When you're playing an online video game, Ping can make the difference between an incredible gaming experience and one that leaves you feeling frustrated. The good news is that you can take control of your destiny and lower your Ping with a few easy steps.
I've been in your shoes before and felt the frustration of my character standing still while I mashed the controls. By the time things started moving on-screen again, my comrades were gone, and I was lying in a pool of virtual blood.
Fast forward to today, and I'm wiser, having learned how to address these problems. While I no longer game as much, this article will hopefully help you fix your online gaming woes.
What is Ping in Online Games?
Ping is a measurement of time that data requires to travel between two points over a network. Having a low ping means that data travels to and from the server more quickly, resulting in a smoother gaming experience.
Anything under 50ms is considered pretty good; you should not notice any lags in gaming or loading any website or web services. Once that number starts to creep upwards, the lag will become increasingly apparent.
From experience, once you encounter a Ping rate of above 150ms, the chances of getting pwned in online games start increasing.
Factors that Affect Ping
Many factors affect Ping in online games. Some of these factors are the type of game you play, and the distance data needs to travel. For example, if you play a First Person Shooter (FPS) game, the Ping will differ significantly from a Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG).
Here are some of the most significant factors that affect Ping;
Distance Between Your Device and the Game Server
Data takes time to travel over distances. As the distance involved increases, the longer the time it takes. Because of this, how far the game server is from your physical location affects Ping.
Many popular gaming services understand this and set up regional servers to help lower Ping. One example is Blizzard, which operates game servers in multiple data centers worldwide for Battle.net.
The Processing Power of Your Device
Although technically, Ping only refers to the time taken for data to travel, how quickly your device responds to the data also affects your gaming experience. A slow device may struggle to manage large amounts of data.
Capabilities of your WiFi Router
Like your device, the router that manages your network needs to be sufficiently powerful to handle the data it receives. There are many router brands and models that differ in capabilities.
Today, many router brands offer gaming routers equipped with more powerful processors and significant amounts of RAM (memory) that help them maintain smooth gaming experiences.
Simultaneous Users on Your Network
Tied into the capabilities of your router is the number of simultaneous devices (or users). For example, the router may need to handle your online gaming while your parents stream Netflix and your sibling watches YouTube.
The heavier the load on the router, the more likely it needs time to split resources among the various demands.
Aside from the distance that data travels, the amount of data is another factor in your gaming experience. Data amount is generally affected by your game settings – especially video quality.
Playing your online game on maximum quality settings usually means slower performance. If your Internet speed isn't sufficient, the same will likewise lag.
How to Improve Ping Times
Now you're aware of the factors that affect Ping, you can work towards keeping it low. However, keep in mind that some factors may be out of your control. For example, not all game operators will provide a server close to your location.
1. Optimize Your Device
Poorly performing devices aren't always the result of sub-par components. You might have the newest computer that still struggles with an online game you're trying to play. The main reason for this is often an excessive number of background tasks that slow your system down.
Check the background tasks running on your device and try to disable as many as you can safely do before rerunning the game. You may notice a performance improvement.
2. Switch to LAN instead of WiFi
WiFi is convenient since you don't need wires threading all over your home. However, many older routers may not handle WiFi well. For example, today, we have WiFi 6, which is much faster than the previous generation of WiFi routers.
Instead of forking out cash to buy the latest router, you can try switching to a LAN cable when playing an online game. Make sure you're using the correct LAN cables for the best performance. I recommend using Cat 5 or better lines for your connection.
3. Use a Virtual Private Network
If you still feel that the online game is laggy, it may be affected by the quality of your Internet connection. Just because your service provider sells you a 100Mbps package doesn't mean you always get that full speed.
Run an Internet speed test (You can use SpeedTest.net) to see how fast your line is at the moment. If your line speed is too slow, network congestion may be affecting it.
Internet providers sometimes throttle speeds during periods of excessive demand. Try using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and connecting to a point near your game server to work past this. I highly recommend NordVPN (see my NordVPN review) to improve your gaming experience.
4. Reset Your Router
Routers sometimes get overwhelmed by high usage and can perform less than ideally. If your game suddenly lags, you may need to reset your router. There are two ways of resetting your router – via the power button or by selecting “Reboot” via the router web administration panel.
5. Temporarily Disable Antivirus Applications
We all need antivirus applications to keep our devices safe. However, many antivirus applications today are massive resource hogs. Try temporarily disabling your antivirus application and see if your game performance improves.
If it does, your antivirus application probably interfered with the game connection. There are two ways you can potentially resolve this. The first is to open the firewall settings in your antivirus application and allow the game application through the firewall. The second is to swap to a different antivirus program.
6. Upgrade Your Router
If your router is older than a couple of years, you may need to consider upgrading to a newer model. Router manufacturers have made great leaps forward in recent times and now offer powerful consumer routers for home use.
One of my favorite brands is Asus, but Netgear and TP-Link also offer an impressive lineup of modern routers. I've created a list of Best WiFi Routers for Home, and many of them are extremely powerful – good enough to game with.
7. Connect to a Different Game Server
Sometimes, game servers get overpopulated by users. While game operators try to mitigate this, it may help if you swap to another less-populated server. Ideally, choose one that nearby your location for improved speeds.
If you aren't sure of the available servers, contact the game support team. Explain the issue you're facing and ask which server may help reduce your Ping.
8. Update Your Device Drivers
Because games often rely heavily on graphics drivers, updating your drivers may improve performance. Ideally, always keep all your drivers and applications updated as it also increases the security of your device.
Most of the time, your operating system will perform core updates. However, graphics card drivers often need to be updated separately. If you're using an NVIDIA card, update the drivers via the GeForce Experience dashboard. AMD card users can use the Radeon update tool.
9. Upgrade Your internet Package
If you have too many users at home sharing the Internet line, it may struggle to cope with the limited bandwidth available. Upgrading to a faster line package may help improve your game experience.
Today, 100Mbps lines are common but get an even faster speed if possible. I'm running a 500Mbps line, and it's simply fantastic. Of course, be prepared to pay more for a speedier Internet package.
10. Cool Down Your Router
Processing high amounts of data on your router may increase the risk of it overheating. While this won't usually happen on most routers, I have seen some run hot. Unfortunately, there's not much you can do about this except turn it off and cool down for a while.
Another option is to strap on a third-party cooling solution like some external fans. Not all routers will support this, though. I recall that the Asus AC86U and AX86U have custom fans available on Amazon.
We would all have fantastic equipment and game servers close by where we live in an ideal world. Sadly, that's not possible, and Ping will always be a factor that affects our gaming experience.
While it's impossible to eliminate high Ping in online games, paying attention to your device, settings, and configuration can go a long way in improving Ping times.
If you're still facing high Ping times and excessive game lags after trying the solutions above, leave a comment, and I'll try to help if possible.