How to Fix Internet Connection and Reduce Lag for Online Gaming
If you’re a gamer of any kind you’ve undoubtably experienced internet lag at some point in your life. Our first reaction? Blame the ISP (Internet Service Provider). After all, companies like Time Warner Cable and Comcast are easy scape-goats. But what if internet lag is caused by something you can control? After many broken controllers and bruised relationships (sorry, Mom), I found out that sometimes the best way to fix internet lag, is right in front of you! XboxDIY.com‘s definitive guide for how to fix your internet connection and reduce lag for gaming will help you diagnose and fix that slow or laggy internet connection.
When solving any type of technical problem, there are a series of questions you must ask yourself to get to the root of the problem. Typically, you review the items that you can control first, and then move on to the more complicated and less controllable ones. Doing so in a systematic approach will help you pinpoint the issue your experiencing and what you need to fix. In this case, it’s the problem of internet lag or a slow connection that impacts your gaming experience. Let’s take a look at the first item you can fix to help reduce lag while gaming.
Check Your Internet Plan
The number one reason you may be experiencing lag, high latency, or a slow connection while gaming could be related to your internet package. Quite simply, if you’re not paying for a high speed internet connection, there’s nothing hardware can do to fix it. While a majority of gamers have access to broadband internet (and even some have access to fiber), if you live on an island or a remote location it’s possible that you may be out of luck. Even the most basic broadband internet packages offer speeds of at least 5 megabits/second (not to be confused with megabytes), which is all that is required by Microsoft and other console retailers to access their online gaming services. But even though this is the minimum requirement, typically this means you’ll get the minimum experience, which ends up being a lot less desito expect.
In 2016, there are broadband internet plans ranging from 5mbps up to fiber connections @ 1gbps (yes, that’s a gigabit). The first plan may run you just a few dollars per month, with the latter running you up to $250/month (click to compare providers in your area). Like anything else, you get what you pay for. After researching and experiencing different internet connection speeds, there’s a happy medium that does exist somewhere in between paying too little and paying too much. Below is a handy little graphic that shows the trade-off between cost and quality (aptly named “Connection Required for Gaming”):
It’s around the 20-30mb/s internet package speed where you can support multiple devices, have a solid connection, and not have to give up your left arm or first born son/daughter in order to pay for it. If you have more users or devices in your household, a 50mb/s or 100mb/s connection may be needed. If it’s just you, it’s possible to get away with a 10-15mb/s connection if your hardware and setup is optimized. To get the most out of your connection and reduce lag for gaming, let’s take a look at some of the other factors you’ll have to consider. Most important is your cable modem.
Check Your Cable Modem
Another big reason why you may be experiencing internet lag or a slow connection while gaming is your cable modem. The cable modem is your gateway to the internet. It’s where your connection comes in through a coaxial cable outlet and is either passed to your wireless router, or is broadcasted through wireless technology that is built in to your cable modem. Most people are using a leased or borrowed modem that is provided to them by their ISP (Internet Service Provider). The problem with these modems are numerous. Typically, these modems are refurbished and have been used for many years by many people. This takes a toll on the parts and reduces the efficiency at which your modem can perform. On top of that, these modems are also usually at the very low end of requirement spectrum and are meant only for basic internet and web browsing. Gamers usually aren’t considered when ISPs roll this hardware out to the masses. Last but not least, ISPs usually have these modems locked down so you can’t make any changes to the settings unless you specifically ask permission.
So, what can you do to reduce lag? Buy your own modem. Not only will buying your own modem free you from the monthly fee charged by ISPs for their old and washed up technology, but it will give you the freedom to experiment with settings that work best for you depending on your situation. Buying your own modem is pretty straight forward, but there are some key specifications that you need to look out for to make sure you’re buying the right modem to reduce lag for gaming:
Tips for Buying Your Own Cable Modem:
- Stick to a brand name. ARRIS, NETGEAR, Linksys, or Motorola, to name a few. Be careful of cheap Chinese hardware that will be impossible to replace, and could contain malware or spyware.
- Faster connection? You’ll need a faster modem. Make sure the modem your buying supports the internet speeds from your provider. Most newer modems support at least ~150mbps connections, which is more than enough. However, if you buy a cheap or older modem, it may not support those speeds.
- Make sure it has 8 channel download with 4 channel upload. This is the newest (affordable) technology and will help future proof your modem so you can use it for years to come.
- Buy a cable modem without wireless technology built in. Typically the wireless technology in these modems is basic and won’t suit your needs for gaming, or allow for expansion of wired connections.
Check Your Wireless Router
For the love of all things holy, please make sure you have a dedicated wireless router. Some cable modems come with a built in wireless router, but like 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner, we all know it just doesn’t work that well. Having the right wireless router will help you harness the proper speeds from your internet plan, while expanding your ability to connect to the internet wirelessly or via an ethernet cord for nearby devices. While looking for a cable modem is pretty straight-forward, trying to find a wireless router that fits your needs, and budget, can be a bit challenging. Make sure you pay attention to the following items when purchasing a wireless router for gaming:
Tips For Buying Your Own Wireless Router:
- Buy a Dual-Band Wireless Router. A 2.4ghz power band will let you connect from further away, although at slower speed. A 5ghz power band will allow faster speeds, but limit the effective range of the wireless connection. Having both bands will allow you the greatest flexibility when setting up your connection.
- Use the Latest Wireless Standard. In this case, it’s 802.11AC, which supports gigabit speeds over wireless.
- Stick to a Brand Name. Linksys, NETGEAR, ASUS, and D-Link all offer a wide range of products depending on your needs and budget. These companies will also back their products with solid warranties should something go wrong.
- Make Sure It’s Secure. Security is no longer a joking matter. Make sure your router has the security features to fit your needs (including dedicated VPN support, if necessary)
Most people should be able to find a router in the $80-$120 price range that fits their needs. If you live in a mansion, need a dedicated VPN, or have additional security concerns, something in the $200-$400 price range will solve all of your needs on top of being future proof.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Wireless Connection:
- If you can, avoid using wireless all together. Plug your Xbox or Playstation directly in to the router whenever possible. Wired connections are far superior and you won’t have to deal with any of the factors like wireless speeds, concrete walls, or interference from other other wireless devices.
- Change Your Wireless Broadcasting Channel. Wireless routers broadcast on a range of channels (typically between 1 and 12). If you’re router is running slow, change your wi-fi router channel to optimize your wireless signal and reduce lag. This could be the difference between having a great gaming experience, or a poor, laggy one.
- Limit the Amount of Active Devices Using Your Wireless Connection. It sounds simple, but today’s devices are always connected, and always using your bandwidth. Make sure you limit the amount of devices actively connected to your router by turning them off, or turning off background data/internet connections. Yes, cell phones and tablets count too. The general rule is a 20mb/s connection will handle 2-4 devices, where as 100mb/s connection (with the proper hardware) can handle 10 or more devices.
Your Infrastructure Could Be To Blame
Hopefully you’ve figured out a way to reduce lag for gaming by this point in the article. But if you haven’t, taking a good look at the infrastructure surrounding your connection could help solve your problems. Unfortunately, not everyone has a brand new building or brand new fiber-optic line going directly in to their house. The fact of the matter is that America (and other countries) are getting older faster than we are able to keep everything up to date. There are two areas of concern you should look in to if all of the above suggestions haven’t helped.
Check Your Cable Outlets
This is where things get a little bit complicated, but knowing the proper ranges of Downstream Power, Upstream Power, and Signal/Noise Ratios can save you hours of headache while trying to reduce lag or fix your slow internet connection for gaming. Although you can test these things yourself using a signal tester, there won’t be much you can do about it without having your cable guy/girl handy. Give them a call and make sure that they don’t leave until you have an answer that matches up with the information below:
- Downstream Power is the measure of the signal level received by the cable modem. Although levels of -15dB to +15dB are supported, you’ll want this to be between +8dB and -8dB.
- Upstream Power is the strength of the signal transmitted by the cable modem. Ideally this should be between 42dB and 50dB. Anything higher will cause your modem to reset, and anything lower will start causing problems with packet loss or latency
- Signal/Noise Ratio is a measure of how clear the signal is. Anything over 30dB is best, but anything under 25mB will cause issues like lag, slower connection speeds, or dropped connections.
Make sure there are no unnecessary splitters on your line, either coming directly from your cable outlet or in between the telephone pole and your cable outlet. These can severely degrade power to your modem which in turn will cause internet lag and a slow connection for gaming.
Check Your Node
If all else fails, there is the rare possibility that your internet node is overloaded. This means too many connections have been made to the telephone pole. You can identify this as poor connection speeds, lag, or packet loss during peak hours of the day (such as 8am, or from 6-10pm). Make sure you follow all of the above guidelines before coming to this conclusion, as the only way to fix this is to either have your cable company out to upgrade the node, or move. It’s possible in heavily populated areas or old, out of date buildings.
Did You Reduce Lag or Fix Your Slow Internet Connection for Gaming?
Following XboxDIY.com’s guidelines and recommendations for how to reduce lag and fix your slow internet connection for gaming should help you resolve a majority of your problems. It’s not always going to be straightforward, but the guide we have put together will help get you moving in the right direction. With anything else, there are numerous factors in play that could be causing lag or a slow internet connection, so remember to consider everything when trying to reduce lag for gaming. XboxDIY.com will keep this article up to date with any new technology, strategies, or tips for how to reduce lag for gaming. Happy gaming!