Every split-second in an online multiplayer counts and is usually the difference between winning and losing. This makes lag arguably the biggest bane to optimal gameplay for online gamers, which usually points to high ping rates. Unfortunately, lag can never be totally eliminated, but on the flip side, it can be minimized. In this article, we'll go over how to reduce ping and improve internet speeds for online gaming.
What is Ping?
Often, ping and latency are used interchangeably, but they do have a few finer differences. Latency, on the one hand, refers to the time it takes for data to transfer from your device to a server, typically measured in milliseconds. In other words, it's your internet connection's reaction speed.
On the other hand, ping is the unit used to measure latency. It shows the number of milliseconds it takes a signal to travel from your computer to a server and back, which explains why it's called ping. In gaming context, it's the time it takes an online game to recognize your gameplay.
What Affects Ping Speed?
Ping is primarily affected by internet connection speed. Subsequently, speed is mainly affected by the amount of data a network is juggling, plus the number of users on the network at the same time. The higher the traffic and more connected devices, the higher the ping and latency.
What is Good Ping for Gaming?
Good ping rates vary from one game to another. However, this is what different ping rates generally mean when you're playing online games:
- Under 20ms: Excellent. Clean, crisp visuals and snappy reaction times.
- 20-50ms: Very good. Smooth and responsive gameplay, common for gamers on both local and regional servers
- 50-10oms: Fair. Occasional lags and a fair dip in performance. Common for gamers connected to international servers
- 100-30oms: Poor. Regular lags and pixelated graphics. Not entirely unplayable, but gaming can be incredibly frustrating.
- Over 300ms: Bad. Noticeable lag and response time delays, stuttering graphics. Virtually unplayable.
By and large, you want your latency to fall below 150ms. Any higher, and the game might start to get annoying. As much as hitting 20ms or lower is pretty difficult, having it around 100ms or lower should be fine for most gamers.
Why is Your Ping High?
There are multiple reasons that can affect your internet connection speed, causing high ping, even with a good connection. Unfortunately, most of them aren't within your control:
1. ISP Throttling
Sometimes, your internet service provider can slow down your connection intentionally, depending on your online activity. This is called (ISP) throttling. ISPs typically throttle users whose internet connections request high bandwidth, allowing them to manage internet bandwidth for other users.
It's also important to mind the difference between upload and download speeds. Upload speeds refer to how quickly your computer can send data to other computers, say a server. Conversely, download speeds measure how quickly data is pushed from a server to your computer.
ISPs usually market their download speeds. Check the uploads speed as well before getting a subscription. That's because, in gaming, upload speeds often have a bigger effect on response time and online game performance.
2. Outdated Hardware
The quality of your PC and router can also affect your internet speeds, even when you have a stable connection. That said, most gaming PCs, laptops and gaming routers are designed to handle and process massive data packets. Therefore, they can routinely withstand the typical amount of load expected from online gaming.
3. Firewall Configuration
Firewalls are engineered to check data packets sent from and received by your computer for security purposes. Unfortunately, these checking processes can take longer than expected, particularly when gaming. The delay can be a matter of milliseconds, but it still reduces internet connection speed noticeably, thus lowers your ping.
To fix this, you can disable the firewall for your game. But you also have to keep in mind that making these exceptions can make you a target for malicious data packets.
How to Lower Ping and Internet Speed
Needless to say, to reduce in-game lag, you need to lower your ping. Here's how you can look to improve ping for a better online gaming experience.
1. Internet Speed Test
Image Source: flickr.com
For starters, you'd need to test your ping to determine how good it is. Remember, a good internet connectivion doesn't always imply good speeds and ping rates. Latency and packet loss should be the key metrics to assess when it comes to playing online games.
You can visit speedtest.net to run a quick online ping test. The site is pretty reliable in giving you a realistic picture of your network strength and stability since it shows ping, download and uploads speeds.
You can also consider pinging a specific gaming server on your own if you can find its IP address online. If you have lower ping than the one in-game, but you're still have lag, then it might be a hardware problem. However, if you have high latency, the network or router might be the problem.
2. Reassess Router Setup
Like any other device, a router equally needs a bit of maintenance to keep it working optimally. You can consider:
- Clearing the router's cache. Perform a hard reset on the unit to clear cookies completely and get rid of the internet cache that bogs down devices.
- Reposition your router. Obstacles in the way of signals, such as walls, can obstruct wireless connectivity, meaning it would be best to place the router in an open space and maybe at a higher spot for optimal connection. You can also realign the antennas.
- Update firmware. Outdated firmware can slow down routers, so ensure yours is up to date.
3. Computer Maintenance
It might sound unrelated, but cleaning your computer can go a long way in improving your connection. Your PC is always exposed to dust one way or the other. When it builds up, it can cause overheating, consequently leading to operations slowing down overall.
It could also happen that your PC is sluggish and your internet is laggy because of a virus or malware. Therefore, it would be important to install a reliable anti-virus program to scan your computer routinely.
If you use a wired connection, you might also want to look at your ethernet cable. These cables typically come in a range of categories between Cat 3 and Cat 8. Generally, the higher the category number, the better the internet bandwidth and transmission speed. Most online gamers should be fine with a Cat 5 or higher since these can run internet speeds of 1,000 Mbps or more.
More Tips to Lower Lag and Fix Ping
Ultimately, you might have to make some trade-offs to have a smooth gaming experience:
1. Close Background Apps and Programs
Some applications and programs can use internet bandwidth in the background, interfering with high-priority tasks such as gaming. By closing them, you focus all the resources on the important processes. Some applications to consider closing include Twitch, Zoom, Spotify or Netflix.
It's worth noting that you should never compromise video game security for lower ping. Disabling your VPN or gaming security software for faster connectivity can massively put your computer and data at risk.
2. Disable Updates Temporarily
Auto-updates and syncing take up a lot of data bandwidth, especially when you're on a WiFi connection. If you experience lag and connection issues when playing online games, consider disabling updates temporarily, but remember to enable them when you're done.
3. Use Ethernet Rather than Wireless Connection
As mentioned earlier, a wireless connection can be affected by obstacles in the way. Furthermore, WiFi is often split between multiple users and devices. This makes a wired connection the better option since the Ethernet cable is plugged directly into your computer; think of it like an IV drip.
However, if WiFi is the only option available, ensure you're on a 5GHz network rather than 2.4GHz.
4. Remove Other Devices from the Network
Just like background apps and programs that tug and pull on your WiFi connection, other connected devices are also doing the same. Considering how many smart devices and appliances are found in the modern home, it's easy to see why your internet connection might be getting overwhelmed.
Therefore, consider removing other devices and users from the network when you experience lag in your online game.
5. Enable Game Mode
Windows 10 has a Game Mode feature that allows you to focus resources on the gaming experience. It stops updates from installing drivers, which helps to reduce latency and get a more stable frame rate.
Here is how to enable Game Mode:
- Open Settings.
- Select Gaming option.
- Click on Game Mode tab
- Set it to On.
6. Choose the Nearest Game Server
Naturally, the shorter the distance to the server, the shorter the amount of time needed to transfer data, thus a lower ping. Therefore, you always want to connect to the game server closest to your physical location. Fortunately, some games let you choose the particular server to connect to.
7. Adjust Frame Rate
As much as gaming visuals are ever evolving to impressive heights, it comes at a cost. It takes more resources to compute HD quality than standard, which can also throttle your ping.
If you're experiencing high ping, it would be best to optimize the game's settings, starting with frame rate. A high frame rate gives you smoother animation but also compromises ping speed. Try lowering the game's frame rate if you experience lag in your online game.
8. Upgrade Router
Sometimes, it's probably just your router growing long in the tooth that's causing lag. As such, you might consider getting a newer router to get wider ranger and stronger signals for a better internet connection. Consider getting a 5GHz router rather than a 2.4GHz since it gives you faster speeds at a shorter range.
Serious gamers can also get a dedicated gaming router. These are optimized for gaming and are designed to prioritize gaming traffic over other internet traffic.
9. Install Ping Boosters
Some software engineers have developed programs that can help you lower high ping. These practical applications, such as ExitLag or KillPing, are pretty handy when you want to reduce lag and jitters on online games.
10. Talk to Your Internet Service Provider
If you still have high ping after jumping through all the hoops, it might be best to call in with the professionals. They are arguably better equipped to help you lower ping and lag when playing an online game.
It might equally be time to upgrade to a higher internet package or change your ISP altogether. If you choose to get a new provider, it would be best to conduct thorough research to ensure you subscribe to a company that provides a consistent, lag-free internet connection.
Every gamer wants a buttery gaming experience, and a fair part of it entails lowering ping. Each of these tips might not deliver drastic results individually, but combined, they can make a world of difference in your gaming performance. So now that you know how to lower your ping, what's stopping you from improving your gameplay and scaling up those leaderboard rankings?
Featured Image Source: flickr.com