What is Routing and a Routing table in Linux?

The process of routing means the transfer of an IP packet, from one point to another over the network. When you send an email to someone, you are actually transmitting a series of IP packets or datagrams from your system to the other person’s computer. The packets that are sent from your computer pass through several gateways, or routers, to reach to the destination computer system. The same approach holds true for all internet protocols such as HTTP, IRC, and FTP, etc.

In all Linux and UNIX systems, the information about how to forward the IP packets are stored in a kernel structure. These structures are called routing tables. When you want your system to communicate with other computers, you might want to configure these routing tables. First, it is important to learn how to view these routing tables on your Linux system.

In this article, we will explain how to view the routing table in Ubuntu through the following three popular commands:

  • The netstat command
  • The route command
  • The ip route command

We have run the commands and procedures mentioned in this article on a Ubuntu 18.04 LTS system.

We are using the Ubuntu command line, the Terminal, in order to run the above-mentioned commands. You can open the Terminal either through the system Dash or the Ctrl+Alt+T shortcut.

How to View Routing Table?

Method 1: Through the netstat command

The netstat command has always been a widely used method of printing routing table information in Linux. However, it is officially replaced by the ip route command. We are including it anyways as it is still an approach to retrieve the required information.

Here is how you can use this command:

$ netstat -rn

-r This flag is used to display the Kernel routing tables

-n This flag is used to display the numerical addresses

View routing table with netstat

This is what the output indicates:

Destination This column indicates the destination network.
Gateway This column indicates the defined gateway for the network. If you see an * in this column, it means that no forwarding gateway is needed for the specified network.
Genmask This column indicates the netmask of the network.
Flags The U output in this columns means that the route is up. The G output indicates that specified gateway should be used for this route. D stands for dynamically installed, M stands for modified, and R means reinstated.
MSS This column indicates the default Maximum Segment Size(MSS) for TCP connections for this route.
Window This column indicates the default window size for TCP connections over this route.
Irtt This column indicates the Initial Round Trip Time for this route.
Iface The Iface column shows the network interface. If you had more than one interface, you would see lo (for loopback), eth0 (first Ethernet device), and eth1 (for the second Ethernet device), and so on for the number of interfaces you have installed.

Method 2: Through the route command

The route command also falls under the category of once widely used but now obsolete command to view routing tables. The manual page of this command also mentions that the command is now replaced by the ip route command.

Through this command, you can view exactly the same information that you could, through the netstat command. Here is how you can use it:

$ route -n

-n This flag is used to display the numerical addresses only

List of routes shown by route command

Method 3: Through the ip route command

Last but not least, here is the most recommended way of printing routing table information in Linux. Here is how to use this command:

$ ip route

Using ip command to list routes

Though this information is not much reader-friendly as that of the previously mentioned commands, it is still enough for you to configure the router.

These were a few commands to view the routing table information in Ubuntu. Though the ip route command in not neat looking, it is still the most recommended way of looking up for relevant routing table information. Though the other commands are considered obsolete, they are sometimes really helpful in deriving what you need to extract.

How to View the Network Routing Table in Ubuntu

Karim Buzdar

About the Author: Karim Buzdar holds a degree in telecommunication engineering and holds several sysadmin certifications. As an IT engineer and technical author, he writes for various web sites. You can reach Karim on LinkedIn