The problem becomes particularly pronounced when split-second stutters or delays in the game responding to commands can be the difference between winning a match and, quite literally, in-game life and death.
With the ubiquity of good internet and an arsenal of developer-side optimization techniques, lingering ping issues are somewhat unfathomable in this day and age. Nevertheless, there are quite a few tweaks we can make from home to reduce ping.
We’ve compiled these for easy access with our comprehensive guide of on how to reduce ping regardless of your game of choice.
What Is Ping?
In common usage, ping is a misnomer and a kind of misdirected eponym. Ping is a networking software utility designed to measure latency.
More technically, it calculates the length in milliseconds of the round-trip from a host to a destination machine and then back by emitting Internet Control Message Protocol echo requests packets.
Put simply; latency is the length of time a packet (datagram or morsel of data) takes to reach a destination computer and then return, while ping is the software used to measure latency. When we refer to ping, we are in reality talking about latency.
How does this apply to gaming? It’s quite simple. The shorter amount of time it takes for packets to reach a server, the less lag a player will experience. Conversely, a higher latency results in more lag.
A Wired Ethernet Connection Is Always Better
In today’s world of wireless pervasiveness, it feels odd to recommend a wired connection, but when it comes to ping, there quite simply is no better way to reduce it.
WiFi is by its very nature battling with a myriad of signals from 4G mobile phone networks, your neighbor’s router, and physical obstacles such as walls. By completely removing these impediments from the equation, data is transmitted faster, reducing ping. A wired ethernet connection is a must for any serious gamer.
Most desktop computers come with a PCI-Express card, and it’s as straightforward as linking to your modem or router with a standard IEEE 802.3 ethernet cable.
Plugging in an ethernet capable and testing your latency is also the ideal way to pin down problems. If your ping fails to improve, the likelihood is that the problem originates with your router or your internet service provider.
Improving Your WiFi Connection
If – against our better judgment and accepted wisdom – you’re sticking staunchly to a wireless connection then a few tips should help reduce ping.
As above, the building blocks of every home or building can act as obstacles to a WiFi signal. The weaker the signal, the higher the ping. Moving your computer closer to your modem or router helps improve the signal, and by extension reduces ping.
In a similar vein, limiting the number of devices (phones, computers, tablets, consoles, printers, etc.) and people that access the same WiFi network can open up valuable bandwidth and improve ping. Bandwidth is shared equally among devices so if you are sharing a connection with a family member toying around on their phone; they are eating into valuable bandwidth.
It can be as simple as turning off another computer or turning off a phone’s connection to the WiFi network.
Turn Off Background Software and Updates
With the various apps and software running concurrently on our devices, it’s more than likely than any given moment one of these is either updating or downloading.
A common culprit is Steam, that unless told otherwise downloads updates while playing games. To turn off the feature, navigate to the ”Preferences”, then select ”Downloads” from the left-hand menu, and untick ”Allow downloads during gameplay”.
Additionally, turning off torrents or background updates/programs, such as Adobe Flash Player and anti-virus software, can significantly increase bandwidth, which can then redirected towards receiving and delivering game packets. Load up Task Manager, rank services by networking percentage usage, and check that only essential services are running.
Closing perpetually-updating websites such as Discord (especially voice channels) can also take some strain off your connection. The same applies to stream services like Netflix that tend to buffer when left open in a browser mid-episode. Shutting down your browser is a sure fire way to plug any potential leaks of this kind.
Disable Windows Updates
Windows Updates is also a repeat offender and disabling updates while in-game can make a drastic difference:
- Hit the Windows key and R, then type in ”services.msc” and tap ”OK”.
- In the window that appears, navigate down to ”Windows Update” among the service list on the right-hand side.
- Right-click and choose ”Properties”.
- From there, set the ”Startup type” to ”Disabled”, then click ”Stop” under ”Service Status” just below.
We do, however, recommend only turning off Windows Updates for gaming sessions then turning it back on afterward. Microsoft provides frequent updates to ensure the integrity of the Windows environment and exploit fixes to boot.
If you run a VPN when accessing the internet, reverting to a standard connection is recommended. VPNs reroute connections via distant servers for anonymity purposes, increasing latency by a significant amount.
Keep Your PC Virus Free
Having a robust anti-virus and running a malware removal tool every so often can rid your machine of unwanted bandwidth eating trojans and malware, notwithstanding protecting your personal information.
Turn Off Location Services
Windows has inbuilt location services that track your exact location. Creepiness aside, it can eat up bandwidth surreptitiously. To turn the feature off, visit ”Settings”, then navigate to the ”Privacy” icon towards the bottom left of the options. In the left-hand menu, choose ”Location” and turn ”Location Service” to off.
Show Your Modem/Router Some Love
A modem or router; that discrete little box with a Christmas tree array of flashing lights that sits quietly in the corner of your living room needs upkeep once in a while.
Periodically restarting your modem/router is highly recommended. The main benefit of restarting is resetting the DNS cache which can get clogged with obsolete data, and wipes out any memory leaks and bugged processes that surface from prolonged use. Equally valuable, it resets your IP and connection with your ISP, removing any packet loss issues.
Like the components in a top of the range gaming machine, routers and modems get outdated, replaced by better and more efficient models. If your ping is awful, then one option is to visit your local electronics outlet and invest in a brand new model.
Nowadays, you can also buy gaming routers geared to offer the best online gaming experience with purpose appropriate settings and hardware.
Talk To Your ISP
Depending on your ISP, your broadband connection may fall foul to bandwidth limiting especially at peak times (early evening). It’s worth shopping around for a provider that doesn’t shape bandwidth, notably if you are coming to the end of your contract.
If you are subscribed to a standard broadband package, taking the step up to fiber is recommended. Prices are increasingly competitive, and with ISPs eager for consumers to switch, they often run deals to entice people.
Although it may take some insistence on your part, ISPs can run diagnostics able to pick up issues such as faulty physical connections at the local exchange. If your phone calls are persistently marred by ambient static and noise, then chances are the connection isn’t performing to its maximum capacity.
Game Servers Matter
Most of the bigger online games offer region-specific servers. Choosing the one appropriate to your physical location, or at least as close as possible, helps ping.
Take for example League of Legends. If you live in the US, but play on the Korea server, then you are asking your computer to send and receive information with a server on the other side of the world.
Getting even more specific helps as well. If you live in say the Czech Republic, and you connect to the EU West server than you are straining the connection far more than logging into the EU Nordic & East server.
Regularly update your game to the latest patch. Developers are continually making small optimization changes that can improve ping quite significantly. The same applies to clients like Steam and EA’s Origins.
The Final Word
Running through all the above should reduce your ping across all games. Chances are a small change results in a drastic improvement to your latency.
Rubberbanding and lag will be a thing of the past, and you’ll no longer have any excuses for not nabbing that coveted Victory Royale.
The UK-based journalist and gamer, Thomas, describes himself as a man of few words with an unhealthy obsession for everything wonderful about the world of gaming. Thanks to his experience in the gaming industry, he brings a wealth of talent into GamingScan.