Ping Trace Techniques for Network Connectivity Troubleshooting
Ping tracing is a utility that can check connection issues between a network and an IP address or a server. The PING test can identify connectivity between two network connections, often as a troubleshooting tool. Ping tracing can determine how long it takes to connect to a specific website as well. The ping traceroute test, or TRACERT, checks the path (the server hops) that the computer is using to connect to the network. The MTR test combines both Ping and Traceroute functions into a single tool for network diagnostics. PathPing is an even more advanced Ping tool that can ping all the hops along the route to the destination and help determine what is causing lags or slow speeds. Ping and traceroute, MTR, and PathPing can all help troubleshoot network connectivity using the ICMP (Internet Control Message Protocol) as a diagnostic tool.
What is ping tracing?
Ping tracing is a commonly used diagnostic tool, or utility, to check on and improve network connectivity and issues between servers and networks. Data is sent through networks in small pieces, or packets, which can take different routes, or hops, to get to their end destination. Once there, these packets are reassembled to perform the goal or send the intended message. At times, some of these packets can lag behind or not make it through to the destination due to a technical glitch, congestion in the network pathway, or when a server is down.
Purpose of ping trace usage
Ping tracing can help to determine the length of time it takes packets to get to the server, report any errors along the way, and discover if a specific IP address is accessible. Ping tracing can also be used to check activity within a computer network. Ping tracing is used for the following reasons:
- When internet performance is slow
- For difficulties reaching specific websites
- When there are poor quality issues with VOIP calls
- To check if a computer within a network is active
The PING test uses two types of the error-reporting protocol called ICMP type 8 (Echo Request) and type 0 (Echo Reply). The ping trace command sends an Echo Request to the destination. If successful, it will come back with an Echo Reply as well as an RTT (Round Trip Time). The RTT can let a user know if there are lag or latency issues between the originating source and the destination. The PING test will give the user a summary report indicating how many packets were sent and received, the RTT statistics, and how many packets were lost, if any. Networks can block ICMP traffic for service or security reasons, so the ping may not always let a user know when a server is active or “alive.” It can, however, be a great initial option to test for connectivity issues.
Ping traceroute test
Traceroute is like a collection of ping requests strung together to determine the exact path between the source and the destination. The ping traceroute test tracks each hop the packets take along the route as well as how much time it takes them to get from each point. Traceroute is a more advanced utility over ping, identifying each hop and intermediate hosts. Packets are set to be sent by specific TTL (Time To Live) values to find out how many hops this packet can make it through until an ICMP Time Exceeded or “Request Timed Out” message is returned. This can let a user know if there is network congestion in one of the intermediate hops and help to diagnose dropped connections and slow loading web pages. A successful traceroute ping can still come back with one or more hops failing, but as long as the packet picks up and continues, it is considered successful. A failed traceroute will not make it to the end destination. Either traffic is not forwarded on, or it gets stuck in a routing loop between two hops.
Using traceroute & ping
When trying to diagnose network connectivity issues, to determine if a server can connect to a certain website, or to find out if a specific computer is active within a network, a PING test can be initiated. The first step involves launching the Windows Command Prompt to send the ping command to send the ICMP Echo Request to the desired destination. You will need the domain name or IP address you are trying to test connectivity with. The report back will let you know the rate of packet loss. A 0% packet loss means a perfect connection, while a 50% packet loss indicates an unstable connection that half of the packets did not make it to.
Using MTR & PathPing
If you receive a report indicating significant packet loss, the next step is to run a traceroute to determine where the issue lies. The MTR (MyTraceRoute) computer program combines both the ping and traceroute functions into one program. Working similarly to traceroute, the MTR can give a user real-time information on packet loss and latency along the network path. MTR has more options and can give more detailed information. PathPing works like the ping command, but it pings each hop on the route all the way to the destination. Each node is pinged with a single command, which can take longer (25 seconds per hop), but it can also provide more detailed information and results.
How to access the Windows Command Prompt
Running network tools and diagnostics requires first opening the Windows Command Prompt. For both Windows 8 and Windows 10, do the following:
- Right click the START button in the lower left portion of the screen.
- From the menu select COMMAND PROMPT or COMMAND PROMPT (ADMIN) if admin rights are required.
- The Command Prompt window will open.
For older versions of Windows, including Windows 7:
- Click the START icon.
- Select ALL PROGRAMS > ACCESSORIES and then COMMAND PROMPT.
- The Command Prompt window will open.
How to use PING
To run a PING trace command, you will need to type ping <domain name>.com into the command prompt window. Be sure to have the space after the word “ping.” Whatever destination you are trying to reach is what goes in the “domain name” spot. Be sure to put the actual IP address of your destination there. Then, press ENTER, and you will receive results that look like the following:
How to Use Traceroute
To run the tracert ping or traceroute command, you will type tracert <domain name>.com into the command prompt window. Replace “domain name” with the website or IP address of the destination or source you are attempting to test, and make sure to have the space after “tracert” command. Press ENTER to see results that can look like this:
The web address here is “example.” In an actual tracert test, you will have the exact IP address here. Type EXIT to get out of the command prompt window.
How to use MTR
To use this more advanced tool, you will need to do the following:
- Download and install WinMTR. If you are running Linux, you will need to install MTR.
- Start WinMTR.
- In the HOST field, enter the IP address you are testing.
- Click START and let run for 10 seconds minimum.
- Click STOP when a connection error occurs.
An example of an MTR test can look like this:
Be sure to type the accrual IP or web address you are testing in the Host field.
How to Use PathPing
To run a PathPing test, you will type pathping <domain name>.com in the windows command prompt window. Be sure to have the space after the word “pathping,” and put the actual website or IP address you are testing in the “domain name” space. You can interrupt or stop a PathPing test by holding down the CTRL key while pressing the C key on your keyboard. An example of a PathPing test is as follows:
Be sure to replace the 184.108.40.206 with the actual IP address you are attempting to test. Ping tracing for Mac users When using a Mac device, you can ping using your TERMINAL app or by using the NETWORK UTILITY on your Mac device directly. To do so:
- Open Applications > Utilities and open Network Utility.
- In the Terminal window type ping <hostname>, with “hostname” being the name of the IP address or website you are testing.
- Press ENTER.
- Type CTRL + C to stop the ping at any point.
An example may look like the following:
In the ping or traceroute test, you will type in the IP address or website you are testing in place of “google.com”
Ping, Traceroute, and Netstat: The Network Troubleshooting Trifecta. (February 2020). Red Hat.
Scanning. (2014). Hacking with Kali.
What is MTR & How to Use to Test & Troubleshoot Your Connections. (July 2021). PC & Network Downloads.
Pathping. (July 2021). Microsoft Ignite.
WinMTR. (2021). SourceForge.