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In recent years many protocols for ad hoc wireless networks have been developed but very little information is available on the performance of these protocols. After describing the desirable characteristics of an ad hoc network routing protocol this paper provides an overview of four existing ad hoc wireless routing protocols, which are distance sequence distance vector (DSDV), ad hoc on demand distance vector (AODV), dynamic source routing (DSR) and temporally ordered routing algorithm (TORA). The performance comparison of these four protocols is based on simulations performed using network simulator-2. The performance parameters analyzed are the mobility rate, network load and network size. The paper describes all the parameters used for the simulations in detail and then compares each routing protocol's simulation results before arriving at a conclusion as to which is the best one for ad hoc networks.