How to reduce lag when gaming

There are various ways to reduce lag, such as using an ethernet cable for a direct router connection instead of WiFi, selecting servers closer to your location, closing bandwidth-hogging apps and making sure you’ve got the right broadband speed.

27 Jul 2023
Read Time
3 minutes

What is lag?

Lag is when your game appears to run slower than you’d expect it to, based on your device’s specifications. It can manifest in many different ways on both PCs and gaming consoles, such as…

  • A delay between you pressing a button, and seeing the reaction on your screen
  • Slower speeds during gameplay
  • Images freezing
  • Stuttering or flickering pictures as you move through levels
  • Difficulties opening the software
  • Game crashes

As you might have already discovered, lag during gameplay can be very frustrating. It can affect your character’s performance, cause you to miss out on points, and stop you reaching the next level.

What causes lag? It’s usually due to high latency, and high ping. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce latency and ping, helping to keep lag to a minimum to improve your overall gaming experience.

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Expert gaming tips featuring: Gaming Careers


Pete Wilkins - Gaming content creator at Gaming Careers.

Gaming Careers: How to reduce lag and improve latency

To reduce lag and improve latency during your next gaming session, try the following tips shared by gaming expert and Youtuber, Pete Wilkins, from Gaming Careers:

'‘I think it’s essential to have a fast and stable internet connection for online gaming. I recommend connecting your device directly to your router with an ethernet cable. You could also maybe try moving closer to your router to improve your signal strength.

When gaming on PC, always remember to close any programs and apps that you're not using, as this can slow down your computer. And this includes things like web browsers, streaming services, and any other applications that use the internet.

Another top tip is to ensure that you pick the right gaming server. If you're playing a game that allows you to pick a server, try to choose one that is closest to your location. This can really help you improve your connection to the game server.

And a final tip is to use a wired connection when you’re gaming. I recommend this because gaming on WiFi is usually a lot less stable than a wired connection. If you can, connect your device directly to your router with an ethernet cable''.

How to improve game lag

The best way to improve game lag is to focus on reducing latency and ping.

What is latency? It’s the time it takes to generate a response to your request. If you were to type a search query into Google, for example, latency would be the length of time between you hitting ‘Enter’ and seeing a list of results. In gaming, it’s the length of time between you clicking a button or pressing a key, and seeing the action on screen. When you make a request, the data has to travel to the server and back again. Latency is how long it takes for that data to complete its journey.

Ping, on the other hand, is the way that latency is measured. What is a good ping? For most online activities, a ping of up to 100ms is considered ideal. For gaming, however, ping should be even lower to keep lag to a minimum. A ping of 50ms or less is advised for online multiplayer games.

As speed is key here, the obvious starting point for reducing lag is to check your internet speed. A good internet speed for gaming is crucial to smooth gameplay. If you’re not sure what speeds you’re currently getting at home, use our broadband speed test tool to find out. It’ll show you in moments how fast your service is.

If your speed test shows that you’re currently receiving speeds that are less than ideal, you could consider upgrading to Fibre broadband or ultrafast Gigabit broadband for improved speeds and lower latency. Discover more about gigabit broadband.

If your speeds are already OK, there are a few other methods to help reduce lag…

How to reduce lag in PC games

If you’re playing a PC game, you could try these simple solutions for reducing lag:

1. Shut down other applications

Any other programmes that are running on your PC at the same time as you’re trying to game will cause your game to run slower than it should. That’s because your PC’s RAM is being distributed between all open applications. Even something as seemingly innocent as having Chrome open in the background can impact your gameplay. Press Ctrl+Alt+Delete and open your Task Manager to see what else is running on your PC, and be sure to shut down all non-essential programmes before playing.

2. Use an ethernet cable

If you’re playing a PC game through a distribution platform like Steam, you’ll need to be connected to the internet in order to play. You’ll most likely be connected via WiFi, but if your WiFi signal is not very strong, your game experience could suffer. With a mobile console or portable laptop, the solution is simple: move closer to the router. With a desktop gaming PC, however, it’s trickier. In this situation, you may want to connect directly to your router via ethernet cable, rather than using WiFi.

3. Reboot your PC

Be honest. How often do you reboot your PC? How often do you click ‘remind me later’ when prompted to restart? One of the reasons for your lag could simply be that your operating system is jam-packed with temporary files, and has low memory. Every time you reboot your PC, your operating system has a clean-up, applying any necessary updates and clearing out binned files. All of this is essential for keeping your PC running smoothly, and your games working as they should.

4. Check your equipment

Don’t forget that the specifications on some older PCs may not be good enough to handle the more complex demands of modern software. If you’re noticing a lot of flickering or freezing graphics, or sound that’s out of sync, then it may be that some components of your PC, like the graphics card, aren't up to the task. One thing to check first is that your game settings are all optimised. You may be able to set up lower-quality video and audio which can help some games to run faster on PCs.


How to reduce lag in online games

If you’re playing games online via a console or laptop connected to the internet, you could try…

1. Closing down competing applications

Even if you have ultrafast broadband speeds, you still may notice lag if you’ve got lots of devices and lots of applications all competing for bandwidth. For example, if you’re trying to play World of Warcraft while someone else in your home is trying to stream the latest blockbuster on Netflix, neither of you is going to get the best speeds. Try closing down any high-bandwidth activities like streaming services before playing, ensuring as much bandwidth as possible is available for gaming.

2. Moving closer to the router

The further away you get from your router, the more your WiFi signal suffers. And if there are walls, doors, or furniture between your console and your router, it can be even worse. Online experiences are typically best when your WiFi signal strength is 60dBm . However, for gaming, it’s even better between 30dBm and 60dBm (when it comes to signal strength, the closer to ‘0’ the better). Moving to a part of your home where the WiFi signal is stronger could be the solution you’re looking for.

3. Upgrading your router

How old is your broadband router? Something that many people don’t realise is that routers don’t last forever. As WiFi protocols evolve in line with advances in digital technology, older routers become less capable of delivering high speeds, good signal strength, and consistent reliability across your home. Fixing your lag problems while gaming could be as simple as upgrading to a new router. The latest routers are powered by WiFi 6 technology which offers optimal performance for gaming enthusiasts.

4. Playing on a local server

In some games, the player is given the option to choose the server that they want to connect to. To reduce the risk of experiencing lag during gameplay, it’s often recommended to select the server closest to your location. This means that the data has less distance to travel, resulting in lower latency, a lower ping, and subsequently improved gameplay. However, if you want to play with specific players, remember that you may not always be able to choose the nearest server.

5. Keeping your home network secure

Although it’s unlikely, if you’re experiencing lag while gaming it’s important to rule out the possibility that unauthorised users are logged into your WiFi, sharing your bandwidth. This can happen if you haven’t properly secured your home network. For example, you may have used weak passwords, or shared these passwords openly, resulting in them getting into the wrong hands. You can enhance WiFi security by using strong passwords, and tracking the devices connected to your network.

Don’t let lag spoil your gaming experience

Lag is every gamer’s worst nightmare. But it doesn’t have to be. Lag is frustrating, but it’s not something you have to sit back and accept. There are many different ways to reduce lag, and the easiest way is simply to ensure your PC or console is able to run as quickly and smoothly as possible.

There are two great ways to do this: eradicating things that are slowing your devices down, like background applications, and ensuring your internet speeds are the best they can be and consider options such as gaming broadband.

What broadband speed do I need to reduce lag?

To really minimize lag while gaming online, a faster broadband speed is better. Most online games only need 2-3 Mbps for smooth play, but more bandwidth gives you headroom. Aim for at least 10 Mbps, preferably 30Mbps or higher, to allow full-quality game streaming without freeze-ups or choppy video. Faster speeds also support more connected devices using bandwidth simultaneously. 100Mbps or above like our M125 Fibre broadband is ideal for lag-free online gaming, streaming HD video, and casual browsing. The faster your broadband, the smoother your gameplay. If you’re looking for superfast speeds, use our helpful broadband postcode checker to see if you can get Virgin Media in your area.

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