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There was a time when online games were considered an exception. Low internet speeds in the past time played a major factor in that consideration.
But now, due to a rapid rise in new internet technologies, and also due to the popularity of recent online games like pubg, Dota 2, and League of Legends etc, online gaming is becoming a norm with every day passing.
But here’s a thing called online gaming lag. If you’re into PC gaming, chances are pretty high that you’re familiar with this term. For other people, who aren’t into PC gaming that much, let me explain it to you.
In simple words, a lag is a visible time delay between the actions of a player and the reactions of a gaming server (based on that actions).
Whether or not this lag effects your game, really depends on the type of game, you’re currently playing. If you’re playing a strategy game like Chess, for example, a lag will not become too costly because the reaction time of a player, in these types of games, is pretty flexible.
On the other hand, in games with low-reaction time, such as FPS and MMO games, this lag can be a fatal blow to your chances of winning (or even competing).
In online games, the situation occurs because the entire game is hosted on a gaming server, and the client has no real control over that game. All he/she can do is to provide input requests to the server. These types of games require all players to be connected all the time so that the game can be in a consistent state for all the client gamers.
Whenever a game enters a new state, it sends the data packets to the clients. If a client is unable to receive that information in time, then he will not be shown new states of the game and other players. It’s because the gaming server would have determined by then, that this player is unable to perform an input operation.
The symptoms, if a player is suffering from lag during online games, is generally noticed by other users because it features a player appearing/disappearing multiple times. All of this can become a source of embarrassment if the other gamers are your real-life friends.
OK, now we’ve learned about the online gaming lag and why it happens.
What’s next? How to actually reduce it?
I’m pretty sure if you asked your friends about it, their answer will be pretty much this:
Reduce Ping /Latency.
A lot of people interchange between these two terms but actually, there’s a slight difference between these two. Therefore, before talking about how to reduce lag, first, we’ll differentiate between these two terms.
In computer networking terms, the ping is measured by sending a data packet to a server and receiving this signal back. This whole round trip is called a Ping. The latency is time taken in this whole round-trip. Since most people use these terms for each other nowadays, I will do the same.
Unlike what most people think, having a faster internet connection doesn’t mean that it’ll have a short ping time. You can think of ping as some sort of reaction time. If you have a ping time of 120ms, it means your PC takes 2 seconds to make a request to another PC.
So now that we have cleared some confusion, it’s time to check the 8 ways to reduce online gaming lag.
8 Different Ways to Reduce Ping and Latency
1. Optimize Gaming Settings
This is the first of these techniques, and probably the most easier to implement. All you need to do is lower the screen resolution and render quality, and probably turn off the music/audio if you don’t need to listen to other gamers.
In case you want to dig a bit deeper, we have actually published some separate blog posts for optimizing games such as Fortnite, Far Cry 5, Pubg, Assassin’s Creed: Origins, as well as Wolfenstein 2. So check out these posts if you have any interest in those games.
2. Reduce Your CPU workload
Although online games are hosted on the internet, for the most part, this doesn’t mean you should keep your CPU burdened with other tasks while playing games. Playing games while running other programs can increase the input latency on your part.
To make sure your CPU isn’t busy handling other tasks, open your task manager and click on the “More details” menu expander.
There, you should monitor your CPU usage in the Performance tab. Next, go to Processes Tab and close any unnecessary program running. This will make your CPU perform better, and have an optimal temperature.
Note: In case you want to increase the performance level of your CPU, check out our guide for CPU overclocking
3. Have a Stable Internet Connection
Having a stable internet connection is a must for lower ping. There are many websites which can help you test your internet speed, as well as ping. This way, you can actually know whether your connection is ideal for online gaming or not.
4. Avoid Wireless Networks
Although wireless networks are the most common types of home networks, you may want to reassess them for online gaming. It’s because a WiFi signal is more fragile as compared to an Ethernet cable.
The other reason why wired networks are preferred for online gaming is their higher speed than WiFi networks. On top of that, WiFi signals can easily get interfered by many other devices in our homes like microwaves ovens, and baby monitors etc (unless you have a dual-band/tri-band router, of course).
In short, wired networks are more reliable. That’s why (if you have an option) you should opt for a wired network for online gaming.
5. Defrag Your Hard Drive
Having a fast-performance storage device is essential if you want to thrive in PC gaming, but not everyone can afford those blazing fast SSDs.
Luckily, there is a way you can make your old hard drive a little faster. While this method won’t do wonders, something is better than nothing.
Alright, this method is called de-fragmentation, or defragging, of the hard drive. Traditional hard drives store data files in the form of blocks.
With the passage of time, free blocks of space can appear between different blocks with data. Since hard drives are sequential in nature, the whole hard drive will be searched block-by-block each time we perform an operation, whether a block is free and empty doesn’t matter.
When we defrag a hard drive, all the data is put back sequentially block by block, without any free block between them. There are many guides for this purpose, but if you feel intimidated by this whole process, there’s always an option in the form of gaming hard drives and SSDs.
6. White-list Your Games from Antivirus and Firewall
As said earlier, the communication between the gaming server and the client PCs is done in the form of data packets. As soon as these packets enter in your PC system, they’re scanned by the firewall.
This delay is pretty minor in normal circumstances, but in some instances, firewall can completely deny data packets and you can lose that game. That’s why, to be prepared for the worse, white-list those online games from your PC firewall (also other software/hardware firewalls if you have any) and antivirus.
7. Remove Other Devices while Playing Games
Having too many connected devices can increase the workload on your home network, especially if you have a WiFi network. That’s why it’s better to disconnect any spare devices from your network, like a smartphone, tablet etc.
Another thing you need to make sure is that no sibling of yours is streaming YouTube videos, or downloading any torrents. These things can consume a large portion of your internet bandwidth.
8. Do Some Hardware Upgrades
If all the above-mentioned methods didn’t improve your lag situation to a noticeable degree, then it’s probably time to upgrade your PC and networking components. Here are a few things you can upgrade.
- Switch to a gaming router, if you want WiFi for online gaming. You can get a gaming network switch too, but that’s optional.
- Upgrade Your Ethernet cable.
- Upgrade your RAM and graphics card. These components have a major effect on gaming-related processes. That’s why you should replace your old RAM and GPU with the new ones.