From the Trenches, part three: Network troubleshooting with pathping

In the last installment of this three-part article, network administrator and IT consultant Tim Fenner will discuss the basic uses of pathping ways to use it more extensively.

If you've read parts one and two of this series, you've gotten your feet wet with the ping and tracert TCP/IP connection-testing utilities. Now you're ready to take the plunge into a much more complex utility, called pathping.

Pathping is a route-tracing tool that combines features of the ping and tracert commands with additional information-gathering features that neither of those commands provides. The pathping command sends packets to each router on the way to a final destination over a period of time and then computes results based on the packets returned from each hop. Since pathping shows the degree of packet loss at any given router or link, you can determine which routers or links might be causing network problems.

Again you say: "All right. You are very good at copying and pasting definitions, but what does all that mean to me?" What it means is this: using the pathping command is like picking up the phone and dialing a number to see whether it rings on the other side, whether it speaks the right language (TCP/IP in this case), how long it takes, how many operators the call had to cross, who the operators were, and what percentage of communication was lost. This last type of data illustrates where problems might exist.

To use pathping, type:

  • pathping www.yahoo.com
  • pathping 192.15.3.34
Sample output below:


C:WINNTSYSTEM32>pathping www.yahoo.com

Tracing route to www.yahoo.akadns.net [64.58.76.177] over a maximum of 30 hops:
0 system.domain.com [172.16.213.23]
1 15.65.215.2
2 15.65.215.15
3 gbr1-a90s17.cgcil.ip.att.net [12.123.5.190]
4 tbr1-p013502.cgcil.ip.att.net [12.122.11.33]
5 tbr1-cl1.sffca.ip.att.net [12.122.10.6]
6 ggr1-p340.sffca.ip.att.net [12.122.11.218]
7 att-gw.sf.cw.net [192.205.32.110]
8 agr4-loopback.Washington.cw.net [206.24.226.104]
9 dcr1-so-6-3-0.Washington.cw.net [206.24.238.61]
10 bhr1-pos-10-0.Sterling1dc2.cw.net [206.24.238.166]
11 csr21-ve240.stng01.exodus.net [216.33.98.2]
12 216.35.210.122
13 www8.dcx.yahoo.com [64.58.76.177]

Computing statistics for 325 seconds...

Source to Here This Node/Link
Hop RTT Lost/Sent = Pct Lost/Sent = Pct Address
0 system.domain.com [172.16.213.23]
0/ 100 = 0% |
1 0ms 0/ 100 = 0% 0/ 100 = 0% 12.32.184.1
0/ 100 = 0% |

>> Editor's note: You get the picture. This code goes on for quite a ways.

Trace complete.


After running pathping, you first see the results for the route as it is tested for problems. This is the same path as that shown by the tracert command. The pathping command then displays a busy message for the next 325 seconds (this time varies by the hop count). During this time, pathping gathers information from all the routers previously listed and from the links among them. At the end of this period, it displays the test results.

The Node/Link, Lost/Sent=Pct and Address categories provide the most useful information. The link at hop 7 shows that 100% of the packets are being lost, showing there is a routing problem at the router, perhaps link congestion. Hop 12 shows that there is a 5% packet loss rate.

Again, as with the other utilities, there are many different options with this utility. To display them, type:

  • pathping | more
Once again, note that the | is not a lower case L or a number 1. On most systems, you can produce this symbol by pressing the shift key and the backslash key at the same time.

If you only need to check for connectivity between your system and another, then ping will work very quickly and effectively. But if you wish to determine where a network problem exists, use pathping. Pathping can determine where the issue actually resides.

There are many more network connectivity tools at your disposal within Windows, but these are a few of the more common tools used in network troubleshooting.

About the author: Tim Fenner is a network and systems administrator for a national industry association and an IT consultant for small businesses.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

>> Return to part one: ping
>> Return to part two: tracert
>> Reference works for this article include

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