Slow downloading games and patches is one of the biggest frustrations for console gamers. With such large file sizes and digital downloads so commonly used now, downloads can seem to take forever, so what options are available to make the process go a little bit faster?
By far the biggest factor is how quickly any files download on a home network is the quality and strength of the connection between your console and your router – wired connections are always better than wireless. Beyond that there are some console and router settings you can change which can sometimes make downloads go faster, and you should also make sure you are getting the internet speeds you are paying for from your ISP.
Beyond that, there is not much to do other than wait for downloads to finish. There is no getting away from the fact the file sizes for games in particular are very large these days, running from anything between 20 Gigabytes for a smaller game to 50 Gigabytes or more for some of the larger games. let’s go through some of the main things we can try to reduce the times it takes to download games and patches digitally on games consoles.
1. Get Onto a Wired Ethernet Connection if Possible
The most important factor in how quickly digital downloads complete is how good your connection is between your console and your router. This is where the inherent weaknesses in wifi can start to hurt gamers, since wifi will always unavoidably degrade and weaken over distance, especially if travelling through a lot of walls or floors to get from the router to the console.
This will result in far less bandwidth being delivered than if you were using wifi right next to the router, or better still plugged directly into the router with a ethernet cable. Wired connections are always more reliable and consistent than wireless ones for delivering the highest bandwidth and the lowest latency for gaming, so you should always try and get onto a wired ethernet connection if possible when downloading large files.
Of course this is not always so easy if the console is located several rooms or floors away from the router. It can be harder to run an ethernet cable directly in these cases, which is why wifi is being used in the first place.
In these cases there are a couple of options. Firstly, you can run do some DIY and run a long ethernet cable through the house, which may involve drilling through walls or ceilings but will deliver the best possible connection if this is what you need for digital downloads.
Some people don’t want to be messing around with any DIY or running long ethernet cables through the house though, which is where the second option of a Powerline Adapter comes in. These are clever home networking solutions which can deliver a wired connection to your games console even if you are at some distance from the router.
Powerline adapters consist of a pair of adapter plugs, one of which is plugged in and connected to your router; the other of which is plugged in and connected to your console. The two plugs then communicate through the electrical wiring of the house to deliver a strong, reliable ethernet connection to your device, even if it is several rooms and floors away from the router.
They essentially allow you to have an ethernet connection to your router without having to run ethernet cables through the house, since the (hidden) electrical wiring of the house is carrying the data instead. They deliver all the benefits of an ethernet connection – including delivering maximum bandwidth – and so are a great alternative to using wifi for downloading large files on your console.
TheTP Link Nano TL-PA4010 Kit model is an entry level, best selling no nonsense powerline adapter model with just one ethernet port and no passthrough. Click here to view on Amazon. It will provide a solid, wired ethernet connection to your router using the existing electrical wiring of your house. See our Powerline Adapters page for more models, with passthrough plug sockets and more ethernet ports. Our Product Comparison Table compares all the wired and wireless powerline adapter models at a glance by feature and functionality.
We believe that getting on a wired connection, either directly or through a powerline adapter, is by far the most important factor in how fast files will download to your PS4, Xbox One or any other games console. This is the main thing to address if you are finding downloads taking too long when using wifi.
However, there are some other things to try which can also help digital downloads complete faster. Let’s look at some of these options in turn.
2. Put Your Console Into Rest or Standby Mode Whilst Downloading
Another way to speed up digital downloads is to make sure your console has no other things to do whilst it is downloading the file. At a bare minimum, it is best not to download more than one file at once or play online whilst files are downloading, but ideally it is best not to use the console at all to free up the maximum possible resources to get the game or patch downloaded as quickly as possible.
To do this you need to put the console into Rest or Standby mode whilst the file is downloading, and find something else to do for a while. For the PS4 this is called Rest Mode, and the for the Xbox One this is called Instant On mode. Both modes can be configured to allow downloads to continue whilst in these states.
Here are the steps to do this for each console. It is very important to configure the right settings on your console though so it can still download when in this standby mode.
- Putting Your PS4 Into Rest Mode:
- Go to Settings on your PS4 menu.
- Go to Power Save settings.
- Go to Set Functions Available in Rest Mode.
- Make sure the Download Files box is ticked.
- Now you can press and hold the Playstation button or go to Power options and put your PS4 into Rest Mode while it’s downloading games or patches.
- See this video for how to do this.
- Putting Your Xbox One Into Instant On mode:
- Go to Settings…. All Settings.
- Select Power & Startup options.
- Select the Power mode instant on option.
- Make sure the “Automatically download updates and purchases” box is ticked and the “When Xbox is off, turn off storage” box is unticked.
- Hold down the Home Button on your pad and then select Turn Console off to put it into Instant On mode once a game has started downloading. The Download should complete a little faster.
- See this video for a tutorial on how to do this,
3. Changing Your DNS Servers
Another thing to experiment with to make digital downloads go faster is to change DNS settings on your console. This can sometimes give higher download speeds, though it is not guaranteed and may in fact in some cases deliver slower speeds. Results will be different for every person depending on their location, hardware, internet connection etc.
However, changing DNS servers is a relatively easy thing to do. Here are instructions on how to do it for the PS4 and Xbox One:
- Changing DNS Settings For the PS4:
- Head to Settings, then Network
- Go to Set Up Internet Connection
- Select LAN or Wifi depending on what you are using
- Select Custom
- Click through the IP Address and DCHP settings as they are, without changing them.
- For DNS switch to Manual
- Input your Primary and Secondary DNS Servers as one of these custom pairs. Google DNS is the most common service with the most servers worldwide and is therefore the one to try first:
- Google DNS – Primary 220.127.116.11 Secondary 18.104.22.168
- OpenDNS– Primary 22.214.171.124 Secondary 126.96.36.199
- CloudFlare DNS – Primary 188.8.131.52 Secondary 184.108.40.206
- Run through the rest of the settings as they are without changing them
- Retest your download and upload speeds by heading to Settings…….Network…….Test Internet Connection. It is worth testing the connection a few times as changing settings can produce a one off fluke improvement in speeds the first time you test it, but then it reverts back to the speeds you were getting before.
- Changing DNS Settings For the Xbox One:
- Press the Xbox button in the middle of your pad to open up the Guide.
- Move to System, then Settings.
- Move to Network….Network Settings….. Advanced Settings.
- Select DNS Settings, then Manual
- Enter your preferred Primary and Secondary DNS settings as listed above.
- Once entered press the B button to exit and test connection.
See our Best DNS For Gaming Article For a complete guide of how do it it for other games consoles, plus an analysis of whether it makes a real difference. The short answer is that sometimes it will and sometimes it won’t. Sometimes the gain in speed will be barely be enough to justify making the changes, but it is worth trying if you are looking for quicker downloads longer term.
4. Pause and Resume Downloads
Another quick option to try is simply pausing and resuming digital downloads. This can in some cases make downloads recommence at a faster speed than before, though again this does not always work.
Sometimes cancelling the download entirely and restarting it can also deliver faster speeds, though you obviously lose whatever you have downloaded so far and have to start all over again. In most cases this won’t be quicker in the long run unless the download has only just started, but you can try it if you want.
To Pause and Resume downloads on the PS4, head to Notifications, then Downloads. A progress bar will appear showing the state of the download. Click on the Pause symbol to either pause the download or cancel it altogether. If paused, clicking on it again will continue the download. Sometimes this delivers a faster speed, though not always.
To Pause and Resume downloads on the Xbox One, go the the Home screen and pull the right trigger, then press A to open the Games and Apps menu. Select Queue, then highlight the download you want to pause. Press the Menu button, then select Pause or Cancel. Once paused the download can be resumed or restarted, and again may deliver faster speeds in some cases.
5. Enable Quality of Service on Your Home Router
Another settings change you can make on your home network can sometimes improve traffic management is to use Quality of Service if available on your router to prioritize your games console. This can sometimes alleviate network congestion to some extent, though in fairness it is more useful for reducing lag than for increasing download speeds.
Quality of Service is especially useful for busy households, where there are lots of different people using the internet at the same time, competing for the available bandwidth. Enabling QoS allows you to put your games console to the front of the queue, so it’s traffic gets dealt with before anything else.
Unfortunately QoS is not available on all routers; however for routers where it is available, the general process involves logging into your router, finding the QoS settings and entering your console’s IP or MAC address into the settings menus and setting the priority to “Maximum” or “Highest” to instruct the router to deal with your console’s traffic demands as a priority over other devices on the home network.
This tends to work better at reducing latency rather than increasing bandwidth, since internet packages only have a limited amount of bandwidth which must be shared out amongst all devices which are using the network regardless. Therefore if other people are downloading or streaming at the same time as you, then speeds will unavoidably slow down, though setting QoS may help a little.
See our full article on QoS for a full run down of how to use this setting to improve your gaming experience in high internet use households.
6. Use Dual Band Wifi to Manage Traffic on Your Home Network
Another way to manage traffic on congested home networks is to take advantage of dual band wifi that is on most modern routers, which can split off different devices into two separate wifi frequencies or bands to reduce congestion. This means that not all devices are competing for space on the same band.
Standard dual band wifi comes in the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies, and placing your games console on it’s own on the 5GHz band for example, whilst leaving all other devices on the 2.4GHz band, can leave more bandwidth available to your console to download files a little faster, though as we mentioned total bandwidth availability is still limited by your internet package.
This process in general involves logging into your router using the 192.168.1.1 or .0.1 address in the browser bar, going to dual band settings and placing your console on it’s own in one of the bands so there is less network congestion for it to compete with when downloading.
7. Check With Your Internet Provider
It is also a good idea to check if you are actually getting the speeds you are paying for from your Internet Service Provider. The nature of the internet and networking means that we can almost never get the full advertised speeds we are often promised by our ISPs; see our article which explores why we rarely get the full internet speeds we pay for.
Nevertheless, you should still be able to get a speed close to the maximum potential at least some of the time, especially during so called “off peak” times, when not so many people are using the internet, like afternoons for example when most people are at work, or in the middle of the night. Speeds do tend to fall off at evening peak times when more people are using the internet.
However, if you are finding you are never getting speeds anywhere close to the maximum “up to ….. mbps” you are paying for on your internet package, even at off peak times, then contact your ISP and ask them to look into it. They sell more expensive packages based on these speed promises, so if they are not delivering them then it is totally fair to raise the issue with them and make sure you are getting what you have paid for.
There may be some settings they can adjust from their end to improve speeds, or else they may call a technician out to take a look at your hardware and cabling. Either way, if they won’t fix it, consider moving to another provider. UK readers can check out our article on the different packages from the main providers, US based readers can check towards the bottom of this article for a summary of different packages available in different states.
Realize the Difference Between Speeds (Megabits per second) and File Sizes (Megabytes or Gigabytes)
This isn’t really a trick or a hack to improve digital download speeds, but just something to bear in mind. Internet download speeds and file sizes are usually measured in different units, and not being aware of this can lead us to think that files should be downloaded quicker than they actually are.
Put simply, download speeds from your ISP are measured in megabits per second (mbps, small b), whereas file sizes are measured in megabytes (mB, large B) or gigabytes, a much larger unit of data. A bit is eight times smaller than byte, and therefore a megabit is eight times smaller than a megabyte, and a thousand times smaller still than a gigabyte. There are 8000 megabits in a Gigabtye so this gives some idea of why large downloads can take so long.
This subtle difference in the way speeds and file sizes are denoted is easy to miss and ISPs don’t do much to dispel this confusion. Realising this difference will sometimes make it clear why games or patches you thought should have been downloaded in a few minutes are actually taking much longer, since the transfer rate is measured in a much lower unit of megabits per second.
See our article on download speeds for the PS4 for more on this, including some examples of speeds and download times. When we realize this difference, we see how having a good internet package which delivers higher download speeds of 100 mbps or more can really be beneficial if we download a lot of games digitally. Doubling your download speed halves the download time.