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(trās´rowt) (n.) A utility that traces a packet from your computer to an Internet host, showing how many hops the packet requires to reach the host and how long each hop takes. If you're visiting a Web site and pages are appearing slowly, you can use traceroute to figure out where the longest delays are occurring.

The original traceroute is a UNIX utility, but nearly all platforms have something similar. Windows includes a traceroute utility called tracert. In Windows, you can run tracert by selecting Start->Run…, and then entering tracert followed by the domain name of the host. For example:

tracert www.pcwebopedia.com

Traceroute utilities work by sending packets with low time-to-live (TTL) fields. The TTL value specifies how many hops the packet is allowed before it is returned. When a packet can't reach its destination because the TTL value is too low, the last host returns the packet and identifies itself. By sending a series of packets and incrementing the TTL value with each successive packet, traceroute finds out who all the intermediary hosts are.

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