Tracert is a Windows based command-line tool that you can use to trace the path that an Internet Protocol (IP) packet takes from a source to its destination. Tracert will determine the path taken to the destination.

Where Tracert it is used

The tracert command is used to visually see a network packet being sent and received. It also shows the amount of network hops required for that packet to get to its destination.

This allows the tracert to be used whenever we need to find out why we are not getting the data from the Internet that we expect.

One example may be streaming video. Quite often, when trying to watch a video over the web, the Microsoft Media Player says "Connecting...", and then it suddenly dies. We can use tracert to find out where the connection between the server and our computer gets lost.

How Tracert works

Tracert works in a way that it sends Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) Echo Request messages to the destination.

When sending echos to the destination, it incrementally increases the so called Time to Live (TTL) values.

TTL is a limit on the period of time or number of iterations or transmissions in computer and computer network technology that a unit of data (in our case a packet) can experience before it is discarded.

The tracert issues a request to the target computer that has a form of a packet with TTL defined usually to 128. Each router on the way decreases TTL by one and reports back to the command line.

Tracert syntax

tracert [-d] [-h maximum_hops] [-j host-list] [-w timeout] target_name


  • -d Do not resolve addresses to hostnames.
  • -h maximum_hops Maximum number of hops to search for target.
  • -j host-list Loose source route along host-list.
  • -w timeout Wait timeout milliseconds for each reply.

How Tracert is used

In Windows 98 or ME, go to Start -> Run, and type command and press ENTER.

In Windows 2000 or XP, go to Start -> Run, and type cmd and press the ENTER.

To run the traceroute type tracert [hostname] where the [hostname] is the name of the server that you are connection testing.

This test will take a while. It will generate a list of the connection along the way and some information about the speed of the steps too.

Useful Tip

If you have difficulty copying the traceroute information from the command prompt screen, you can send the tracert output to a text file. In that case, type:

tracert [hostname] > C:\tracert_output.txt

This will write the command results to the text file named tracert_output.txt in the root of your C: drive.

Related network tool

Users with Microsoft Windows 2000 and Windows XP who need additional information such as network latency and network loss should also consider using the PATHPING command.


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