How To Reduce Lag In Online Gaming

gamelag7   How To Reduce Lag In Online GamingThere were a number of years straight out of college all the way until we actually had our second child that I was an avid gamer. I had a dedicated PC that was carefully tuned so that the networked game sessions would run seamlessly. There was always some amount of lag in the game, especially when there were lots of players logged in, but most of the lag was on account of server limitations, not the limits of my own PC.

That meant that everyone was sharing that lag equally. I have to say that before I created that PC, there was nothing more annoying than playing a death-match session of Medal of Honor, creeping around a corner crouched over, hearing the enemy player approaching, and then right before I was about to pull the trigger and take them out as they round the corner – my computer froze for a couple of seconds. Those couple of seconds were enough for me to get filled with holes and out of the game.

That’s an experience you can have only so often before you realize that it’s either time to optimize your PC to reduce lag as much as possible, or don’t even bother playing at all.

The truth is that most computers out there that are capable of running as an effective gaming system are really so overburdened with extra garbage running, improperly configured network settings, and numerous other issues that make the network flow during a high-speed gaming session slower than molasses.

Now, this is MakeUseOf. We’re all about tweaks. One of the fastest ways to tweak everything about your PC is to use software like TweakNow, an app that I still use today even after reviewing it in 2011. Using an app like Tweaknow will help you with some of the tips in this article, but to really optimize for gaming, you’ll need to take a very focused approach to fine-tune the areas of performance that really matter. Simon shared a few useful tips a while back, but today I’d like to add a few more important tweaks to that list.

Tuning Your PC For Online Gaming

Yes, most of the gamers you ask about reducing lag will sneer at your PC and croak in reply, “Just get a PC that’s not a piece of crap.”

Well, that may be true, or it may not. Truth is, I’ve beaten down a fair number of those arrogant gamers that were running a quad core water-cooled gaming tower. Sure, performance matters, but given the fact that everyone faces the same bottleneck of the game server and the maximum limitations of Internet transmissions, what it really comes down to with online gaming is reducing your own computer’s lag to an insignificant level, and increasing your throughput to the maximum bandwidth possible on your Internet connection.

Lower Game Requirements

Yes, you could upgrade your system to the hilt, but if you aren’t exactly made of money, you can go from the other direction and just cut down the game requirements. Nearly every online game will have a menu screen where you can go into the Options or Settings. Experiment with different graphics options, reducing screen resolution, render quality, lower texture resolution, etc…

gamelag1   How To Reduce Lag In Online Gaming

Yes, brilliant graphics make a game experience better, but if you don’t have a super-computer to process the graphics, then cut those down, reduce the workload for your PC and its graphics card, and you’ll see a huge performance increase. This is the single most important tip I offer to people when they complain about lag, and you’d be surprised how few of them even bothered considering changing the game graphics settings.

In addition to lowering the horsepower the game requires from your system, you can also tweak  your own graphics card to reduce requirements for things like anti-alias and anisotropic filtering. These are two settings that gamers throughout the Internet suggest on game forums and blogs. Anti-aliasing is what reduces jagged edges of objects and makes them into smooth, high-quality graphics. Anisotropic filtering has to do with enhancing textures. You can usually find one or both of these settings by opening up your graphics card settings and going to the advanced or 3d settings.

gamelag2   How To Reduce Lag In Online Gaming

Turn off those settings if you suspect your video card is not quite capable of holding up during the game. Again, your graphics quality may be reduced, but at the same time you’ll notice that lag time starts to disappear.

Also, make sure that you have the latest driver for your video card by right clicking on your My Computer icon, go to Properties, click on System, Device Manager, and click on Display Adapters. Check the make and model of your graphics card, and go to that manufacturer’s website to see if you have the most current driver for that graphics card.
gamelag3   How To Reduce Lag In Online Gaming
Each of these things may only give you just a little bit less lag in the game, but in the end, when you’re going head to head with an expert marksman in an online shooting match, any reduction in lag will give you one more little advantage. 

Reduce Your Processor Workload

In addition to reducing the workload on your graphics card, it’s also a good idea to reduce the load on your main processor, especially if you don’t have one of those impressive liquid cooled super-powered gaming systems.

Another useful tip to accomplish this is to shut down as many non-essential processes, services and applications that are running on your PC during the time that you’re playing online games.

There are lots of ways to do that. Some people like apps that take care of it for them like Soluto, but remember that’s another app install and a bit of bandwidth to give up. The fastest way is to scan through running processes and services and shut down all of the ones that are not critical to Windows operation. Do Cntrl-Alt-Delete, Task Manager, and then click on the Performance tab, and click the Resource Monitor button. 
gamelag4   How To Reduce Lag In Online Gaming
The resource monitor shows you the top culprits that are currently consuming your bandwidth or your network (or both).

gamelag5   How To Reduce Lag In Online Gaming

I love the Resource Manager. Go through both lists, identify anything that isn’t a windows-centric app or to do with your antivirus software, right click and kill the process. If you can’t kill it here, go to the task manager and kill it there. But, since you’re dealing with important applications in here as well as the junk, always use caution. If in doubt, leave it alone.

Consider Your Network

Other things to shut down that will consume precious bandwidth and produce lag is any downloads you have going on (like the Torrent client you forgot you had running), or any peer-to-peer file sharing apps. Shut it all down, because you need all of that bandwidth devoted to your online game.

Don’t forget things like the Apple Store, and also double check the activity of other people in the house and make sure there’s no Netflix movie streaming or iTunes downloading going on, or you can forget about having a lag-free online game experience.

Best time to have a dedicated online gaming session? When the family is out of the house and you’ve got the place (and the network) to yourself!

gamelag61   How To Reduce Lag In Online Gaming

 

Other things to consider – if you have the option to choose the type of Internet you have in your area, go with Cable over DSL. Cable is faster and more stable, it’s true. Cable is the medium for online gaming, and if you plan to do a lot of it, get cable internet if you can. Even better, opt for the highest bandwidth Internet package you can afford.
And please, don’t try to do online gaming with a Wi-Fi connection. Plug in a hard-wired Internet connection directly into your computer. With Wi-Fi, even with a good connection, you’ve got walls, obstructions and other household interference to consider. Run a wire from your router and plug it in, you’ll be glad you did.

Also, get a high-quality router. Most these days actually have gaming features that will optimize your network for gaming – if you haven’t upgraded your router in a while, do it now.

And finally, when you have a choice between online game servers, choose one that is nearest your geographic location. You may not think it matters because everything on the Internet is the speed of light, right? Wrong – you’ll see ping times change significantly for the servers in your back yard versus servers half-way across the world. It does matter, so choose the server you play on wisely.

Other Things to Consider

There is a whole long list of things you can do to optimize your gaming experience. The most important issues are mentioned above, but you might also consider a few of the following.

  • If you can afford it, upgrade RAM (memory) and your graphics card. Those two upgrades can make a world of difference, and aren’t too expensive.
  • Keep all drivers up to date, especially for your graphics card.
  • Remember to defrag your hard drive. You may not think it matters much, but it can speed processing time slightly, and every little bit counts.
  • Try playing without audio. If it’s not a game where you need to hear people creeping up behind you, consider turning off audio and saving bandwidth.
  • If you want to get crazy, you can consider overclocking your system. This isn’t for the feint of heart (or for a weak system), but if you know what you’re doing it can give you a bit of a boost when playing games.

As you can see, all of these things individually may not make a huge difference (except for upgrading your graphics card), but added together they can make a huge impact on reducing or completely removing the lag you might experience in networked games. That means you run faster, race faster, shoot faster, and you can play better.

Do you use any of the techniques above to cut lag in online games? Do you know of any other tweaks or tricks? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Image Credit: Young Adult at Lan Party Via Shutterstock,Man Playing Video Games Via Shutterstock

The comments were closed because the article is more than 180 days old.

If you have any questions related to what's mentioned in the article or need help with any computer issue, ask it on MakeUseOf Answers—We and our community will be more than happy to help.

11 Comments -

0 votes

Switchblade Rebirth

Here’s a proprietary solution:

WTFast(http://www.wtfast.com/), The Gamers Private Network (GPN)™, a network built just for MMO Gamers.
The WTFast GPN™ delivers an optimal game connection, improving your game speed and reducing disconnects, response deviation and lag. The WTFast GPN™ works with virtually all MMO games and ensures you ALWAYS have an optimal gaming connection and experience.

Saw this at a Ragnarok 2 Facebook Community group. Worth the try for 30 days then if you have the money, go premium.

Ryan: I hope you can make a review of WTFast.

0 votes

Ryan Dube

Looks like an interesting solution from what youv’e described. I’ll take a look at the site and maybe give it a test! Thanks for the heads up.

0 votes

Tech Nech

I play most of my game’s online with my friends. I am gonna try these to see I can get no lag. Thanks!

0 votes

Ryan Dube

Great – don’t forget to report back and let us know which of the tweaks appeared to help the most in your case.

0 votes

Victor Ong

“Those two upgrades can make a world of difference, and aren’t too expensive.”

Well, RAM I guess isn’t too bad, and if you are just getting a graphics card then yeah, it’s not that expensive, but if you are UPGRADING cards, then they can really cost upwards of 200 dollars. Quite expensive.

0 votes

Ryan Dube

Victor – true, some of those cards can range up into the hundreds of dollars. I guess it depends on what folks are willing to spend for that increase in performance. From my own experience though, at some point the performance increase isn’t really worth the cost. For a moderate investment, you can purchase hardware that will do the trick, without the need to sink a fortune into trying to reduce game lag – in my opinion anyway.

0 votes

Charles Yost

I am going to have to check this out. My PC isn’t that old and I don’t have the money to buy a newer one right now. This might help me when I am playing SWTOR. Thanks for the advice!

0 votes

Ron Lister

Thanks for the advice Ryan. I’ll have to run a wire to see how much lag is reduced over WiFi. also if your curious to see how your computers upload download and ping are theres. speed.net to do a speed test of your computer if your not getting the speed your paying for you can check with your cable company. I was paying for an upgrade to interned “turbo” from Time warner for several months and was not seeing the differance i did a speed test and saw that I wasn’t getting the bandwidth and speed they boasted so I called and after a nice long wait listening to “music” and commercials for time warner services. I finally got a nice customer service person who was able to see that I wasn’t getting the service I had payed for she fixed the problem and credited my bill for the service differance. It was a noticible differance right away. I was so happy for the fix that I forgot to be mad they screwed up in the first place. Oh and if you do find your in that situation being nice will get you alot more help than calling up and demanding they fix the problem.

0 votes

Ryan Dube

Thanks for sharing the experience Ron. I think what’s sad is that in a lot of cases people probably never even bother to check – assuming they’re getting what they paid for. It seems like such a huge mistake – and there should obviously be checks in place to ensure that customers are receiving the service they paid for. Of course, there’s no love lost between me and cable companies, so I’m automatically biased. :-)

0 votes

Ron Lister

oh

0 votes

Ron Lister

correction its speedtest.net