How to Troubleshoot Traceroute

by James Highland

Traceroute is an Internet tool available on any computer to see the details of a connection to any server in the world. The command, like most Internet tools, is entered on the Windows "command" prompt, which can be opened by typing "cmd" in the "Run" box from the "Start" menu. It is invoked by typing "tracert " followed by the name of the Web site or server you are trying to reach. Sometimes a traceroute is unsuccessful and cannot connect to the Web site. There are additional tools available that can help diagnose a problem that the traceroute uncovers. It is not always possible to find the source of a connection problem using these methods, but they may assist in the troubleshooting information you provide to an Internet service provider or other entity.

Run the traceroute. If it successful reports a "Trace complete" message after several seconds, then the traceroute was successful and there is nothing to troubleshoot.

Repeat the traceroute if it gets stuck at any point in the test. You can terminate the traceroute by typing "Control-C". Then, repeat the traceroute exactly. Note the test results as they are displayed onscreen. The traceroute reports each server that it uses to reach the final Internet destination you entered, which is usually a Web site. If the first traceroute fails and the second is successful, note how the path of servers used varied, if it did. This will indicate the server in the first traceroute that had a problem.

Use the "ping" command to establish connectivity with the server if no traceroute works. "Ping" is a similar utility that simply sends a small packet of data to a server and waits for a response. It does not provide the depth of information that traceroute does. Type "ping " followed by the server name. If the ping is successful but the traceroute is not, then this suggests the Internet connection is working but cannot handle large data items required by most Web browsing. This could be due to a bandwidth limitation at some bottleneck in the Internet network.

Use the "nslookup" command if neither the traceroute or the ping reveal results. Type "nslookup " followed by the server name. This utility connects to the DNS server. DNS servers are responsible for translating a domain name into its numerical IP network address equivalent. All Internet connections use the DNS server prior to seeking a server on the world-wide network. If the DNS server is not working, no Internet traffic using conventional domain names will be successful. If the nslookup fails to offer an IP address translation, then the DNS server of your Internet service provider has failed, and this is the cause of the problems with traceroute. If the nslookup is successful, use the IP address it provides and run another traceroute with these numbers. For example, instead of "tracert" run "tracert" as determined by the nslookup. If this traceroute is successful, then the DNS server is not connected properly to all the Internet processes used by the Internet server provider. This information is valuable in any conversation with a provider when troubleshooting Internet issues.

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About the Author

James Highland started writing professionally in 1998. He has written for the New York Institute of Finance and He has an extensive background in financial investing and has taught computer programming courses for two New York companies. He has a Bachelor of Arts in film production from Indiana University.

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