My last post about Traceroute got some interesting conversation going on in the comments.

Basically there is quite a big difference in the way in which Windows and Linux handle traceroute. I tested on both Windows 7 and Ubuntu 10.04, but my guess is that all Windows follow the same format as do all *nix’s (please let me know if otherwise though!)

I would recommend reading the above post again quickly to get all the basics out the way before we delve into the differences.

Step-wise, this is what happens on Windows:

  • The OS send a DNS PTR request to to get the hostname for
  • I get a DNS PTR response giving me a hostname
  • The OS send an ICMP ECHO request with a TTL of 1
  • I get an ICMP TTL Exceeded packet back from my local router
  • 3 & 4 above happens twice more
  • The OS send a DNS PTR request to my local router
  • My local router responds with it’s hostname
  • The cycle above (3-7) is then repeated with a TTL of 2, then 3 and so on
  • We finally get to – which sends back an ICMP ECHO reply – Once I get 3 the job is complete.

Ubuntu does this completely differently though. Step-wise this is what’s going on:

  • The OS immidiately sent 3 UDP packets with a high port number straight to with a TTL of 1
  • The local router responded with 3X ICMP TTL Exceeded message
  • The above (1 & 2) is then repeated until we get to
  • does not generate a ICMP ECHO reply as an ECHO request was not sent. Rather we get 3 ICMP Code 3 (Port unreachable) replies
  • The OS now throws out 7 DNS PTR request specifically to each IP it determined in the path from above (Including iself!)
  • As soon as all the replies come, the job is complete.

The main differences are that Windows will send a DNS PTR request from the start, then send ICMP ECHO requests. At each hop it’ll send a DNS PTR request and then move onto the next hop. Linux starts with sending UDP packets to a high port number straight away. When it finally gets to the last hop it’ll then send out a mass DNS PTR request to every hop in the path that it has determined.