Diagnosing Packet Loss / Intermittent Connections (using WinMTR)

The problem....

So, this is the scenario - you're playing on your server of choice (which should totally be one of ours - wink wink). Suddenly you start jumping around, rubber banding, your shots don't hit their mark or your actions don't seem to be doing anything. Suddenly, you see the dreaded packet loss mark, or worse yet, you see the dreaded DISCONNECTED message.

What do you do? Well, that somewhat depends on the circumstance. If you were the only one to have this issue, more than likely it's an issue directly with your internet connection, however if you're seeing more than just yourself having this issue, that gives a bit more of an indication there's a larger issue at play.

Packet loss can present itself when any part of the chain of devices (or the wires that connect them) are damaged, under stress, are misconfigured, or are cut off from the network. This includes your home network, the network of your Internet Service Provider (ISP) or the game server itself.

So how do you tell which one is at fault? Here's a few questions to answer:

  • Is this issue affecting me?
  • Is this issue affecting others?
  • Is this issue affecting everyone on the server?

By answering the above, we get somewhat of an indication.

If it's affecting just yourself, then it's an issue with your home network, or your internet connection. Server Providers as a general rule (unless you're doing bad things with your internet connection such as DDoSing) will not single you out to block your connection to their services. More than likely if you drop connection and it's just you, you will lose connection to other services such as Discord, Youtube etc. If this is the case you will need to call your ISP to get them to fix the issue.

If it's affecting other people but not all on the server, this is generally ISP or location related. More than likely you will find all the people having this connection issue are either from the same area/country, or are using the same ISP. But why? Packets are routed around the internet by routers (duhh) and if these routers are experiencing difficulties (or in some cases cannot find a route to the server) your connection will drop, or become intermittent as the router attempts to find another pathway to the server IP. If you're on the same ISP as others who have this issue, you'll find it's the ISP's router you're going through that's experiencing difficulty (or simply a cable got cut - oops). If this is the case you will need to call your ISP to get them to fix the issue.

If it's affecting everyone on the server, then this is a server issue. This could be the server is overloaded, is experiencing a large scale DDoS attack (Distributed Denial of Service), or the game that is being hosted on the server is having a bad time/is overloaded. If packet loss is considerable and is over a long period of time, then having a chat to your server provider is in order.

How do I find out where the problem is?

So fortunately you don't need to go crawling through the cableways of your ISP to determine the cause of the problem - the internet is a wonderful place with tools to find network issues - one such tool is called WinMTR (or just MTR - WinMTR is for Windows, MTR is for Linux, but they're technically the same thing...). So, we're going to use WinMTR to find the source of our problem.

  1. Download the WinMTR software, and save it to your computer - it can be downloaded from SourceForge via this link - https://sourceforge.net/projects/winmtr/
  2. Unzip the package and run the software - if you're on a 32 bit system open the WinMTR_x32 folder and open the application inside named WinMTR.exe - otherwise if you're on a 64 bit system select the open the WinMTR_x64 folder and open the application inside named WinMTR.exe
  3. You will be greeted with the box below when the application opens - here within the Host: text box you will need to input the IP address of the server you are having issues with (for example, You can also use URL's if you'd like to check connectivity to a particular website (for example southnode.net).

  4. Once you fill out the Host: box, click the Start button to begin testing. You'll start to see where your internet connection is routing you to, and all the different hops in between!
  5. So what do you do with all this info? Well it's pretty simple - each one of these entries under the "Hostname" is a router of some sort, with your home internet first, and the destination last (As indicated in the above picture with a dlink router first, and the southnode.net website last). The main one we want to see is the "Loss %" column - if you're dropping packets/experiencing connection issues, you will see this "Loss %" column to be higher than 0. Note: it is common practice among some service providers to rate limit the ICMP traffic that MTR uses. This can give the illusion of packet loss when there is in fact no loss. To determine if the loss you’re seeing is real or due to rate limiting, take a look at the subsequent hop. If that hop shows a loss of 0.0%, then you are likely seeing ICMP rate limiting and not actual loss.

    What you're looking for is where the "Loss %" starts, but continues to be loss down the page. For example if you had Loss % that starts from your home router and goes all the way down the line - the issue is with your home router. If it starts somewhere in the middle and continues down, then it's somewhere midway through the connection. If the only Loss % is at the server itself, then the issue is with the server - so realistically, we should only be looking at the last few lines and working our way up to find a problem. Easy, right?

    Lets give some examples:

    Good connection - no issues in the routing:

    Good connection with ISP router denying ICMP requests (Still normal):

    ISP issue - routing experiences issues midway through, and continues down the line:

    Server issue - routing issues right at the destination with no real issues prior:

    If you're experiencing Packet Loss or Connection issues and you report this to us, a Southnode Support team member will request one of these WinMTR reports from you - to generate this report, you can click the "Export TEXT" button within WinMTR and send this within a ticket to our support staff who can assist you further.
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