Can’t reach your server from your home, office, or another point on the Internet? Or maybe you can reach it, but you are experiencing slowness or timeouts? Before contacting your ISP, run some quick tests with MTR – the problem may not be on their end.
MTR stands for Matt’s Trace Route. MTR was written by Matt Kimball in the 1990s and was released to the public under the GNU General Public License; over the years, it has grown and been maintained with contributions by many people.
MTR combines the features of two popular network diagnostic tools – ping and traceroute– into one view. Like traceroute, MTR shows you the route packets take between two endpoints on the Internet, but it also reports latency and packet loss occurring at each hop in the data path over time. It does that by pinging each routing point at regular intervals (typically one second) and updating the hop list with data on the ping results. This combined view yields insight into the location of bottlenecks and trouble spots.
You can download the Windows version of MTR here. There is also a Linux version available here. It’s possible to install MTR on macOS, though it’s a bit more complicated than with Windows – review this guide to see if it’s something you want to tackle.
We’ll utilize the Windows version for this quick tutorial:
- Download and install WinMTR;
- Start WinMTR;
- Fill in the name or IP of the host (e.g., google.com);
- Click the Options button to configure ping size, maximum hops, and ping interval (the defaults are typically OK). If you want to see host names rather than IPs in the output window, tick the “resolve names” option.
- Click the “Start” button and wait. One row will appear for each “hop” (routing point) in the path from your computer to the destination host. You will then see updates ripple through the list as additional packets are sent through the path. The columns to the right of the hop IP/name will show the number of packets sent to each hop, best, worst, average response times, and the number or percentage of dropped packets.
- You can copy or export the results in text format. Useful if you want to document or report an issue with your provider.
- Click on “Clear History” to remove the hosts you have previously traced.
Rows in the hop list where latency and/or packet loss numbers are elevated represent potential trouble spots. Keep in mind that some network routers will de-prioritize ICMP packets sent by MTR, potentially yielding higher latency or loss than would be exhibited by the same router with other types of traffic.
As a general rule, if a given hop shows high latency and packet loss, and all the hops AFTER also show similar degradation, you are likely seeing a real problem with that hop. On the other hand, if the hops after the “problem” hop show normal or optimal numbers, then you are likely just seeing the effects of ICMP de-priority.