Understanding Ping: Everything You Need to Know About Ping While Playing Online

4 August 2023

Ping, like many technical terms in the world of the Internet, is one of those concepts that often come up in conversations but are not always well understood. In a network context, ping is not just a simple term; it is a crucial indicator that can impact your online experiences, especially in video games. But what exactly is ping? How does it affect our daily use of the Internet? In this article, we will try to explain these issues in the simplest possible way.

  • What is Ping? A Brief Introduction

In a network context, ping is a tool used to measure the time that elapses from the moment a device sends a request to a server until it receives a response. Ping is usually measured in milliseconds (ms) and is a key indicator of network delays, also known as “lags”. The lower the ping value, the faster your device communicates with the server, which means a smoother, more responsive online interaction.

  • Why is Ping Important for Online Gamers?

From a gamer’s perspective, ping can be the deciding factor between victory and defeat. In online games, where every millisecond counts, high ping can mean a delay in character reactions to player commands. As a result, you might shoot at an opponent in a game, but due to high ping, your attack may not be registered immediately, giving your opponent an advantage. Therefore, for online gamers, understanding and minimizing ping is key to an optimal gaming experience.

I. Understanding Ping

Understanding ping is fundamental for any online gamer. Without it, it’s hard to diagnose issues that might be affecting your gaming experience. In this section, we’ll look more closely at the technical definition of ping, and then discuss how ping impacts your gameplay.

  • Technical Definition of Ping

Before we start talking about how ping affects your game, let’s take a closer look at it. The term “ping” originates from a tool used in computer network diagnostics. The name “ping” is an acronym derived from “Packet InterNet Groper”. It’s a tool that sends ICMP (Internet Control Message Protocol) requests to a specified IP address and measures the time that elapses from the request being sent to the response received.

In the context of games, ping is the delay time between a player’s action and the game server’s reaction to that action. It is measured in milliseconds (ms) and, generally speaking, the lower the ping, the better the gaming experience. A ping value below 20 ms is usually considered very good, values between 50 and 100 ms are acceptable, and a ping above 200 ms can lead to noticeable game delays.

  • How Does Ping Impact Your Gameplay?

Ping is often referred to as the pulse of an online game. This is one of those technical terms that really captures the nature of how ping affects players’ experiences. Imagine a situation where you issue a command in the game – for example, the jump of your character – but in response, you only get a delayed reaction. Your character jumps, but it does so with a second’s delay (1 second equals 1000 ms). This is the effect of very high ping.

For games that require quick reactions and precise movements, such as first-person shooters (FPS) or MOBA games, high ping can lead to frustrating situations. Take, for example, the game “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive”. In a situation where you’re dealing with high ping, your shots may not be registered on the server at the right moment, resulting in a lost firefight. In such a situation, an opponent with lower ping has an advantage, as their actions are registered by the server faster.

The same applies to MOBA games, like “League of Legends”. Reaction time and precise movements are key to victory, and high ping can result in a delay in executing skills or even moving your character.

It’s not just games that rely on quick reactions that suffer from high ping. Even in MMO games, which are less dependent on split-second reactions, high ping can cause frustrating delays. This can lead to situations where interactions with the environment, such as gathering resources or trading with other players, are delayed.

All of this leads to one conclusion: maintaining low ping is crucial for the best online gaming experience. No matter what you play, low ping helps ensure smoothness and precision, which can prove decisive in competition with other players.

Online gaming setup

II. What affects ping?

Once you understand how crucial ping is for the experience derived from online gaming, you naturally start wondering about what exactly influences your ping value. There isn’t one, universal answer – many different factors can influence how high or low your ping is. In this part of the article, we’ll take a closer look at these factors, such as the type of internet connection, distance from the server, quality of network equipment, network load, and devices operating on your home network. These elements create a comprehensive picture of what makes up the ping value that ultimately affects your gaming experience. Let’s dive into the details.

  • Type of internet connection

The first key factor influencing your ping value is the type of your internet connection. Not all internet connections are equal in terms of their impact on ping. The most significant category worth noting is the difference between wired and wireless connections.

Typically, wired connections, such as Ethernet, offer lower ping values compared to wireless connections like Wi-Fi or mobile connections (3G/4G/5G). This is because wired signals are less susceptible to interference, which can affect latency. Therefore, if possible, it’s always recommended to use a wired connection for online gaming.

However, if you have to use a wireless connection, remember that not all wireless connections are equal. For instance, Wi-Fi connections can suffer from greater latencies, especially if your home has many devices using the same Wi-Fi network. On the other hand, mobile connections, such as 4G or 5G, can offer lower latencies, but depend on the quality of the signal in a given location.

The type of internet being delivered to your home is also significant. Whether it’s fiber optic, radio internet, or mobile internet – each has its specific characteristics that can influence ping. But no matter what type of internet you have in your home, we always recommend connecting to the router using an Ethernet cable. A wired connection provides the most stable connection and therefore can significantly improve the ping value. As a result, you can gain those precious milliseconds that make a big difference in the world of online gaming.

To sum up, the type of internet connection significantly affects the ping value, and a wired connection is always the best choice for online gamers.

  • Distance from the server

The distance between your computer and the game server significantly affects your ping value. In short, the farther the server is, the higher your ping is. This makes sense, considering that signals must cover longer distances, which in turn affects the time it takes to get from point A to point B.

To understand this better, imagine a situation where you are playing an online game with a server located in America, while you are in Poland. The signals must travel thousands of kilometers to reach the game servers and then come back to your computer. This long-distance journey of data packets introduces additional delay, i.e., a higher ping.

At this point, it’s worth noting that it’s not only physical distance that matters. The route that the signal has to travel is equally important. The internet is a network made up of many different devices, such as routers and switches, which help direct traffic. Each of these devices adds a slight delay to the total travel time of the signal. The more such “hops”, the higher the ping.

For this reason, even if two servers are at the same distance from your home, you may experience different ping values depending on the route the signal took. That’s why it’s always recommended to play on the closest available servers. However, you don’t always have control over server selection, especially if the game automatically assigns it to you.

  • Quality of network hardware

The network hardware we use has a significant impact on ping and the quality of the internet connection. One must not forget that elements such as a router or a network card in our computer form the basis for a well-functioning home network.

The router is the heart of our home network. This device bridges our computer and the world of the Internet, managing all network traffic. It is crucial to note that different routers have different capabilities and performance levels.

Some models, especially those designed for online gaming, are specifically engineered to handle multiple connections at once, with minimal delays, which is key to low ping. High-end routers often come equipped with additional technologies, such as Quality of Service (QoS), which allow prioritizing network traffic for games.

Given the above, it is worth investing in a good router, especially if many devices are connected to the Internet in our home – smartphones, computers, home IoT devices – all of this can affect ping.

Another key element is the network card in the computer. This component of our computer is responsible for communication with the network. Different network cards can have different performance, depending on the card model but also the currency of the drivers that manage its operation.

Up-to-date drivers are the basis for the proper functioning of a network card – they improve the communication between the operating system and the hardware, which translates into the overall performance of the network connection. If the drivers of our network card are outdated, they may not be able to manage network traffic effectively, which can lead to increased ping.

Efficient network hardware and up-to-date drivers are key elements in the fight for low ping. In the case of online games, it is definitely worth investing in high-quality hardware and regularly updating network card drivers.

Gaming computer with up-to-date network card

  • Network load

Network load is another factor that can significantly affect ping. The more data being sent through our network, the more time it may take, resulting in higher ping. Network load can be caused by various factors.

For instance, if many people in our house are using the Internet simultaneously, such as streaming videos, transferring large files, or other activities that require high bandwidth, this can cause network load, which in turn translates into higher ping.

Similarly, if we are using multiple devices connected to the network simultaneously, such as smartphones, tablets, Smart TVs, or other equipment requiring Internet connectivity, these devices can affect overall network performance, even if we are not using them at the moment. Many of these devices regularly communicate with the Internet in the background, for instance, to check for updates or send data to the cloud.

Finally, our computer can also contribute to network load. Anything that consumes bandwidth on our computer – from system and software updates to various background applications – can affect ping.

It’s worth noting that some of these factors may be beyond our control, but there are others over which we have some power. Good practices include regular monitoring and management of network activity, limiting the number of devices connected to the network, and minimizing background tasks on our computer, especially when playing online games.

  • Devices on the home network

Equally important is how other devices on our home network affect ping. Even when we are actively using only one device for online gaming, other computers, televisions, mobile phones, or tablets connected to the same network can simultaneously consume valuable bandwidth. If, for example, someone in the house is watching a movie in ultra-high quality on Netflix, it may cause higher ping for the online player.

It’s worth noting that this problem is not exclusive to Internet-connected devices. Even devices that seem to have nothing to do with the network, such as a microwave or an induction stove, can interfere with Wi-Fi signals, resulting in higher ping. For instance, operating a microwave while using Wi-Fi can cause interference with the wireless network signal.

Similarly, some Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as smart light bulbs or thermostats, can continuously connect to the network, which can also affect our ping.

One should not forget that even the smallest, unnoticeable at first glance, problems with network devices can affect the quality of the Internet connection. Based on our experience, we can point out a few unusual examples where the fault for high, fluctuating ping lay with another device.

In one case, the quality of the connection was affected by a smartphone that had issues with the built-in Wi-Fi card, resulting in constant network load. Another example is a solar inverter connected to the router via Wi-Fi. While at first glance this may seem insignificant, the network load generated by this inverter negatively affected the ping.

Another interesting example we encountered is a furnace controlled via Wi-Fi. Although it is a device that would seem not to affect the Internet connection, it turned out that the functioning of its network module had a negative impact on the quality of the connection.

All these examples show how wide the potential causes of ping problems can be and how important it is to monitor and manage devices on our home network. Each device, regardless of its purpose, can become a potential “thief” of low ping.

III. Diagnosing ping problems

In the previous sections, we discussed what ping is and what factors can affect its value. Now we move to the practical part – diagnosing potential ping problems. Whether you notice problems during gaming, or simply want to ensure your connection is functioning as it should, it’s worth knowing how to check and interpret your ping. In this section, you will learn how to do this, what tools can be helpful, and how to correctly interpret the results of ping tests.

  • How to check your ping?

Checking your ping is relatively straightforward and does not require advanced technical skills. Depending on the operating system you use, this process can vary slightly, but fundamentally it involves using built-in system tools.

Windows: First, you need to open Command Prompt. You can do this by pressing the Windows + R keys, typing “cmd” in the “Run” window, and then pressing Enter. Once the Command Prompt opens, type “ping” and after this command type the IP address or domain to which you want to send ICMP packets. For example, if you want to check the ping to Google’s server, type “ping google.com” and press Enter. The system will send a series of packets to the given address and then display information about the response time, which will give you information about the ping value.

Ping in Windows 10

macOS: In macOS, the process is very similar, but instead of Command Prompt, Terminal is used. You can find it in the utility applications. After opening Terminal, type “ping”, then the IP address or domain to which you want to send ICMP packets, e.g. “ping google.com”, and then press Enter.

Linux: Similar to macOS, Linux users will use the terminal. The process is the same – type “ping”, and then the IP address or domain to which you want to send ICMP packets, e.g. “ping google.com”, and then press Enter.

It’s worth noting that ping test results can vary depending on the time of day, network load, and other factors, so it’s advisable to conduct several tests at different times to get a full picture of the situation.

  • Ping Diagnostic Tools

In addition to the built-in system tools available in operating systems, there are many specialized ping diagnostic tools that can provide more detailed information and facilitate understanding of the results.

Speedtest by Ookla: Speedtest is a simple but effective internet speed test that also measures ping. It is available on many platforms, including as an application for computers and mobile devices, and as a test directly available in a web browser.

PingPlotter: PingPlotter is a popular network diagnosis tool available for Windows, macOS, and iOS. The program offers a range of features, including visualization of the path that packets are moving along, which allows for identifying points that may be causing problems.

Wireshark: Wireshark is an advanced network packet analyzer that allows for a deep understanding of what’s happening in the network. Although it may be a bit complicated for beginners, it’s extremely powerful and offers many features for diagnosing network problems, including ping.

ExitLag: ExitLag is a paid tool specifically designed for gamers, which helps diagnose and fix network latency problems. The program offers optimization of packet transmission routes to game servers, and also prioritizes data packets related to games.

Remember that when using any ping testing tool, it’s important to conduct tests at different times of the day and under different conditions to get an accurate picture of the situation.

  • Interpreting Ping Test Results

Interpreting the results of ping tests is key to understanding what potential problems may be with our network connection. The main value we pay attention to is, of course, the ping itself, which is measured in milliseconds (ms). Here are some general guidelines for interpreting results:

Ping below 50 ms: This is an ideal ping value for most gamers. The connection is fast, and delays are almost unnoticeable.

Ping between 50 and 100 ms: This is still a good ping value, although sensitive games, such as first-person shooters, might experience minimal delays.

Ping between 100 and 200 ms: The connection starts to show noticeable delays. This may still be acceptable for some games, but games requiring quick reactions might become more difficult.

Ping above 200 ms: Delays of this kind are usually unacceptable for most gamers. The game becomes harder to play due to significant delay.

Note, however, that the ping result is not everything. Other stats, such as “jitter” (ping fluctuations) and “packet loss” (loss of packets) are also important to consider. High jitter or packet loss can cause inconsistent and unpredictable gaming experiences, even if the ping itself seems fine.

Ping testing tools usually provide this additional information, which can help in diagnosing more complex issues. Wireshark and PingPlotter, which we mentioned earlier, are particularly useful in these situations. Remember that consulting with a professional network technician or your internet service provider may be required if the test results are hard to understand or if the ping problem persists.

Gamer's hands during online gameplay

IV. How to Improve Your Ping

When we notice that our ping is high, it can be a significant obstacle in playing online games. Fortunately, there are many strategies you can employ to lower your ping and improve the overall quality of your internet connection. In this chapter, we’ll discuss some of the most important ones, starting with optimizing your internet connection, through selecting the right game server, to upgrading your network hardware and managing network load. Remember, every situation is unique, and what works for one person may not necessarily work for another. It’s important to experiment with different approaches and find what works best for you.

  • Optimizing Your Internet Connection

One of the simplest ways to improve your ping is by optimizing your internet connection. Below are some strategies that can help:

1. Connect your computer directly to the router: As we mentioned earlier, wireless connections are generally less stable than wired ones. Therefore, if you have the opportunity, try connecting your computer directly to your router using an Ethernet cable. This can significantly reduce your ping.

2. Contact us: If you notice that your ping is consistently high, it would be worthwhile to get in touch with us. We are here to help and our technical department would gladly check the quality of your service. We can diagnose the problem and suggest solutions that will help improve the quality of your connection.

At this point, it’s worth mentioning that we offer different internet packages. Make sure you’ve chosen the one that provides sufficient bandwidth for your needs. Higher-bandwidth packages can enhance your online gaming experiences when multiple people are using the internet.

3. Network settings optimization: In operating systems such as Windows or MacOS, there are various settings that can affect network performance. This can include things like QoS (Quality of Service), which allows for the prioritization of network traffic, or turning off automatic system updates during gameplay. Check out the available settings and see if some of them might help improve your connection.

However, remember that optimizing your internet connection is only part of the equation. It’s also important to manage other factors that can impact ping, such as choosing the right gaming server, upgrading network hardware, or managing network load.

  • Selecting the Right Game Server

Choosing the right game server is another essential part of optimizing your ping. In many online games, players have the choice of which server they want to connect to. As mentioned earlier, the distance between the player and the server has a significant impact on ping, so choosing a server that’s geographically closest to you can greatly improve your ping. Keep in mind, however, that the closest server isn’t always the best choice – it also depends on the quality of the connection to that server.

Some games automatically choose a server based on the player’s location, but this isn’t always the most optimal choice. Therefore, it’s always worthwhile to check if the game allows for manual server selection. This can be particularly useful in games with large, global communities, where different servers may be located in different parts of the world.

For example, if you live in Poland and play a game that has servers in different parts of Europe, you’ll likely have a better ping to a server in Germany than to one in Spain. It’s worth taking a moment to check which server provides the best connection. Many games offer tools that allow you to check your ping to various servers before you start playing.

The number of players active on a particular server at a given time can also impact your ping. Game servers are designed to handle a certain number of players, but if this number is exceeded, it can lead to delays and higher pings. Overloaded servers may struggle to process all the incoming data, which can in turn affect your ping.

Therefore, it’s worth paying attention not only to the server’s geolocation but also to its load at a given moment. At the same time, it’s a good idea to check the peak popularity hours of the game in your region and, if possible, try to play outside these hours to reduce the risk of higher ping.

  • Upgrading Network Hardware

Upgrading your network hardware is another step that can improve your ping. Network hardware, such as your router or the network card in your computer, plays a crucial role in maintaining a stable internet connection and low ping. If you’re using an older model of router or network card, they may not be able to efficiently handle the fast and consistent connections required by online games.

When purchasing a new router, there are a few key aspects to consider. Firstly, check if it supports the latest Wi-Fi connectivity standards, such as Wi-Fi 6, which can provide faster and more stable connections. Secondly, see if the router has QoS (Quality of Service) features, which allow for the prioritization of traffic related to online gaming.

Similarly, replacing the network card in your computer can bring significant benefits. Modern network cards offer better speeds, lower latency, and are more reliable. Before purchasing a new network card, it’s worth making sure that it’s compatible with your computer.

However, remember that having modern hardware alone isn’t everything. It’s also important to regularly update the drivers of your network card and the firmware of your router. These updates often contain bug fixes and improvements that can positively impact the performance of your internet connection.

  • Managing Network Load

Managing your network load is equally important in improving your ping. Any network activities, such as video streaming, downloading files, or using cloud services, can increase network load and lead to higher ping. That’s why it’s important to monitor and control network traffic when playing online.

If you’re the only user of the network, you can easily manage your network traffic by closing any unnecessary applications or streams that may consume valuable network resources. However, if you’re sharing your connection with others, you can use the QoS (Quality of Service) feature available in some routers. This feature allows for prioritizing network traffic for certain applications (like online games), which can help ensure a low ping during gameplay.

Additionally, it’s worth being aware of the impact that other devices in your home network may have on network load. For instance, IoT devices like smart bulbs, thermostats, or security systems can generate constant network traffic which, although usually small, can impact ping, especially on networks with lesser bandwidth.

V. Conclusion

Ping is an integral part of online gaming, affecting the speed and fluidity of our in-game experiences. Understanding and monitoring it can help us in refining our gaming skills and optimizing our internet connection. Below are a few key points to remember from our guide:

Technical definition of ping: Ping is a measure of the time it takes for information to travel from your computer to a server and back. It is measured in milliseconds (ms) and can affect how quickly your commands are executed in a game.

What affects ping: Many factors can affect your ping, including the type of internet connection, distance from the game server, quality of network hardware, network load, and other devices operating in your home network.

Diagnosing ping issues: There are many tools and methods we can use to diagnose and monitor our ping, such as built-in tools in the operating system or dedicated ping testing applications.

How to reduce ping: Improving ping may require optimizing your internet connection, choosing the right game server, upgrading network hardware, or managing network load.

We hope that this guide has helped you understand what ping is, how to reduce it, why it’s important for online games, and what you can do to improve your gaming experiences. Remember that understanding and managing your ping can be key to achieving optimal online gaming experiences.

VI. Sources and References

The article used information from the following sources:

  1. Ping on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ping_(networking_utility)
  2. Hop on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hop_(networking)

Links to additional materials and tools for ping analysis:

  1. Ookla’s Speedtest: https://www.speedtest.net/
  2. PingPlotter: https://www.pingplotter.com/
  3. Wireshark: https://www.wireshark.org/
  4. ExitLag: https://www.exitlag.com/