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7 Ways to Reduce Latency in Online Gaming

Sarah Pike, @sarahzpike
01.04.16
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In the world of online gaming, one constant is the need for speed. Anything that slows the process — either of the game itself or of your ability to communicate with the other players — can be the difference between ultimate victory and abject failure.

Latency — or lag — is measured in milliseconds and can also be referred to as a ping rate in latency testing. You should test your computer, tablet or mobile device to determine your ping rate. "You can also measure your system's latency outside of a game by using the ping command," says Blake Sanders of Broadband Expert. In Windows, hit the WINDOWS key + R, type CMD, click OK, and then type: ping www.google.com. It's also a good idea to run an Internet speed test, so you can determine whether you're getting the speeds you had anticipated. More often than not, the problem lies with your Internet connection.

Here are seven helpful tips to reduce latency when you're gaming;

1. Consider Your Communication Link
Are you using a satellite connection or are you located in an area that requires a dial-up modem? Contrary to what you might believe, satellite might give you more latency simply because of the distance the data has to travel.

You may not be able to do anything about the manner in which you connect, but there are other things that you can do to help increase the speed at which you game and to reduce the latency in your gaming.

2. Shut Down Other Programs
If you have other software programs open that are not integral to the game you are playing, close them down. They will drain your available bandwidth and, thus, slow the game. Be especially mindful to close programs such as VoIP, Skype, or YouTube.

3. Check the Requirements
Before you start the game, check the requirements of the game itself against the availability on your hard drive. If the two don't match, there's a good chance you're going to experience lag issues. If you can afford it, upgrade the RAM (memory) and graphics card. Keep all of your drivers up to date, as this will keep the game from having to search and adapt to outdated versions.

4. Ditch the Wi-Fi
Use a hardwired Internet connection, and you will eliminate one additional step in the data-transfer process and avoid any wireless dead-spots that may be in your home. Using a wired connection alone should speed the gaming process tremendously. Purchase the highest quality router you can afford. Today, many are optimized specifically for gaming.

5. Temporarily Disable Updates
Automatic updates are helpful, unless they begin to run in the middle of a battle against your ultimate online gaming foe. Temporarily disable the automatic updates during your gaming time, and set a reminder to install any updates when you've finished for the day.

You should also disable your firewall or set specific games as exceptions to the firewall. This will increase your computer's speed because it will simply allow the game software to run, rather than attempting to scan the game for information.

6. Defrag Your Hard Drive
In general, keep your computer running well. Make sure everything is up-to-date and running smoothly. Keep viruses out and systems clean. This will allow gaming software to run without difficulty.

7. Keep Checking
You should run the latency test periodically to keep checking on how your device is performing. Don't rely on an "it didn't work well during 'Call of Duty' last night" evaluation. Keep it to a more specific nature, and you'll be able to determine what the problems are and resolve them.

Latency may be the bane of any gamer's existence, but it doesn't have to affect your reputation as the champion of your game of choice. Take these simple steps to reduce your lag and increase your score.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
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