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What is Packet Loss in Gaming?

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Packet loss gives out a few telltale signs you can recognize it by, primarily through hitches and stutters in your game and general network performance drops. Moreover, if you notice any rubberbanding when playing, chances are that you have a high packet loss.

So, how do you resolve packet loss and ensure your gaming sessions aren’t affected by this issue? We’ve covered everything from common packet loss causes to the most effective solutions for fixing network packet loss. Read on to learn everything you need to know about packet loss in gaming.

What is Packet Loss?

When you’re connected to a game’s servers, your data is transmitted in small units called packets. If a network performs well, the data carried is transmitted in full. But, when there are network issues, packet loss happens. Packet loss is an occurrence when data sent over a network is dropped or lost entirely.

Packet loss issues are more likely to occur on Wi-Fi networks, especially when the packets have to go far. When your connection is plagued by high packet loss, you also experience high latency and high ping due to reduced network performance.

For example, packet loss can occur when there are too many devices connected to the same network. Or, your network might also drop packets when you’re accessing a game’s server physically located in a region far away from you.

What Causes Packet Loss in Gaming?

Packet loss occurs due to a number of different factors. So, to fix packet loss and get your network speeds back to normal, you first need to get to the root cause of the data transmission issues. From this perspective, let’s go over the most common causes of network packet loss:

Network Hardware Problems

If you’re playing games online on old or faulty hardware, the chances of having packet loss issues are exacerbated. For instance, if you’re using underperforming network devices, your network traffic won’t be transmitted as efficiently as it should.

Any issue like subpar routers and network switches inevitably leads to weakened connection signals. Moreover, even if you’ve done your due diligence and only play on wired networks, faulty cables might be the issue why you’re experiencing noticeable lag.

Network Congestion

To illustrate how network congestion happens, let’s say that your network is like a freeway. The faster your connection speeds are, the more lanes you have on your freeway. But, just like on the road, congestions happen when the network receives more traffic than it can handle.

Too much traffic will go over the network’s maximum limit. If this happens, the network will need more time to process packets. In this scenario, the network will automatically leave behind some data packets due to these space limitations.

Fortunately, most modern software automatically resolves this issue in one of two ways. It limits transfer speed to ensure each packet comes through or automatically attempts to resend the data left behind.

Software Bugs

Sometimes, the cause of discarded packets might be as sneaky as a software bug. If you’re not very tech-savvy, you might not detect this issue, meaning that it can go under the radar for a longer period. In most cases, you can resolve this problem by rebooting your hardware or updating your software.

Security Threats and Security Breaches

Lastly, you might experience high packet loss if you become a target of a cyberattack. This is often the case when there’s a massive drop in data transmission efficiency. Most commonly, attackers will hack into your network device and instruct it to drop network packets when transmitting data.

For instance, denial-of-service attacks are a prevalent form of such threats. When hackers attack using this method, legitimate users have to refrain from accessing files because of the threat.

Packet loss caused by a security breach is more difficult to fix, as there’s not much to do apart from mitigating the damage if your operating systems are under attack. That said, while these attacks are getting more common with time, they are still rare.

How Packet Loss Limits Your Gaming

When your Internet connection suffers from high packet loss, the data traveling between the game server and your device gets lost during transmission. And, just like high ping, this issue can lead to lag spikes and delayed responses that are so severe that your game becomes practically unplayable.

What’s more, the issues span much wider than the online games you’re playing. For example, video calls and voice calls, to a lesser extent, will also be affected by this issue. Although the percentage of lost packets needs to be higher for these issues to be more noticeable, they can also limit your experience, especially if you like facetiming others while gaming.

How to Fix Packet Loss in Gaming?

While packet loss can certainly have a negative impact on your gaming experience, it’s an issue that you can troubleshoot and fix on your own. With that in mind, here are the best methods you can try out to fix packet loss and improve your Internet connection:

1. Use a Network Performance Monitor

A network performance monitor is the most comprehensive solution you can employ to get rid of packet loss issues. It provides you with in-depth insight into your network’s situation, often with useful visualization tools.

One of the best options in this regard is SolarWinds. It’s arguably the most complete network monitoring tool and can automatically resolve many network problems. Due to its robust features, SolarWinds is an especially great pick for larger networks.

2. Use a Cable Connection

This seems like a fairly simple solution to the issue, but switching to an Ethernet cable connection can make a drastic difference. An Ethernet cable connection will ensure things move along better and automatically minimize overall packet loss.

Before and after this switch, do a ping test or two to see how the results compare. Provided you’re not using any faulty hardware, you’ll certainly be pleased with the results. What’s more, if you can set up a fiber-optic connection, you’ll ensure an even better network connection to your game server.

3. Update Your Software and Hardware

As both software and hardware can cause you issues in this regard, updating these two aspects might help you get rid of the problem. When it comes to the latter, inspect your hardware and make sure everything is in solid shape.

Updating your software is a bit more finicky. Most importantly, ensure your operating system is up to date. OS developers constantly bring out updates and changes. So, a system that has all of the latest features is less likely to suffer from lag that can limit your connection’s potential.

4. Use a VPN

A VPN can be a very effective tool for reducing packet loss, but only in certain conditions. Namely, if your network activity is impeded by your ISP’s poor performance, a VPN is the right tool for the job.

In this situation, the VPN can ensure that the data travels more efficiently and that there’s no information loss. However, a VPN still isn’t a be-all and end-all solution, as it can’t magically improve network performance if you use a slow data plan or poor hardware.

5. Go to Your ISP

If none of these tips help, the only thing that’s left is to go to your internet service provider. Your ISP will likely have a troubleshooting platform to efficiently resolve this issue. Perhaps the issue is closely related to ISP’s deficient infrastructure, so highlighting this problem will prompt them to resolve it.

5 Best VPNs for Solving Packet Loss

1. NordVPN

NordVPN is the best VPN service you can use to reduce packet loss in gaming. With over 5,400 servers in its network, NordVPN will ensure you find the right option to pair up with your game server, no matter your location. It also has an in-house protocol called NordLynx. This protocol is up to two times faster than other VPN protocols.

This powerful VPN can protect you from DDoS attacks, a valuable trait for playing online games. In addition, it supports split tunneling, a kill switch, and various advanced tools, most notably Threat Protection.

NordVPN offers impeccable privacy. It’s based in Panama and doesn’t collect any logs of your activities. Furthermore, it supports obfuscated servers, which hide the fact that you’re using a VPN.

Pros:
  • Thousands of lightning-fast servers
  • Unblocks streaming services
  • Fully supports Torrenting and P2P
  • Strict no-logs policy and RAM-disk servers
  • Ad blocker and malware protection features
  • Robust security features and military-grade encryption
  • 24/7 live chat support
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
Cons:
  • Only 6 simultaneous connections
  • No free trial

2. Surfshark

Surfshark possesses over 3,200 servers in 100 countries. All of these servers run exclusively on RAM. Plus, there’s at least one 1 Gbps port on every server, with many servers featuring 10 Gbps ports. Its entire network supports the WireGuard protocol. All of this means that Surfshark can deliver some of the fastest speeds around and is excellent for gaming.

Surfshark lets you connect unlimited devices per subscription, so you can conveniently game across as many devices as you want. It also comes with private DNS and leak protection, a kill switch, and a strict no-logs policy. Apart from this, Surfshark supports other useful features like Bypasser, NoBorders Mode, and Camouflage Mode.

Pros:
  • Very affordable
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
  • Ad-blocking feature
  • Unblocks streaming platforms
  • Allows split-tunneling and has multi-hop VPN feature
  • No-log policy and strong security features
  • GPS spoofing on Android devices
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
Cons:
  • No free version
  • Does not allow P2P seeding

3. Atlas VPN

Atlas VPN has a fairly small but very solid network numbering 750 servers in 45 locations. All of its servers support the WireGuard protocol, which performs excellently for gaming. This VPN is loaded with outstanding features. You can use SafeSwap, MultiHop+, SafeBrowse, split tunneling, and many other advanced tools.

To add to this, Atlas VPN is the only VPN service on this list that offers a free subscription plan. Of course, this plan comes with limited features, but it is still an excellent option, as it enables you to try the service for free and see if it’s right for you. Not only that, but Atlas VPN also allows you to have unlimited connections per subscription.

Pros:
  • Very affordable plans and it has a free version
  • Fast Speeds
  • Unlimited device support
  • WireGuard protocol and strong security features
  • Torrenting-friendly
  • Unblocks streaming services
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
Cons:
  • Limited Linux app
  • Based in the US
  • Not so many servers

4. PrivateVPN

If you want a simple and reliable gaming VPN, PrivateVPN is a superb choice. It covers over 200 locations in 63 countries. The service doesn’t have many advanced features, but you can still count on some handy tools, including a kill switch. It allows you to connect up to 10 devices per plan and works on all major systems.

Most importantly in the context of this page, PrivateVPN has a proven uptime of 99.98%. This means that you can rely on stable networks without having to worry about any predictable drops. Moreover, it doesn’t limit your speed or bandwidth.

Pros:
  • Supports P2P traffic and allows port forwarding
  • Unlimited bandwidth and great speeds
  • Unblocks most streaming platforms
  • Zero-logging policy
  • Free Static IP servers
  • 10 simultaneous connections
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
Cons:
  • Not as many servers as other VPN providers
  • No split-tunneling

5. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is known for being one of the fastest and safest VPNs in the business. With this in mind, it’s a great pick for gaming, as it can ensure you get stable and fast connections while keeping you completely safe. Its connections support the innovative Lightway protocol.

This VPN has thousands of servers across the globe, so you can conveniently play online games from anywhere. ExpressVPN also includes a number of useful features, such as split tunneling, a kill switch, and private DNS on every server.

Pros:
  • Works with streaming
  • Supports torrenting
  • No-logs policy
  • TrustedServer technology with RAM-only servers
  • Premium security features
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
Cons:
  • Expensive subscription plans
  • Only 5 simultaneous connections

Conclusion

Hopefully, this detailed page has helped you understand the main causes of packet loss and provided you with adequate input on preventing or resolving these problems. While annoying, packet loss shouldn’t ruin your online gaming experience, as you can easily fix it on your own without much effort.

With that in mind, if you want not only to reduce packet loss but also get rid of high ping and ensure a stable connection speed for gaming, a VPN is the best tool for the job. The five services we’ve recommended above are the best picks. Still, NordVPN remains the best all-around VPN for fixing packet loss in gaming.

Fix Packet Loss FAQs

Can a VPN fix packet loss?

Yes, you can reduce packet loss by using a VPN service. However, this won’t work in every scenario. If you’re suffering from Internet packet loss because of a software issue or restrictions from your ISP, then a VPN can resolve the problem. But, if the problem is caused by poor hardware, a VPN won’t do much.

How much packet loss is normal when gaming?

Packet loss under 1% is considered good. When playing online games, network packet loss of up to 2.5% is still acceptable. However, anything over this can noticeably worsen your online gaming experience.

How to monitor packet loss?

To reliably look for data transmission errors, you must use a comprehensive network monitoring solution that ensures seamless network monitoring. Regularly look for network signals and improve network aspects to ensure you have a stable connection and that your devices have enough capacity to handle the traffic.

IS UDP or TCP better for reducing packet loss in gaming?

Both UDP (User Datagram Protocol) and TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) have their pros and cons in this regard. Namely, UDP is faster and more efficient. But, unlike TCP, it doesn’t have the ability to retransmit lost packets.

Do wireless networks experience more packet loss than wired ones?

Yes, WiFi packet loss is much more common than that on networks that use a wired connection. A wireless Internet connection is much more vulnerable, as issues like weaker signals, radio frequency interference, and physical barriers can lead to data packets getting dropped.

Is packet loss in gaming always fixable?

Yes, you can always fix packet loss issues or at least minimize packet loss enough to improve your gaming sessions. This is because you have many tools at your disposal. So, the most important thing is to determine the cause of the problem, as that will let you know what you need to do to fix it.

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