Why improve ping?
I simply love playing Battlefield 4, Call of Duty and Counter Strike GO online, but initially I faced lots of problems with the performance in these online games due to lag caused by bad ping or latency. If you play online games or even use Skype or other online applications on a fairly regular basis then you must have come across an evil phenomenon of “Latency”. No matter how good your connection is, you will still get latency on your connection – you will only notice it once the latency increases to the point that your connection starts to lag. We all would like to decrease lag or delays on our internet connection to improve our performance in online games and / or to reduce delays in our conversation on Skype. That is what our aim will be today – to learn what causes increased latency or ping and on how to improve ping in online games ?
In this guide we will look at what causes increased latency or ping and on how to improve ping in online games ?
What is latency and ping in simple language ?
Before we look at how to improve ping in online games, I will try to explain latency and ping in as simple language as possible: In the world of internet and networking, latency means the time taken for a packet to reach the destination. Two way latency is the time taken for a packet to reach the destination + the time taken for the packet to come back to us. Now what is a packet? Packet is data in binary format. If you are not aware, data travels the internet in 01010001000 sort of language which is the binary format. And data can be anything from your voice on Skype to gun shots fired in multi-player combat games. Lesser the latency, quicker or more responsive will be your experience in many online applications – from social networking to online games.
So a poor one way latency will be – You say “hello” on Skype and the person on the other hears hello after 2 seconds.
A poor 2 way latency will be – You shoot an opponent passing by you in an online combat game, you miss the opponent as the bullet response was too. late due to poor latency.
Since this guide is about : How to improve ping in online games ?, we will focus on improving 2 way latency, few suggestions in this guide will improve your overall internet experience – not just games, as improved ping improves lots of internet applications.
Now that we know what is latency, lets talk about ping :
Ping is a popular computer command used for checking if a remote computer is responding and for testing latency to that computer. It measures the time taken for a request to reach a specified server or a computer and for the reply to come back from that server or a computer. Ping is measured in ms or milliseconds, 1 sec = 1000ms. In popular culture, the term “ping” is used as a measure of latency. Lower the ping, better it is. So when we ask – how to improve ping?, we are asking how to lower ping times.
What causes ping or latency ?
Internet signals have to travel through your computer’s network card via WiFi or Ethernet cable to your modem and then from your modem/router to your ISP via radio-waves / copper line / fiber-optic cable then from your ISP to the game server via various fiber-optic lines and core routers, and once the game server processes data, the signals have to return back to your computer via a similar path of cables and routers and network card. Sigh, such a long journey! All the time taken for signal to travel causes latency or increases ping.
What’s under our control and what’s not ?
What can we do to improve ping in online games? As I mentioned in the above paragraph, the path to a game server and back to you involves lots of devices and networks. From a simple Ethernet cable at home to complicated servers at game publisher’s data center – everything contributes to ping times. To reduce / decrease ping, what we can improve here easily is what we have control over. We do not have direct control over our ISP’s infrastructure, nor we have direct control over game servers hosted by game publisher. What we have control over is our game console / PC, router/modem and cabling.
Although we do not have direct control over our ISP’s infrastructure, ISP’s path to game server and the game servers , we can at least raise a support case to fix them. Similarly, we do not have direct control over game servers. But from my experience, game publishers work hard to offer best possible performance in online games and slightest of ping issues can lead to hundreds of complaints on online forums and the game publishers act fast to fix them. But before we come to the point of complaining to our ISP or game publisher, we must try to fix whats in our control to try to improve ping in online games.
How to improve ping in online games ?
Now let’s finally find out how to improve ping for best possible experience in online multiplayer games.
Choose the closest game server:
It’s a general rule : closer the game server, better the ping. As much as possible, join a local game server for online games. If you are in a country like me (India) where you don’t have local game servers for popular games, the try www.pingtest.net to find which city or country gives you lowest ping. Always prefer joining game servers hosted in city or country with lowest ping times from your computer to improve ping in online games.
Radio / Electrical Interference:
Ensure that your modem/router is away from interfering devices like – speakers, UPS, power adapters, spike guards, mobile phones, cordless phones, etc.. in short, it should be at least a meter away from any device that uses electricity or has magnets. If you cannot move the modem / router a meter away from other devices due to shortage of space, then try to keep it as far as you can from these devices.
Untangle the cords / cables > untangle / separate all the cords that run between devices – like Ethernet cord, power cords, ADSL leads ( if you are on ADSL/ADSL2+), monitor or TV video cords, etc.. Use cable management clips available on eBay and amazon to systematically and effectively manage all the cords.
Untangling and separating cords will help reducing crosstalk and will allow internet signals to travel smoothly with lesser interference from close by signals running through different cords.
If you run long Ethernet cabling in your house and can’t manage to keep it distant from other electrical cables passing by, than consider Shielded Twisted Pair variety of Ethernet cable. Its call STP Ethernet cable and are costlier then unshielded Ethernet cables. But they have interference preventing shield around them which helps deflect interference from nearby cables and devices.
Reducing Radio / Electrical interference greatly improves flow of internet signals which helps to improve ping.
Phone Line Interference (ADSL/ADSL2+):
Ensure that all the phone devices connected to the same phone number as your ADSL/ADSL2+ connection are filtered. You need to make sure that the devices like phones, fax machine, EFTPOS machine, etc.. connect to the “Phone” labeled side of the filter.
Computer Settings (Windows):
Computer needs tuning up if you play online games on computer or game consoles like XBOX360/One or PlayStation 3/4. Even if you play on a game console but have a computer at home which is left on most of the times when you are playing games on a game console, then you still need to go through this section as few programs on your computer may be hogging your network at home. When a computer is new, it is fast, responsive and free from errors. Over the period of time, as we install different softwares for our needs, the computer slows down to a point that it crawls. Many of these programs, in fact install without your knowledge. Get rid of these first.
Step 1: Uninstall all the unwanted programs from your control panel’s “Programs and Features” option.
Step 3: Check start-up programs through msconfig command to find out what programs start every time you switch on your PC. You may find many programs that you use in the start-up list. But you won’t need each one of them as soon as you start the PC. Go through the list and ask your self – Do you need this program right from the time your PC starts? If your answer is NO, then untick it from start-up items, apply the changes, exit the msconfig window and restart your computer. Read this guide for detailed instructions.
Step 4: Ensure non of your computers using internet at home have torrent programs running when you are playing online games. Even if the torrent program is not downloading anything, exit it. As torrent program may still be uploading files / acting as a DHT server. Torrent programs have worse effect on latency and ping as they make hundreds of simultaneous connections to hundreds of users around the world. So exiting the torrent program from all the computers connected to the network while playing online is very important to improve ping.
Torrent programs have worse effect on latency and ping as they make hundreds of simultaneous connections to hundreds of users around the world. So exiting the torrent program from all the computers connected to the network while playing online is very important to improve ping.
Step 5: Stop other kinds of downloads happening on your computers / video game consoles / phones / tablets etc.. while playing online games. Heavy downloads can increase latency and worsen ping in online games.
For Advanced Users:
If you are well versed with computers, and would like to try an advanced registry tweak to improve ping in online games – then follow instructions on this page. (Try this at your own risk!)
Modem / Router Settings:
Many newer modems / routers support a function termed QoS or Quality of Service. QoS function prioritizes real-time application’s traffic. Online games can be given higher priority for share of internet in the settings of the QoS supported routers, which will improve ping as gaming related traffic will pass on faster compared to web browsing or email downloads.
Few routers like most of the Asus routers would automatically detect gaming traffic and give it higher priority over other traffic, other routers might need you to manually enter the IP address and port number of the game server. You can find this information through a simple Google search.
You can find instructions on how to set up and enable QoS in your modem / router’s manual if your modem / router supports that function.
For Advanced Users: If you are well versed with computers and networking than try cFosSpeed. cFosSpeed is a traffic shaping and prioritization program for Windows computers. It functions the same way as QoS we discussed in the previous paragraph but it works only on the computer where it’s installed. With cFosSpeed, you can assign higher priority to your online games and lower priority of internet for everything else or selected programs. This way you can improve ping in online games as gaming traffic will pass on to the internet faster than other internet traffic on the computer.
Wired v/s Wi-Fi:
I always prefer connecting my gaming computer with Ethernet and not Wi-Fi. Ethernet is way faster than Wi-Fi and less prone to interference. So prefer Ethernet connection for your gaming computer / video game console.