The traceroute command is used on Linux systems at the terminal. This information was obtained from a Kali Linux distribution using man traceroute.


traceroute – print the route packets trace to network host


       traceroute [-46dFITUnreAV] [-f first_ttl] [-g gate,...]
               [-i device] [-m max_ttl] [-p port] [-s src_addr]
               [-q nqueries] [-N squeries] [-t tos]
               [-l flow_label] [-w waittimes] [-z sendwait] [-UL] [-D]
               [-P proto] [--sport=port] [-M method] [-O mod_options]
               [--mtu] [--back]
               host [packet_len]
       traceroute6  [options]
       tcptraceroute  [options]
       lft  [options]


traceroute tracks the route packets taken from an IP network on their way to a given host. It utilizes the IP protocol’s time to live (TTL) field and attempts to elicit an ICMP TIME_EXCEEDED response from each gateway along the path to the host.

traceroute6 is equivalent to traceroute -6

tcptraceroute6 is equivalent to traceroute -T

lft, the Layer Four Traceroute, performs a TCP traceroute, like Traceroute-T, but attempts to provide compatibility with the original implementation, also called “lft”.

The only required parameter is the name or IP address of the destination host. The optional packet_len`gth is the total size of the probing packet (default 60 bytes for IPv4 and 80 for IPv6). The specified size can be ignored in some situations or increased up to a minimal value.

This program attempts to trace the route an IP packet would follow to some internet host by launching probe packets with a small TTL (time to live) then listening for an ICMP “time exceeded” reply from a gateway. We start our probes with a TTL of one and increase by one until we get an ICMP “port unreachable” (or TCP reset), which means we got to the “host” or hit a max (which defaults to 30 hops). Three probes (by default) 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. The address can be followed by additional information when requested. If the probe answers come from different gateways, the address of each responding system will be printed. If there is no response within a certain timeout, an “*” (asterisk) is printed for that probe.

After the trip time, some additional annotation can be printed: !H, !N, or !P (host, network or protocol unreachable), !S (source route failed), !F (fragmentation needed), !X (communication administratively prohibited), !V (host precedence violation), !C (precedence cutoff in effect), or !<num> (ICMP unreachable code <num>). If almost all the probes result in some kind of unreachable, traceroute will give up and exit.

We don’t want the destination host to process the UDP probe packets, so the destination port is set to an unlikely value (you can change it with the -p flag). There is no such a problem for ICMP or TCP tracerouting (for TCP we use half-open technique, which prevents our probes to be seen by applications on the destination host).

In the modern network environment, the traditional traceroute methods can not be always applicable, because of the widespread use of firewalls. Such firewalls filter the “unlikely” UDP ports or even ICMP echoes. To solve this, some additional tracerouting methods are implemented (including TCP), see LIST OF AVAILABLE METHODS below. Such methods try to use a particular protocol and source/destination port, in order to bypass firewalls (to be seen by firewalls just as a start of the allowed type of a network session).


--helpPrint help info and exit.
-4, -6Explicitly force IPv4 or IPv6 tracerouting. By default,
the program will try to resolve the name given, and choose
the appropriate protocol automatically. If resolving a
host name returns both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses, traceroute
will use IPv4.
-I, --icmpUse ICMP ECHO for probes
-T, --tcpUse TCP SYN for probes
-d, --debugEnable socket level debugging (when the Linux kernel
supports it)
-F, --dont-fragmentDo not fragment probe packets. (For IPv4 it also sets DF
bit, which tells intermediate routers not to fragment
remotely as well).

Varying the size of the probing packet by the packet_len
command line parameter, you can manually obtain
information about the MTU of individual network hops. The
--mtu option (see below) tries to do this automatically.

Note, that non-fragmented features (like -F or --mtu) work
properly since the Linux kernel 2.6.22 only. Before that
version, IPv6 was always fragmented, IPv4 could use the
once the discovered final mtu only (from the route cache),
which can be less than the actual mtu of a device.
-f first_ttl, --first=first_ttlSpecifies with what TTL to start. Defaults to 1.
-g gateway, --gateway=gatewayTells traceroute to add an IP source routing option to the
outgoing packet that tells the network to route the packet
through the specified gateway (most routers have disabled
source routing for security reasons). In general, several
gateway's is allowed (comma separated). For IPv6, the form
of num,addr,addr... is allowed, where num is a route
header type (default is type 2). Note the type 0 route
header is now deprecated (rfc5095).
-i interface, --interface=interfaceSpecifies the interface through which traceroute should
send packets. By default, the interface is selected
according to the routing table.
-m max_ttl, --max-hops=max_ttlSpecifies the maximum number of hops (max time-to-live
value) traceroute will probe. The default is 30.
-N squeries, --sim-queries=squeriesSpecifies the number of probe packets sent out
simultaneously. Sending several probes concurrently can
speed up traceroute considerably. The default value is 16.
Note that some routers and hosts can use ICMP rate
throttling. In such a situation specifying too large
number can lead to loss of some responses.
-nDo not try to map IP addresses to host names when
displaying them.
-p port, --port=portFor UDP tracing, specifies the destination port base
traceroute will use (the destination port number will be
incremented by each probe).
For ICMP tracing, specifies the initial ICMP sequence
value (incremented by each probe too).
For TCP and others specifies just the (constant)
destination port to connect.
-t tos, --tos=tosFor IPv4, set the Type of Service (TOS) and Precedence
value. Useful values are 16 (low delay) and 8 (high
throughput). Note that in order to use some TOS precedence
values, you have to be super user.
For IPv6, set the Traffic Control value.
-l flow_label, --flowlabel=flow_labelUse specified flow_label for IPv6 packets.
-w max[,here,near], --wait=max[,here,near] Determines how long to wait for a response to a probe.

There are three (in general) float values separated by a
comma (or a slash). Max specifies the maximum time (in
seconds, default 5.0) to wait, in any case.

Traditional traceroute implementation always waited whole
max seconds for any probe. But if we already have some
replies from the same hop, or even from some next hop, we
can use the round trip time of such a reply as a hint to
determine the actual reasonable amount of time to wait.

The optional here (default 3.0) specifies a factor to
multiply the round trip time of an already received
response from the same hop. The resulting value is used as
a timeout for the probe, instead of (but no more than)
max. The optional near (default 10.0) specifies a similar
factor for a response from some next hop. (The time of
the first found result is used in both cases).

First, we look for the same hop (of the probe which will
be printed first from now). If nothing found, then look
for some next hop. If nothing found, use max. If here
and/or near have zero values, the corresponding
computation is skipped.
Here and near are always set to zero if only max is
specified (for compatibility with previous versions).
-q nqueries, --queries=nqueriesSets the number of probe packets per hop. The default is
-rBypass the normal routing tables and send directly to a
host on an attached network. If the host is not on a
directly-attached network, an error is returned. This
option can be used to ping a local host through an
interface that has no route through it.
-s source_addr, --source=source_addr Chooses an alternative source address. Note that you must
select the address of one of the interfaces. By default,
the address of the outgoing interface is used.
-z sendwait, --sendwait=sendwaitMinimal time interval between probes (default 0). If the
value is more than 10, then it specifies a number in
milliseconds, else it is a number of seconds (float point
values allowed too). Useful when some routers use rate-
limit for ICMP messages.
-e, --extensionsShow ICMP extensions (rfc4884). The general form is
CLASS/TYPE: followed by a hexadecimal dump. The MPLS
(rfc4950) is shown parsed, in a form:
MPLS:L=label,E=exp_use,S=stack_bottom,T=TTL (more objects
separated by / ).
-A, --as-path-lookupsPerform AS path lookups in routing registries and print
results directly after the corresponding addresses.
-V, --versionPrint the version and exit.

There are additional options intended for advanced usage (such as alternate trace methods etc.):

--sport=portChooses the source port to use. Implies -N 1 -w 5 .
Normally source ports (if applicable) are chosen by the
--fwmark=markSet the firewall mark for outgoing packets (since the
Linux kernel 2.6.25).
-M method, --module=nameUse specified method for traceroute operations. Default
traditional udp method has name default, icmp (-I) and tcp
(-T) have names icmp and tcp respectively.
Method-specific options can be passed by -O . Most
methods hav
-O option, --options=optionsSpecifies some method-specific option. Several options are
separated by comma (or use several -O on cmdline). Each
method may have its own specific options, or many not have
them at all. To print information about available
options, use -O help.
-U, --udpUse UDP to particular destination port for tracerouting
(instead of increasing the port per each probe). Default
port is 53 (dns).
-UL Use UDPLITE for tracerouting (default port is 53).
-D, --dccpUse DCCP Requests for probes.
-P protocol, --protocol=protocolUse raw packet of specified protocol for tracerouting.
Default protocol is 253 (rfc3692).
--mtuDiscover MTU along the path being traced. Implies -F -N 1.
New mtu is printed once in a form of F=NUM at the first
probe of a hop which requires such mtu to be reached.
(Actually, the correspond "frag needed" icmp message
normally is sent by the previous hop).

Note, that some routers might cache once the seen
information on a fragmentation. Thus you can receive the
final mtu from a closer hop. Try to specify an unusual
tos by -t , this can help for one attempt (then it can be
cached there as well).
See -F option for more info.
--backPrint the number of backward hops when it seems different
with the forward direction. This number is guessed in
assumption that remote hops send reply packets with
initial ttl set to either 64, or 128 or 255 (which seems a
common practice). It is printed as a negate value in a
form of '-NUM' .

In general, a particular traceroute method may have to be chosen by -M name, but most of the methods have their simple cmdline switches (you can see them after the method name, if present).

defaultThe traditional, ancient method of tracerouting. Used by default.

Probe packets are udp datagrams with so-called "unlikely" destination ports. The "unlikely" port of the first probe is 33434, then for each next probe it is incremented by one. Since the ports are expected to be unused, the destination host normally returns "icmp unreach port" as a final response. (Nobody knows what happens when some application listens for such ports, though).

This method is allowed for unprivileged users.
icmp -IMost usual method for now, which uses icmp echo packets for probes.
If you can ping(8) the destination host, icmp tracerouting is applicable as well.

This method may be allowed for unprivileged users since the kernel 3.0 (IPv4, for IPv6 since 3.11), which supports new dgram icmp (or "ping") sockets. To allow such sockets, sysadmin should provide net/ipv4/ping_group_range sysctl range to match any group of the user.


raw Use only raw sockets (the traditional way).
This way is tried first by default (for compatibility
reasons), then new dgram icmp sockets as fallback.

dgram Use only dgram icmp sockets.
tcp -TWell-known modern method, intended to bypass firewalls.
Uses the constant destination port (default is 80, http).

If some filters are present in the network path, then most probably any "unlikely" udp ports (as for default method) or even icmp echoes (as for icmp) are filtered, and whole tracerouting will just stop at such a firewall. To bypass a network filter, we have to use only allowed protocol/port combinations. If we trace for some, say, mailserver, then more likely -T -p 25 can reach it, even when -I can not.

This method uses well-known "half-open technique", which prevents applications on the destination host from seeing our probes at all. Normally, a tcp syn is sent. For non-listened ports we receive tcp reset, and all is done. For active listening ports we receive tcp syn+ack, but answer by tcp reset (instead of expected tcp ack), this way the remote tcp session is dropped even without the application ever taking notice.

There is a couple of options for tcp method:

Sets specified tcp flags for probe packet, in any

Sets the flags field in the tcp header exactly to num.

ecn Send syn packet with tcp flags ECE and CWR (for Explicit
Congestion Notification, rfc3168).

Use the corresponding tcp header option in the outgoing
probe packet.

sysctl Use current sysctl (/proc/sys/net/*) setting for the tcp
header options above and ecn. Always set by default, if
nothing else specified.

Use value of num for maxseg tcp header option (when syn).

info Print tcp flags of final tcp replies when the target host
is reached. Allows to determine whether an application
listens the port and other useful things.

Default options is syn,sysctl.
tcpconnAn initial implementation of tcp method, simple using connect(2) call, which does full tcp session opening. Not recommended for
normal use, because a destination application is always affected (and can be confused).
udp -UUse udp datagram with constant destination port (default 53, dns).
Intended to bypass firewall as well.

Note, that unlike in tcp method, the correspond application on the destination host always receive our probes (with random data), and most can easily be confused by them. Most cases it will not respond to our packets though, so we will never see the final hop in the trace. (Fortunately, it seems that at least dns servers replies with something angry).

This method is allowed for unprivileged users.
udplite -ULUse udplite datagram for probes (with constant destination port, default 53).

This method is allowed for unprivileged users.


Set udplite send coverage to num.
dccp -DUse DCCP Request packets for probes (rfc4340).

This method uses the same "half-open technique" as used for TCP.
The default destination port is 33434.


Set DCCP service code to num (default is 1885957735).
raw -P protoSend raw packet of protocol proto.
No protocol-specific headers are used, just IP header only.
Implies -N 1 -w 5 .

Use IP protocol proto (default 253).


To speed up work, normally several probes are sent simultaneously. On the other hand, it creates a “storm of packages”, especially in the reply direction. Routers can throttle the rate of ICMP responses, and some of replies can be lost. To avoid this, decrease the number of simultaneous probes, or even set it to 1 (like in initial traceroute implementation), i.e. -N 1

The final (target) host can drop some of the simultaneous probes, and might even answer only the latest ones. It can lead to extra “looks like expired” hops near the final hop. We use a smart algorithm to auto-detect such a situation, but if it cannot help in your case, just use -N 1 too.

For even greater stability you can slow down the program’s work by -z option, for example use -z 0.5 for a half-second pause between probes.

To avoid an extra waiting, we use adaptive algorithm for timeouts (see -w option for more info). It can lead to premature expiry (especially when response times differ at times) and printing “*” instead of a time. In such a case, switch this algorithm off, by specifying -w with the desired timeout only (for example, -w 5).

If some hops report nothing for every method, the last chance to obtain something is to use ping -R command (IPv4, and for nearest 8 hops only).

Back to Command Help page.

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