What You Should Know About Pings and Traceroutes

As I wrote in my recent weekly newsletter, using the ping command on your computer is an easy way to check if a website is down or if the problem is with your computer. Using the ping command in the command prompt window on your computer might seem like something only computer science teachers and students should do, but the reality is that any teacher or student can benefit from knowing how to do it because it provides a quick and reliable way to determine whether or not a website is down. 

Here’s a demonstration of how to conduct a ping on a Mac and here’s a demo of how to do it on a Windows computer.  

A traceroute shows you all of the traffic hops (connections) between your computer and a destination (often a website, but not always). This information can be useful in determining where the connection between your computer and a destination breaks down. In other words, it’s a simple network diagnostics tool. Running a traceroute is also an interesting way for students to see where in the world traffic is going to and coming from. Run a few traceroutes with your students and see if they’re surprised by what they see. Here’s a demo of how to run a traceroute on a Mac and here’s how it’s done on a Windows computer.


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