Discovering a route between you and a target
Let's run through a basic scenario where we discover the route between your computer and an interesting destination (maybe one you're having a problem with).
Normally, when troubleshooting a problem, you want to run PingPlotter against the server where you're experiencing problems. Maybe that's a web server (in which case, you'll want to enter that web server's address); maybe it's a game server (in which case you'll want to enter that game server's address). If you aren't experiencing problems with your network connection or something you access with it currently, no worries! Just try and think of something you access regularly with your Internet connection (such as www.PingPlotter.com. or www.Google.com) to use in the exercise below.
We're assuming here that you've downloaded and installed PingPlotter. If you haven't, please see the Downloading and Installing PingPlotter section for instructions on how to do so.
So load up PingPlotter, and let's get started!
1. Enter the IP Address (i.e. 220.127.116.11) or the DNS Name (i.e. www.PingPlotter.com) of a destination you may be having problems with into PingPlotter's Address to Trace: input box. Note: we just want the name of the destination. You would not enter http://www.problemserver.com/index.html here. What we want is between the "http://" and the "/index.html."
For now let's leave all the other settings you see on the screen as they are.
2. After you've typed in the address, either press the "Start" button, or press the "enter" key on your keyboard. The trace then starts, and you'll see the upper Trace Graph populate with the route information to the target you entered. The Timeline Graph for that target will be displayed also below the Trace Graph.
One thing that is kind of an 'ah ha!' moment for a lot of first time PingPlotter users is seeing that you really do have that many devices your network traffic passes through to get to web sites, servers, etc. If you click on a web page link, that 'click' is passed on by all those hops to that final web server/page, that web server executes that click, passes the information back to you through all those hops and you see it on your browser.
It's important to cover the concept of a "Sample Set," because we're going to be mentioning it a lot. The sample set is defined by the "Focus Time" value (which is right under the "Address to Trace" and "Trace Interval" fields). The "PL%" and "Avg" columns in your trace graph are all computed off of this number. If this value is set to 10, PingPlotter uses the last ten samples it's done and bases everything off that number. If it's set to 20, PingPlotter uses the last twenty traces it's done, etc. As we go through what you're actually seeing on the graphs, just remember that the "Sample Set" is based off the value in the "Focus Time" value, and that number represents the number of samples - starting with the most recent and working backwards.