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How can I passively monitor the packet loss on TCP connections to/from my machine?

Basically, I'd like a tool that sits in the background and watches TCP ack/nak/re-transmits to generate a report on which peer IP addresses "seem" to be experiencing heavy loss.

Most questions like this that I find of SF suggest using tools like iperf. But, I need to monitor connections to/from a real application on my machine.

Is this data just sitting there in the Linux TCP stack?

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For a general sense of the scale of your problem netstat -s will track your total number of retransmissions.

# netstat -s | grep retransmited
     368644 segments retransmited

For a deeper dive, you'll probably want to fire up Wireshark.

In Wireshark set your filter to tcp.analysis.retransmission to see retransmissions by flow.

That's the best option I can come up with.

Other dead ends explored:

  • netfilter/conntrack tools don't seem to keep retransmits
  • stracing netstat -s showed that it is just printing /proc/net/netstat
  • column 9 in /proc/net/tcp looked promising, but it unfortunately appears to be unused.
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and you can monitor the lossed packets with # watch 'netstat -s | grep retransmited' – none Oct 13 '11 at 11:53
This would show only outbound problems. "netstat -s | grep segments" appears more reasonable to me. – akostadinov Apr 17 '12 at 19:39
If you're managing a reasonable sized network, then I'd recommend pastmon over wireshark for continuous monitoring - – symcbean Nov 2 '12 at 11:12

These stats are in /proc/net/netstat and collectl will monitor them for you either interactively or written to disk for later playback:

[root@poker ~]# collectl -st
waiting for 1 second sample...
#PureAcks HPAcks   Loss FTrans
        3      0      0      0
        1      0      0      0

Of course, if you'd like to see then side-by-side with network traffic, just include n with -s:

[root@poker ~]# collectl -stn
waiting for 1 second sample...
#  KBIn  PktIn  KBOut  PktOut PureAcks HPAcks   Loss FTrans
      0      1      0       1        1      0      0      0
      0      1      0       1        1      0      0      0
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You may want to look at the dropwatch utility.

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You can use the ss tool to get detailed TCP statistics:

$ /sbin/ss -ti

Under Debian, use apt-get install iproute to get the binary.

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Note that the person asking the question was looking for a tool that they could watch the output of. While some of the commands mentioned so far don't operate this way, all of the upvoted answers included at least one method for doing so. – Andrew B Apr 6 '13 at 20:06
@AndrewB: You can do watch ss -ti. – John Zwinck Jan 22 '15 at 5:53

It looks like some guys at the University of North Carolina (UNC) built a utility to investigate exactly this:


TCP is a classic example of a legacy protocol that gets subject to modifications. Unfortunately, evaluation of something as fundamental as TCP's loss detection/recovery mechanism is not comprehensive. Our aim is to perform a complete realistic evaluation of TCP losses and its impact on TCP performance.

I rely on passive analysis of real-world TCP connections to achieve the required level of detail and realism in my analysis.


The purpose of the tool is to provide more complete and accurate results for identifying and characterizing out-of-sequence segments than those provided by prior tools such as tcpanaly, tcpflows, LEAST, and Mystery. Our methodology classifies each segment that appears out-of-sequence (OOS) in a packet trace into one of the following categories: network reordering or TCP retransmission triggered by one of timeout, duplicate ACKs, partial ACKs, selective ACKs, or implicit recovery. Further, each retransmission is also assessed for whether it was needed or not.

I won't say it is production quality. Previously I've built quick perl scripts to store ip/port/ack tuples in memory and then report on duplicated data from scanning pcap output, this looks like it provides more thorough analysis.

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