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TRACEROUTE(8) System Manager's Manual TRACEROUTE(8)

traceroute, traceroute6print the route packets take to network host

traceroute  [-AcDdIlnSvx] [-f first_ttl] [-g gateway_addr] [-m max_ttl] [-P proto] [-p port] [-q nqueries] [-s src_addr] [-t toskeyword] [-V rtable] [-w waittime] host [datalen]

traceroute6 [-AcDdIlnSv] [-f first_hop] [-m max_hop] [-p port] [-q nqueries] [-s src_addr] [-V rtable] [-w waittime] host [datalen]

The Internet is a large and complex aggregation of network hardware, connected together by gateways. Tracking the route packets follow (or finding the miscreant gateway that's discarding packets) can be difficult. traceroute utilizes the IPv4 protocol time to live (TTL) field and attempts to elicit an ICMP TIME_EXCEEDED response from each gateway along the path to some host. traceroute6 does the same for the IPv6 protocol, instead using hop limits and ICMPv6 TIME_EXCEEDED responses.

The only mandatory parameter is the destination host name or IP number. The default probe datagram length is 40 bytes for IPv4 UDP and 60 bytes for ICMP, IPv6 UDP and ICMP6. This may be increased by datalen bytes.

The options are as follows:

Look up the AS number for each hop address. Uses the DNS service described at
Do not increment the destination port number in successive UDP packets. Rather, all UDP packets will have the same destination port, as set via the -p flag (or 33434 if none is specified).
Dump the packet data to standard error before transmitting it.
Turn on socket-level debugging.
Set the first TTL or hop limit used in outgoing probe packets. The effect is that the first first_ttl - 1 hosts will be skipped in the output of traceroute. The default value is 1 (skip no hosts).
Add gateway_addr to the list of addresses in the IP Loose Source Record Route (LSRR) option. If no gateways are specified, the LSRR option is omitted. This option is not available for IPv6.
Use ICMP or ICMP6 ECHO instead of UDP datagrams.
Display the TTL or hop limit value of the returned packet. This is useful for checking for asymmetric routing.
Set the maximum TTL or hop limit. The default is the value of the system's net.inet.ip.ttl or net.inet6.ip6.hlim MIB variable, which defaults to 64.
Print hop addresses numerically rather than symbolically and numerically (saves a nameserver address-to-name lookup for each gateway found on the path).
Change the protocol being used from UDP to a numeric protocol or a name as specified in /etc/protocols. This will not work reliably for most protocols. If set to 1 (ICMP), then ICMP Echo Request messages will be used (same as ping(8)). This option is not available for IPv6.
Set the base UDP port number used in probes (default is 33434). traceroute hopes that nothing is listening on UDP ports to at the destination host (so an ICMP PORT_UNREACHABLE message will be returned to terminate the route tracing). If something is listening on a port in the default range, this option can be used to pick an unused port range.
Set the number of probes per TTL to nqueries (default is three probes).
Print how many probes were not answered for each hop.
Use the following IP address (which must be given as an IP number, not a hostname) as the source address in outgoing probe packets. On hosts with more than one IP address, this option can be used to force the source address to be something other than the IP address of the interface the probe packet is sent on. If the IP address is not one of this machine's interface addresses and the user is not the superuser, an error is returned and nothing is sent.
Set the in probe packets to the following value (default zero). The value may be one of critical, inetcontrol, lowdelay, netcontrol, throughput, reliability, or one of the DiffServ Code Points: ef, af11 ... af43, cs0 ... cs7; or a number in either hex or decimal. This option can be used to see if different types-of-service result in different paths. If this option is used, changes to the type-of-service in the returned packets are displayed. (If you are not running a 4.3BSD-Tahoe or later system, this may be academic since the normal network services like telnet and ftp don't let you control the TOS). Not all values of TOS are legal or meaningful - see the IP spec for definitions. Useful values are probably lowdelay and throughput. This option is not available for IPv6.
Set the routing table to be used.
Verbose output. Received ICMP packets other than TIME_EXCEEDED and UNREACHABLEs are listed.
Set the time (in seconds) to wait for a response to a probe (default 5).
Print the ICMP extended headers if available. This option is not available for IPv6.

This program attempts to trace the route an IP packet would follow to some internet host by launching UDP probe packets with a small TTL then listening for an ICMP "time exceeded" reply from a gateway. We start out probes with a TTL of one and increase by one until we get an ICMP "port unreachable" (which means we got to "host") or hit a max (which defaults to 64 hops and can be changed with the -m flag). Three probes (changed with -q flag) are sent at each TTL setting and a line is printed showing the TTL, address of the gateway and round trip time of each probe. If the probe answers come from different gateways, the address of each responding system will be printed. If there is no response within a 5 second timeout interval (changed with the -w flag), a "*" is printed for that probe.

We don't want the destination host to process the UDP probe packets so the destination port is set to an unlikely value (if some clod on the destination is using that value, it can be changed with the -p flag).

A sample use and output might be:

$ traceroute
traceroute to (, 64 hops max, 56 byte packet
1 (  19 ms  19 ms  0 ms
2  lilac-dmc.Berkeley.EDU (  39 ms  39 ms  19 ms
3  lilac-dmc.Berkeley.EDU (  39 ms  39 ms  19 ms
4  ccngw-ner-cc.Berkeley.EDU (  39 ms  40 ms  39 ms
5  ccn-nerif22.Berkeley.EDU (  39 ms  39 ms  39 ms
6 (  40 ms  59 ms  59 ms
7 (  59 ms  59 ms  59 ms
8 (  99 ms  99 ms  80 ms
9 (  139 ms  239 ms  319 ms
10 (  220 ms  199 ms  199 ms
11 (  239 ms  239 ms  239 ms

Note that lines 2 & 3 are the same. This is due to a buggy kernel on the 2nd hop system - - that forwards packets with a zero TTL (a bug in the distributed version of 4.3BSD). Note that you have to guess what path the packets are taking cross-country since the NSFNET (129.140) doesn't supply address-to-name translations for its NSSes.

A more interesting example is:

$ traceroute
traceroute to (, 64 hops max
1 (  0 ms  0 ms  0 ms
2  lilac-dmc.Berkeley.EDU (  19 ms  19 ms  19 ms
3  lilac-dmc.Berkeley.EDU (  39 ms  19 ms  19 ms
4  ccngw-ner-cc.Berkeley.EDU (  19 ms  39 ms  39 ms
5  ccn-nerif22.Berkeley.EDU (  20 ms  39 ms  39 ms
6 (  59 ms  119 ms  39 ms
7 (  59 ms  59 ms  39 ms
8 (  80 ms  79 ms  99 ms
9 (  139 ms  139 ms  159 ms
10 (  199 ms  180 ms  300 ms
11 (  300 ms  239 ms  239 ms
12  * * *
13 (  259 ms  499 ms  279 ms
14  * * *
15  * * *
16  * * *
17  * * *
18  ALLSPICE.LCS.MIT.EDU (  339 ms  279 ms  279 ms

Note that the gateways 12, 14, 15, 16 & 17 hops away either don't send ICMP "time exceeded" messages or send them with a TTL too small to reach us. 14 - 17 are running the MIT C Gateway code that doesn't send "time exceeded"s. God only knows what's going on with 12.

The silent gateway 12 in the above may be the result of a bug in the 4.[23] BSD network code (and its derivatives): 4.x (x <= 3) sends an unreachable message using whatever TTL remains in the original datagram. Since, for gateways, the remaining TTL is zero, the ICMP "time exceeded" is guaranteed to not make it back to us. The behavior of this bug is slightly more interesting when it appears on the destination system:

1 (  0 ms  0 ms  0 ms
2  lilac-dmc.Berkeley.EDU (  39 ms  19 ms  39 ms
3  lilac-dmc.Berkeley.EDU (  19 ms  39 ms  19 ms
4  ccngw-ner-cc.Berkeley.EDU (  39 ms  40 ms  19 ms
5  ccn-nerif35.Berkeley.EDU (  39 ms  39 ms  39 ms
6  csgw.Berkeley.EDU (  39 ms  59 ms  39 ms
7  * * *
8  * * *
9  * * *
10  * * *
11  * * *
12  * * *
13  rip.Berkeley.EDU (  59 ms !  39 ms !  39 ms !

Notice that there are 12 "gateways" (13 is the final destination) and exactly the last half of them are "missing". What's really happening is that rip (a Sun-3 running Sun OS3.5) is using the TTL from our arriving datagram as the TTL in its ICMP reply. So, the reply will time out on the return path (with no notice sent to anyone since ICMPs aren't sent for ICMPs) until we probe with a TTL that's at least twice the path length. That is, rip is really only 7 hops away. A reply that returns with a TTL of 1 is a clue this problem exists. traceroute prints a "!" after the time if the TTL is <= 1. Since vendors ship a lot of obsolete (DEC's Ultrix, Sun 3.x) or non-standard (HP-UX) software, expect to see this problem frequently and/or take care picking the target host of your probes.

Other possible annotations after the time are , , (got a host, network or protocol unreachable, respectively), , (access to the network or host, respectively, is prohibited), (communication administratively prohibited by filtering), or (source route failed or fragmentation needed - neither of these should ever occur and the associated gateway is busted if you see one), (destination network or host unknown), (destination network or host unreachable for TOS), (other ICMP unreachable code). (TOS bit in returned packet differs from last hop). If almost all the probes result in some kind of unreachable, traceroute will give up and exit.

$ traceroute -g

will show the path from the Cambridge Mailbridge to PSC, while

$ traceroute -g -g

will show the path from the Cambridge Mailbridge to Merit, using PSC to reach the Mailbridge.

This program is intended for use in network testing, measurement and management. It should be used primarily for manual fault isolation. Because of the load it could impose on the network, it is unwise to use traceroute during normal operations or from automated scripts.

netstat(1), ping(8)

The very first traceroute (never released) used ICMP ECHO_REQUEST datagrams as probe packets. During the first night of testing it was discovered that more than half the router vendors of the time would not return an ICMP TIME_EXCEEDED for an ECHO_REQUEST. traceroute was then changed to use UDP probe packets. Most modern TCP/IP implementations will now generate an ICMP error message to ICMP query messages, and the option to use ECHO_REQUEST probes was re-implemented.

The traceroute command first appeared in 4.4BSD. The traceroute6 command first appeared in the WIDE Hydrangea IPv6 protocol stack kit.

Implemented by Van Jacobson from a suggestion by Steve Deering. Debugged by a cast of thousands with particularly cogent suggestions or fixes from C. Philip Wood, Tim Seaver, and Ken Adelman.

September 14, 2015 OpenBSD-6.0