What is Traceroute?

What is Traceroute?

Network response times are recognized as important prerequisites for business computing, and domestic customers also expect fast responses. When something goes wrong with a network and response times slow down, the delays cause customer frustration and affect commercial activities.

Slowdowns may occur if one of the computers or devices in a network develops a fault or a cable fault affects data transmission. One way to identify the device or circuit that is causing a slow response time is to trace the route the signal travels from the user’s computer to the destination computer. This is known colloquially as traceroute.

How Traceroute Works

Traceroute is a technique used to identify the path a data package takes from one computer to another. Each computer or server along the route is identified by its IP address, and the time the signal takes to travel each leg or hop is measured.

The traceroute test consists of sending a specific data package to the destination computer’s address. Each time the package encounters a computer, the time the signal takes to get to that computer is measured. What happens is that each computer in the route returns the package to the source computer so that these measurements can be made. Usually, three consecutive measurements are made to ensure consistency. It should be noted that the total time to test a complex route will be longer than the actual system response time.

Benefits of Traceroute

The information recorded during a traceroute test shows the time the signal takes to travel through each leg on its journey to the destination computer. Normally, this time delay will be relatively short, and it’s unlikely that it will exceed more than a few hundred milliseconds. Any excessive time delay at a particular point indicates that the computer or server may be overloaded or there is some other fault.

In all networks, but especially local area networks, this important information helps technicians to quickly identify where problems exist. It also shows the route the signal took, and this can be of use for identifying if any particular server is unavailable and forcing the signal to take a longer alternative route.


Most traceroute tests can be configured to use either the URL of the website or target computer or its IP address. It should be noted that the URL is the domain name, and the signal has to be routed through a DNS (Domain Name Server) to obtain the physical IP address of the target computer. Traceroute utilities can be run from any computer in a network.

In The Field

Although traceroute utilities can be run from a PC, this is not of much help in the field, and a dedicated traceroute tester is more convenient to use. It can be quickly attached to network cables at any point and is self-powered.

T3 Innovation’s Net Chaser is a device that can trace routes as well as perform a number of other network-related tests. The Net Chaser can be configured to use the target’s URL or IP address, and the high definition, multicolor screen displays the results of the traceroute test in a tabular format, showing the hop number, IP address of the intermediate servers, and measured time delays.

The Net Chaser performs a number of other handy tests that help isolate problems. A useful feature of Net Chaser is its ability to measure signal quality and the signal-to-noise ratio because this may contribute to poor response times. The device also identifies and locates cable faults, including as open circuits, shorts and poor connections that may interfere with the signal.