How To Detect, Identify and Fix Packet Loss With Best Tools 

Last updated: January 16, 2024 Reading time: 10 minutes
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How To Detect, Identify and Fix Packet Loss With Best Tools

The most frustrating thing while surfing the web is slow or interrupted connections. If you ever experienced a slow and sluggish connection while using VoIP services, streaming your favorite show, or playing online games and associated it with ISP throttling, then to your shock, sometimes your ISP is not the only culprit. The reason behind the slow network speed can be packet loss.

Packet loss might sound like a new phenomenon to many users, but it isn’t. This article covers all the necessary information about packet loss that might help you, so let’s dive into it.

What is packet loss?

To understand the phenomena of packet loss, it’s essential that you first know what packets are. The data within a network is sent and received in small units called packets. It applies to everything you do online, i.e., from uploading or downloading files and images to emailing, browsing, streaming, gaming, or using VoIP services.

The packets are sent off to their destination to maintain network efficiency. This way, the network can evenly distribute the load across various pieces of equipment, ultimately enhancing performance.

Internet packet loss happens when one or more of these packets gets lost in transit during their journey. Packet loss, also known as latency, often occurs in private and wireless networks because they easily get lost when things go through the air. It is more likely to happen on long-distance internet connections because the packets must go farther, giving more room for error. 

Unsuccessful packets often slow down the network speeds and throw off the network throughput and bandwidth. As a result, you will notice that the downloads are slow, and the websites take a long time to respond. In addition, packet loss is quite noticeable when dealing with real-time activities like gaming, streaming, or VoIP services.

According to IT professionals, 1-2% of packet loss is the acceptable rate for VoIP. If this value exceeds, it causes communication delays, creates unwanted and garbled sounds, and even scrambles parts of the conversation. Hence it’s essential to look for ways to fix packet loss.

What causes packet loss

Packet loss occurs less on private or wired networks but mostly on long-distance internet connections. There are several reasons behind packet loss; most are unintentional or unknown. Knowing the causes can help you spot and fix packet loss before experiencing its effects. Here are some of the most common causes of packet loss:

Network congestion

Network congestion is the most common cause of packet loss. When a network handles more data or user requests, packets become overcrowded and take much time to reach their intended destination. This frequently happens during holidays, weekends, or peak hours of the day.

Software bugs

Unchecked bugs within your system can be a prime reason to disrupt the network performance. These bugs can appear due to extensive use or faulty software. Once the bug is introduced to your network, it will cause anomalies, resulting in delayed and lost data packets.

Damaged cables

Packet loss is often because of damaged cables. The damage can happen after every few months without any visible signs. If you reside in a region with a hot climate, the ethernet cables will most likely lose their efficiency in a year. It is because of the constant heat on the cables that melts the insulation within it. In addition, birds sitting on the ethernet cable can result in damage.

Flawed infrastructure for handling packet loss

The IT administrators use a network monitoring system and other valuable tools for network stability. However, most tools have limited functionality as they were created for a specific purpose, failing to protect the network entirely. Hence, preventing packet loss is impossible without a comprehensive network monitoring solution.

Overloaded devices

When multiple devices are connected to one network, not having enough capacity to handle it, it causes network congestion and packet loss. Though many devices have buffers to put the packets back in the patterns, these buffers can get quickly filled up and don’t speed up the network.

Wi-Fi packet loss

Wireless networks experience more issues like packets than wired networks. Radiofrequency interference weakens the signals and causes the wireless networks to drop the connection packets. Similarly, faulty wired cables can also cause hindrances while impeding signals through the cables.

Network hardware problems

Firewalls, network switches, and routers consume much power and bandwidth. Using glitchy and outdated hardware can also weakens the network. Sometimes organizations neglect to update the hardware, resulting in connectivity outages and packet loss.

Security threats 

With the changing security landscape, it is now even possible that a security breach or threat can be a reason behind packet loss. A hacker can invade the router and tells it to drop the connection packets.

If you start noticing a drop in packets or slow and sluggish network speeds, then it could be because of an attack. Hackers launch a denial-of-service attack (DoS attack) in which they flood the network with too much traffic that’s difficult to handle. The bad actors take advantage of this vulnerability and capture, alter, and delete any data packets, which results in packet loss.

How to reduce or fix packet loss

There is no universal or fixed way to fix packet loss completely. However, by following some tips, you can somehow reduce its effect. Below are the steps that you must practice to reduce packet loss:

  • Physically plug your Ethernet cord into the router and ensure the visible cables are correctly inserted into their corresponding ports. Also, do change your cables timely. 
  • Manually update your software soon you receive an alert or turn on automatic updates because software takes up much of the bandwidth causing packet loss. 
  • Outdated hardware can also result in packet loss, so upgrade your hardware when it malfunctions or displays error messages. 
  • Bandwidth congestion can also lead to packet loss. To fix this issue, track your network performance to see the congestion during a specific time of the day. Also, schedule your calls and conferences during non-peak hours. 
  • Start using Quality of Service (QoS) settings that help manage packet loss by devoting more network traffic to the most needed places. It is handy when the network is involved in intensive data-consuming activities like playing online games, using VoIP services, or streaming content.
  • By exploiting network vulnerabilities, hackers can also result in packet loss. Hence, if you suspect an attack, deeply inspect the IP logs and block unfamiliar IP addresses.

These are some tips that help in reducing packet loss. So, do practice them and ensure network stability. You can also use network performance monitoring tools to detect, troubleshoot, and fix packet loss.

8 best tools to fix packet loss

Advanced-level network monitoring software is ideal for profoundly monitoring network activity. This software tells which apps use the most bandwidth and whether packet loss exists. In addition, it also helps to optimize and troubleshoot internet-connected devices.

If you’re looking for some reliable network monitoring software, below is a quick overview of the eight best network performance monitoring tools to detect and fix packet loss:

  1. PRTG network monitoring: It helps check the lost packets and UDP packets lost and troubleshoot wireless packet loss. 
  2. SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor: It automates network device monitoring and gives an alert when the switch or traffic processing the device starts to approach its capacity limits.
  3. The Datadog Network Performance Monitoring: It offers impressive features like the Ping tests and packet sampling and monitors whether the performance issue is due to the cloud platform or the internet connection. 
  4. Nagios: It is a free, open-source network monitoring tool that offers s a configuration management module that checks the setup of each device on the network and logs it.
  5. OpManager: It offers an alarm and notification feature to stay updated with the packet information, connected devices list, and network performance regardless of location.
  6. iPerf3: It helps to tune different parameters related to the buffer protocols such as TCP, SCTP, and UDP with IPv4 and IPv6).
  7. EMCO Ping Monitor: lt calculates the connection stability based on latency and jitter metrics and provides data about the outage list, uptime percentage, latency deviation, and average latency. 
  8. Site24x7: It uses over 60 performance metrics and can detect all the devices within a specified IP range, making it easy to collect data about packet loss.

All these are paid tools, so you must use them if you have a budget; otherwise, you can practice the tips mentioned above and reduce packet loss.

How to detect packet loss

Every network experiences issues with packet loss, including your operating system. It’s crucial to find out which parts of the connections are stable versus the network sections experiencing the failure to detect where the packet loss is coming from.

Various operating systems require different steps to confirm packet loss. Below is a quick insight into the steps that users can perform to detect packet loss on macOS, Windows, and Linux:

On macOS

If you use macOS, then follow the steps below to confirm packet loss:

  1. Click on Finder > Applications > Utilities.
  2. Open the utility folder and then tap on Terminal.
  3. Type the command: Ping 127.0.0.1 and hit on Enter. 
  4. Wait a few moments for the process to run, then press Control C to stop the test. 

That’s it. Review the statistics at the bottom of the page; if one or more ping fails to respond, it means packet loss.

On Windows OS

To check if you’re experiencing packet loss in the Windows operating system then, here are the steps you must follow:

  1. Press the Windows Key + R and open the Run application. 
  2. In the Open box, type cmd and then press OK. 
  3. Type the command: Ping 127.0.0.1-t in the terminal and then press Enter. 
  4. Press Control + C to stop the packet test. 

Scrutinize the results and confirm whether there is packet loss or not. 

On Linux OS

Here are the steps for checking packet loss in the Linux operating system:

  1. Press Control T to open the Terminal. 
  2. Type in the command: Ping 127.0.0.1 and press Enter. 
  3. Review the stats displayed at the end of the test and determine if it’s a clear sign of packet loss.

Once packet loss is confirmed, looking for ways to fix it is essential. You can use various tools or practice other tips and tricks discussed in the next section.

Conclusion

Packet loss comes from frozen video, garbled VoIP calls, poor browsing, gaming, or streaming speeds. It reduces the speed and amount of data that flows through the network. The entire situation is highly frustrating for the users. Thus, it’s high time to fix the packet loss issue.

There are various tools that users can use to get around this problem. In addition, by practicing additional measures like updating the software, upgrading the software, or blocking the suspicious IP address within the network, you can fix this problem and enjoy fast internet speeds.

FAQs

The primary purpose of a packet loss test is to check the latency and packet loss of your internet connection. Several reasons cause these issues, but you can easily detect and fix them. 
Packet loss can be frustrating for users, especially while using VoIP services. Different types of apps are affected by packet loss in different ways. When downloading a file, a 10% packet loss might add one second to a ten-second download. Similarly, VoIP services might cause more packet loss. If the packet loss rate is higher, it can cause delays, or even sometimes, the packets might not reach the final destination. However, a packet loss as small as 2% remains unnoticeable and won’t cause much hindrance in the conversation.
Experts have suggested two basic steps to identify packet loss:
*Run a traceroute to the remote endpoint to determine the router hops to the destination. 
*Conduct a ping test on each router hops to check if the network is stable to a specific location or if loss starts taking place. 
Doing this type of testing can sometimes or sometimes not detect the problem, so you can use the tools described above to get the most accurate results.
Count the number of packets sent at one point on the network and the rate of packets received at the other node to calculate packet loss. Then subtract the number of packets received from the packets sent and divide the result by the number of packets sent to get the exact packet loss rate. 
A VPN might improve latency and speed up the internet, but it won’t be instrumental in fixing packet loss. When packet loss is basically because of the overloaded router, a VPN won’t help you much; thus, it will be better to use network monitoring tools to fix the issue.

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About the Author

Waqas is a cybersecurity journalist and writer who has a knack for writing technology and online privacy-focused articles. He strives to help achieve a secure online environment and is skilled in writing topics related to cybersecurity, AI, DevOps, Cloud security, and a lot more. As seen in: Computer.org, Nordic APIs, Infosecinstitute.com, Tripwire.com, and VentureBeat.

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