How To Reduce Gaming Latency

Nothing turns a fun gaming session into frustration and disappointment like latency issues. Latency (or lag, as most gamers call it) disrupts both the immersive experience and the competitive balance of play, making it a familiar nemesis for online gamers. It can be a problem even on high-speed internet connections and high-end PC systems, so no gamer is truly immune.

Minimizing lag is essential for a fair and responsive gaming experience, especially in genres with split-second action, such as competitive shooters. So what’s the secret? Ahead, we’ll dive into a multifaceted approach for how to improve latency for both PC and console gamers.

1. Reduce device traffic on your network.

When other people use their devices (such as computers, consoles, or smartphones) on your network, they compete for the same bandwidth, which may reduce your gaming performance. If your lag goes away when you’re the only person using your internet connection, that’s a dead giveaway that network congestion is the root of your problem.

The simplest fix is to reduce the number of devices using bandwidth at once, either by asking others to limit usage or by gaming when they’re not using data. You can also try using your router’s quality of service (QoS) settings, which prioritize certain types of traffic (such as from PCs and game consoles). Finally, you might consider upgrading your internet connection if your current package isn’t enough for your household.

2. Use a wired Ethernet connection instead of Wi-Fi.

Almost all gamers prefer wired Ethernet to Wi-Fi because of its faster speeds and lower latency. Since Wi-Fi travels over the air, your packets have to travel farther and are more likely to get lost along the way. A wired Ethernet connection provides a more direct and stable pathway for data packets.

That’s why a wired Ethernet connection is a great investment for any gamer who plays online. Setting up a wired connection is also relatively simple and can immediately improve game responsiveness, so it’s always worth trying. If you’ve never done it before, don’t worry — it’s usually as easy as plugging your gaming device into your router with an Ethernet cord.

3. Check the speed and ping of your internet connection.

An internet speed test will help you assess whether your internet connection is causing your latency issues. Ping, a measurement of latency, is critically important, so look for a speed test with a gaming ping tester. Generally, you’re looking for a ping of 20 to 50 milliseconds for gaming, video conferencing, and other real-time applications. Anything above 100 ms is typically considered too high for functional gaming.

If your connection is the problem, talk to your ISP and learn about their options for upgrading your service package. Ask them about higher-speed plans or solutions designed to improve network latency for online gaming. You might also be able to negotiate a better deal, or even to upgrade your connection to high-speed fiber internet if it’s available in your area.

4. Be aware of hardware problems that can cause latency.

Hardware components like routers, modems, and cables can also cause latency issues when they become outdated or stop working correctly. Regularly check your hardware, update your devices’ firmware, and consider replacing outdated components to keep your internet connection speedy and reliable.

Start by rebooting your modem and router — this can solve a surprising amount of issues right off the bat. Next, check your router’s admin interface and/or manufacturer’s website for firmware updates, which hardware manufacturers release regularly to improve security and performance. Lastly, inspect all of your network’s physical connections and cables for signs of wear or damage, and try swapping out old cables for new ones.

5. Adjust your software settings as needed.

Sometimes latency originates in a game’s graphics settings rather than your internet connection. High graphics settings can overload your system’s GPU, CPU, and/or RAM. When these components are overloaded, it can lead to in-game lag, as your system struggles to render the game environment and process online data simultaneously.

Reducing the resolution, texture quality, and effects like shadows or reflections can help reduce the strain on your system and smooth out performance. If you’re streaming your gameplay, remember to check the settings on your streaming platform, too. Finally, PC gamers should remember that running other programs in the background can consume a surprising amount of your RAM capacity, so try to run the game without background programs whenever possible.

6. Pay attention to geographical factors that can affect latency.

Even in our world of high-speed broadband, data packets still have to travel a physical distance to their destinations. Communicating with a server hosted on the other side of the world will always be slightly slower than one in the next state over.

If your gaming platform lets you choose a regional server, opt for one that’s geographically closer to you. This choice can drastically reduce latency, as the shorter distance for data to travel means faster response times in your games. Many gaming platforms automatically connect you to the nearest server — but if you’d like to try a different one, you may be able to do so by using a virtual private network (VPN).

With the myriad of possible causes for latency, solving it can feel like an intractable problem. Don’t give up — there’s always a cause, and with enough persistence, you can discover it! The reward is the gaming experience you love, not to mention more robust performance in general.




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