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Technical Overview of Route Tracing (traceroute tools)

Discussion in 'Community Guides' started by TheFlagCourier, Apr 9, 2020.

  1. TheFlagCourier

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    Staff Member Community Manager Donator

    Jun 4, 2016
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    Sometimes, when a player is having god-awful ping, rubber banding, or other problems with their home internet connection that prevent an enjoyable experience on the server - we may on occasion ask for them to perform a route trace. For many of you, this is not required - and we won't fault you for not knowing what a route trace is or how it works. This guide is for the users who may need it.

    What is a route trace?
    Simply put, a route trace is a network utility that traces your connection and allows you to check the amount of hops between you and the server.

    Each operating system will have it's own built-in methods of performing a Trace Route, and there are even other tools that can display even more information to you while doing the same thing.

    When or Why Would I Need It?
    A route trace, especially from a tool like MTR, can often tell us a lot about your networking situation. Seeing a lot of dropped connections? Experiencing high pings? Is there packet loss somewhere down the line? All of these can help us get closer to knowing if the problem is closer to our end, or yours.

    Windows provides two basic tools, both technically tracing out the path of the connection. I've also included a third party, graphical tool. Unfortunately, all three of these solutions rely on the ICMP port to be open somewhere on the route. This is where you usually see 'Request timed out' or 'No response' errors. There are other tools that use the TCP SYN packets, which are usually open on most firewalls. One honorable mention for this goes to nmap with it's --traceroute flag. However, nmap itself is outside of the scope of this guide due to it's complexity for the average user.

    On Windows PCs, the predominate tool used to perform a trace route is the aptly-named tracert tool. This can be run on almost all versions of Windows, and can be run through either CMD or PowerShell without having to run as an administrator. The downside is the lack of extra metrics found in pathping and WinMTR. You can find tracert's manual here. Or you can see the Example Output for a quick-n-dirty run.

    PS C:\Users\FlagCourier> tracert play.civwars.net
    Tracing route to play.civwars.net []
    over a maximum of 30 hops:
      1    29 ms    38 ms    40 ms  [Your Router IP]
      2    35 ms    39 ms    49 ms  [Your ISP's IP]
      3    49 ms    38 ms    39 ms  [Your ISP's first hop]
      4     *        *        *     Request timed out. [ICMP blocked?]
      5   469 ms   574 ms   609 ms  be100-2.dfw-da2-bb1-a9.tx.us []
      6    85 ms    75 ms    83 ms  ash-1-a9.tx.us []
      7   100 ms    84 ms   114 ms  vl1332.was1-vin1-g1-nc5.wa.us []
      8     *        *        *     Request timed out.
      9     *        *        *     Request timed out.
    10     *        *        *     Request timed out.
    11    97 ms   159 ms   119 ms  ns106691.ip-147-135-31.us []
    Trace complete.

    Tracert not your thing? Well, Windows also provides another tool to handle the job that was introduced with Windows NT. Enter the pathping tool. Not only does this tool trace the route of your connection, it also provides latency and packet loss statistics. Arguably, this would be the better tool to use when troubleshooting connection issues, if it didn't stop short on a timed out request. (As shown in example...) Tracert at least manages to pass that point. It's documentation can be found here.

    PS C:\Users\FlagCourier> pathping play.civwars.net
    Tracing route to play.civwars.net []
    over a maximum of 30 hops:
    0 DESKTOP-FlagCourier[-.-.-.-]
    1 [Router]
    2 [ISP]
    3 [ISP First Hop]
    4 * * * [Timed Out - ICMP blocked?]
    Computing statistics for 75 seconds...
    Source to Here This Node/Link
    Hop RTT Lost/Sent = Pct Lost/Sent = Pct Address
    0 DESKTOP-FlagCourier[-.-.-.-]
    0/ 100 = 0% |
    1 59ms 0/ 100 = 0% 0/ 100 = 0% [Router]
    0/ 100 = 0% |
    2 60ms 0/ 100 = 0% 0/ 100 = 0% [ISP]
    0/ 100 = 0% |
    3 57ms 0/ 100 = 0% 0/ 100 = 0% [ISP's First Hop]
    Trace complete.

    WinMTR is a 3rd-party graphical tool based on MTR, or My Traceroute. It's essentially pathping, and then some - but with additional metrics and the ability to copy the results to your clipboard as either plaintext or HTML. While it looks dated (it most definitely is...), It's actually one of Blizzard's preferred tools for troubleshooting player connections, if that helps ease any fear from it being 3rd-party. You can grab it, or view it's source code from SourceForge.

    Todo: Unix-likes (Mac, Linux, *BSD), Clean-up
    #1 TheFlagCourier, Apr 9, 2020
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2020
    Cody likes this.
  2. Cody

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    Smooth brain :(

    Sep 28, 2017
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