How to Heavily Stress Your Network
By Finn McCuhil
This may be the only article you’ll ever read containing the professional advice: Only try this trick at home. Stressing your home network is a good method for diagnosing weak links and potential network bottlenecks in your LAN. A number of commercial suites are available for this task along with a variety of hardware and software monitoring tools. The price of most of these packages put them out of reach for home use. Fortunately, one of the most effective tools for stress diagnostics is a simple utility included with every copy of the Windows operating system.
Open a command-line window. Press and hold the “Windows” key. Press and release the “R” key. Release the “Windows” key. Type “cmd” in the text entry box, and click the “OK” button.
Enter the ping command at the prompt using the format:
ping –t 192.168.1.1
Press the “Enter” key. Using the “-t” switch with the ping command generates a new ping each time the computer receives a response from the target. The results of each ping will look like this:
Reply from 192.168.1.1: bytes=32 time=2ms TTL=64
The first portion of the response indicates that the destination machine is connected to the network and responsive. The second portion indicates the packet size sent and received. The time entry indicates the amount of time the response took in milliseconds. The final, TTL (time to live) entry indicates the number of milliseconds the packet exists before a “Host not found” response is delivered to the originating computer.
Repeat steps one through three on each computer attached to the network. Increasing network stress is indicated by the increasing value in the “time=Xms” column. When the numeric value in this column exceeds the value in the final “TTL” column, the command window generates a “Request timed out” response.
Terminate the ping command on each machine by pressing the “Ctrl+C” key combination.
- Substitute valid IP addresses on your network for the 192.168.1.1 address used in the example. Stress the entire network by entering a unique address on each machine. Stress a single segment by entering the same target address on each machine. Do not issue a ping command from the target machine when segment testing. View other options for the ping command by typing “ping /?” at the command prompt.
- Stressing commercial networks is illegal. Performing this test at work may get you fired. Interfering with the operations of other corporate networks may result in civil or criminal proceedings.
- Never issue this command through your router using any address not on your local network. Internet service providers monitor traffic on their networks and will disconnect service to and/or prosecute people who stress Internet traffic.
Finn McCuhil is a freelance writer based in Northern Michigan. He worked as a reporter and columnist in South Florida before becoming fascinated with computers. After studying programming at University of South Florida, he spent more than 20 years heading up IT departments at three tier-one automotive suppliers. He now builds wooden boats in the north woods.