Cisco Packet Tracer: The Basics

What is Packet Tracer

Cisco Packet Tracer (PT) is a software application that runs on Windows, MacOS, and Linux. PT simulates the Command Line Interface (CLI) of a variety of Cisco devices. It allows you to define a topology of devices connected by cables with the ability to access the CLI of each device to configure different settings. PT then provides realistic output depending on the device types, topology, and configuration.

The Cisco Networking Academy – a part of Cisco Systems, Inc – develops and offers Cisco Packet Tracer free of charge to anyone who registers for a PT class on their learning portal. Many of us may interact with the Cisco Networking Academy only by registering for the course for the purpose of downloading PT. However, take a moment to learn a few facts about the Cisco Networking Academy:

  • Developed a myriad of wonderful courses
  • Academies exist in 180 countries
  • Over 12,000 Academies

Find out more at!

Taking a class from Wendell? Check the course enrollment page for the Packet Tracer version, and ensure you install that version or later.

Current Course Schedule at O'Reilly Online

Cisco Packet Tracer: Install/Test

Step 1: Enroll in Cisco Packet Tracer Course

Around 2015, Cisco made Cisco Packet Tracer available to all, directly from Cisco. Before that, you had to be enrolled in a traditional Cisco Networking Academy course. By 2015, Cisco created some short, free, self-paced courses, available to all – and if you signed up for the course, you could download Cisco Packet Tracer. So that’s the path today to get legitimate up-to-date Cisco Packet Tracer code.

The details of how to register and how to find the download links change occasionally. Generally, you first create a free login with the Cisco Networking Academy and then enroll in a free course about Cisco Packet Tracer. From there, if you look around or just read/listen to the first bit of the course, you will find the download link.

Additionally, Cisco created a new site called Many of the e-learning training (ELT) courses from the NetAcad exist at the SkillsForAll site. So if you begin at the NetAcad website, you ‘ll actually get redirected to the SkillsForAll site.

As of early 2023, the process works like this:

  1. Open a browser to
  2. Click the “Explore” menu item, and choose “Packet Tracer”
  3. The next page shows information about a free ELT course about Packet Tracer. Enroll in the course. It will prompt you for information and set up a login if you do not have one already.

You should now be enrolled in the Cisco Network Academy / Skills For All Packet Tracer Course when finished. Bookmark the web page to quickly return to the course at any time, or just click the button below. You should consider using the course content as well as it will help you make better use of Packet Tracer!

Step 2: Download Cisco Packet Tracer

If you have just finished enrolling, you can begin the following steps on the page where you finished the previous steps. However, if you need to find your way to a good starting point for the next steps:

  1. If not already there, reach the “Introduction to Packet Tracer” course page by:
    1. Navigating to the site, which is the Academy learning portal.
    2. Launching the “Introduction to Packet Tracer” course.

From there, follow these steps to download PT. Note that these steps change from time to time, so if the steps do not match the page any longer, just keep looking. Everyone who enrolls in this course needs to download Packet Tracer, so the pages should make the download process clear.

  1. Take the course from the first page.
  2. Look for any notes about lab resources, labs, or Packet Tracer.
  3. If not there, look in the first few lessons for a lesson about downloading Packet Tracer, and navigate to that lesson.
  4. Those notes should list the download links.
  5. Download Cisco Packet Tracer for your platform: Navigate through the menus to find the latest version of PT for your OS. The correct filenames should end with:
    1. Windows:
    2. Linux:
    3. MacOS:

Once downloaded, you just need to install the software as with any other desktop app. In most cases, just double-click the file and follow the prompts.

Step 3: Test Using Packet Tracer with Downloaded Files from Class

I teach courses at, sometimes using Packet Tracer in class. For those classes, the course enrollment page should tell you:

  • The minimum Packet Tracer version to have installed and tested before class.
  • A link to a test Packet Tracer .pkt file to test with to confirm you are ready for class.

Check the course enrollment page for your course for those details. Here’s a sample process from a typical class of mine at O’

  1. Click the button above to download the “labfile.pkt” file.
  2. Start the Cisco Packet Tracer application.
  3. Note that PT should ask you to supply login information. This will be the same login you used at or when you enrolled in the Packet Tracer course and downloaded Packet Tracer. You can also should be the same username/password you used when enrolling in the Academy PT course. It is also your login to (again, free).
  4. Next, the PT app window should display an open space in the middle with no device icons in it. It is a blank palette to which you could start adding devices.
  5. Instead of building your own network, use File… Open from PT’s top menu to open the file you just downloaded. After doing so, the window should display a single router icon in the middle of the window.

If the file opens, you have proved you can download and open .pkt files for class.

Step 4: Test Using a Device CLI from Packet Tracer

In some rare instances, the installation process works, through the previous step, but then you cannot access the CLI of the network devices. Test to ensure you can access the CLI as a final test, as follows, assuming you just completed the previous step.

  1. At the end of the previous steps, you should have the Packet Tracer app started with the .pkt file open, displaying a network topology.
  2. Click on the router icon.
  3. In the next window, click the CLI tab to display the CLI window.
  4. Click inside the window and press enter to make the simulated router respond.
  5. Type the enable command and press enter. (No password will be required.)
  6. Then type the show running-config command and press enter. This command displays the current configuration on the device.

If you cannot navigate through the CLI steps, you likely have experienced this rare issue with the PT install. Repeat the installation steps to re-install PT and test again.

Miscellaneous Known Issues

The Packet Tracer app installation process fails on some Ubuntu Version 20 systems. Refer to the following link for more detail. .

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