 113.ATM2-0.XR1.EWR1.ALTER.NET []
      6 43 ms 41 ms 41 ms []
      7 61 ms 41 ms 41 ms 181.ATM6-0.BR2.NYC9.ALTER.NET []
      8 41 ms 42 ms 47 ms
      9 47 ms 42 ms 42 ms[]
      10 104 ms 68 ms 80 ms []

      The first number in the line indicates the sequence number. The first line of output will list the originating external IP address and hostname. The last line of output lists the destination IP address and hostname. All points in between will list all of the intervening “hops”.

Tips & Warnings

  • See the Microsoft guide, How to Use Tracert to Troubleshoot TCP/IP Problems in Windows” (See Resources) for an in-depth examination of using traceroute.
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