Top Tips If You Lag When Others Use The Internet


Netflix Streaming

As an online gamer do you find yourself constantly lagging when other people are using the internet at the same time?

You might have someone else streaming Netflix or watching YouTube videos when you are trying to game, and you find it constantly interferes with your connection and causes you to lag. Is there anything you can do to solve this?

There is a setting on some routers called Quality of Service which is specifically designed to solve this problem. QoS settings allow you to prioritize traffic and devices on your home network so that applications and processes which need to be dealt with first by the router can be.

Here are the very brief steps to configure QoS to resolve lag problems when other people are using the internet.

  • Find the MAC address of your games console in the Connection Settings/Status menus
  • Log into your router (type 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1 into any browser, plus the router password)
  • Find QoS Settings if they are available
  • Select your console using the MAC address you found earlier.
  • Set the priority to Highest or Maximum.

Unfortunately QoS is not available on on all routers but we have some alternative solutions if this is the case, like using wired ethernet connections whenever possible, or a powerline adapter as a next best solution.

Lets look at QoS in more detail now, including a more in depth tutorial on how to configure these settings.

Online Gaming

Online gaming can be tricky in crowded houses where other people are streaming or downloading at the same time

What is Quality Of Service?

Quality of Service or QoS is a setting available on some routers that allows you to prioritize traffic to certain devices or applications. It is basically configures the router with an algorithm telling it to process certain traffic first. Quality of Service can be applied to certain devices, certain types of traffic or even certain applications in some cases.

This is important as certain kinds of activities, such as gaming and streaming and live chat over Skype and other services, need priority on a home network to make sure user experience doesn’t suffer.

Other lighter activities like general browsing and email take up less resources and so only need a lesser priority. User experience will also not suffer with a slight delay with these activities.

Online gaming arguably needs the highest priority of all as it does not use that much bandwidth, but what data it does use needs to be sent as quickly as possible to avoid games lagging out and the user experience suffering as a result.

In other words, it is a latency sensitive activity. Streaming also needs a higher priority, though not quite as high as gaming, as films and videos will buffer if there is too much delay in the router processing them.

So we can see then that in a crowded house we may have competing demands from gamers, streamers, downloaders and general browsers, all taking up bandwidth and router resources.

We need some kind of setting which tells the router which specific order to process all these traffic demands to keep everyone happy. This is where Quality of Service comes in. Let’s look at how to configure QoS below.

How to Configure Quality of Service

Quality of Service is unfortunately not available on all routers, but to find out if it is available you will need to log in to your router using it’s IP address and password, which can be found on the router itself or online if you type the router model in.

The most common IP addresses for routers are 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1; type one of these into a browser address bar and enter the router password to log in.

See the full step by step process below:

  • Make a note of the IP and MAC address of your games console. They can easily be found in the Connection Status/Settings menus of your console.
  • Login to the router using it’s IP address and password, IP commonly 192.168.0.1 (192.168.1.1 or 192.168.1.254 are two other common ones).
  • If none of those IP addresses work, then see this guide for other IP addresses of different router brands.
  • Go to Quality of Service or QoS settings, often under “Advanced” settings or similar.
  • You should see a list of devices on the home network. You should be able to identify yours by the MAC and IP address you noted down earlier. Your device might need to be on for the router to recognise it.
  • Set your games console to “Highest” or “Maximum” priority and make sure any non latency essential devices are set to a lower priority. Streaming devices should still be given a high priority if not quite as high as gaming devices.
  • Apply or save settings and exit the router. You should now have Quality of Service enabled for your games console!

A Demonstration of Quality of Service Settings in Action

 

You have now instructed your router to process all the traffic demands in a very specific order so that your games console is dealt with first, reducing the delays in data being sent and therefore keeping latency down to a minimum even if other people are using the internet.

As the video shows it will be as though you are the only one using the internet even if you aren’t.

This is ideal for gamers who live in busy households with lots of internet users especially at peak times in the evenings. As long as you prioritize the devices in a logical order then other user’s experience will not suffer; you are simply telling the router to process traffic in a way that is most efficient at reducing latency.

So someone can stream Netflix or YouTube upstairs while someone else games and there should be no problem as under QoS the router is processing the game console’s (small) bandwidth demands first.

What If My Router Doesn’t Have Quality of Service Settings?

It is an unfortunate fact that Quality of Service settings are not available on all routers; they should be given the traffic demands in many houses now with so many devices connecting at once. Netgear and Cisco routers almost always do have QoS, availability on other router brands is patchy.

So what happens if you log in to your router and it doesn’t have Quality of Service settings to manage traffic demands? We have a couple of solution to try and reduce latency if this is the case.

Option 1 – Use Ethernet or a Powerline Adapter to Get a Wired Connection

In the vast majority of cases of lag in busy houses, the user is lagging because they are on Wi-Fi. As we have gone into an another article, wireless connections are at a fundamental disadvantage to wired connections because network congestion and signal degradation is built into how Wi-Fi operates.

Wi-Fi users must share the same network “space” or frequency band and what’s more routers can only send or receive Wi-Fi traffic to one device at a time on Wi-Fi.

This is in contrast to wired connections which have their own dedicated communications channel to the router through whichever ethernet port they are plugged into. Also wired ethernet connections are full duplex, meaning they can send and receive data simultaneously to all wired devices, compared to the half duplex Wi-Fi system which can only send or receive to one device at a time.

It is therefore far better for gamers to be on wired ethernet than a wireless connection. You can get longer ethernet cables cheaply on Amazon, but what if they are too far away from their router to be running long ethernet cables through the house?

This is where the alternative of a Powerline Adapter comes in, as it will allow your games console to have a wired connection to your router from anywhere in the house.

How a Powerline Adapter Works

A Powerline Adapter uses the electrical wiring of your house to create a wired connection between your router and your games console

They consist of a pair of adapter plugs, one of which you plug in and connect to your router, the other you plug in and connect to your games console. The two plugs then communicate through the electrical wiring of the house to deliver a strong wired internet connection to your device.

They are an excellent home networking solution that can deliver a wired connection even at some distance from the router without having to use long ethernet cables.

In many cases they will give a connection almost as good as if you were plugged directly into the router through ethernet, and will give you the benefits of being on a wired connection with all the advantages it has over Wi-Fi that we mentioned above, with faster bi-directional data transfer with little or no signal loss and less congestion issues than Wi-Fi.

TP Link TL-PA 4010 Kit Nano Powerline Adapter

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 full review of the product and our Powerline Adapters page. Our Product Comparison Table compares all the wired and wireless powerline adapter models at a glance by feature and functionality.

 

 You house wiring and circuitry need to be in good enough condition to allow data transfer between the two adapters, and they may not work in very large or old houses with worn wiring, but in the vast majority of houses they will work very well and deliver a stronger and more consistent signal than Wi-Fi.

See here for our article about the small number of cases when powerline adapters may not work.

In many cases a powerline adapter will be a good alternative if you don’t have Quality of Service settings on your router, as it will get you on a wired connection to your router and avoid so many of the lag issues that can happen when multiple people are on Wi-Fi. If you are still experiencing congestion issues even on a wired connection then consider our next option below.

How Powerline Adapters Work – In 2 Minutes

Option 2 – Try a Gaming Router

Another option is to consider if your normal router doesn’t have QoS settings is to consider getting a specialised gaming router, as these routers always have Quality of Service settings on them as it is recognised how important it is for gaming traffic to have priority on a home network to reduce latency.

Gaming routers come in all price brackets but all models will allow you to use QoS to make sure your console has highest priority when the home network is busy. See our Gamer’s Section for a selection of different router models; see also our article on gaming routers.

This is where your unique situation comes in to deciding which router model to go for. If you are able to run a wired connection to your router, either by direct ethernet or powerline adapter, then pretty much any model will do as they all have QoS, so you can stay on cheaper end models.

If you absolutely have to use Wi-Fi though because you are too far away to run ethernet and can’t use a powerline adapter, then we recommend going for the top range Netgear NG XR500 though, as it is widely renowned for delivering the best wireless signal even at distance. We have embedded a comprehensive review video of it below.

It is one of the most expensive gaming routers available but it is very well respected and reviewed for it’s Wi-Fi signal and range of other features, including Quality of Service and a Geo-IP filter to match you up only with gamers close to you geographically. We consider it the best option if you cannot get a wired connection to your router by any means.

 

Click here to view the NG XR500 Router on Amazon. See our article for more on whether gaming routers are worth it.

Things Which Won’t Help Reduce Lag When Others Use The Internet

Now we have covered the main things you can do to keep ping down for gaming when others are using the internet, let’s cover some of the things which probably won’t do much to solve this problem.

Looking through the forums on this, there are a lot of myths that are put out about solving this issue of lag on congested home networks.

The most common general solution that is put out there is to simply upgrade to faster internet, but this actually likely will not solve the issue in most cases, unless your current bandwidth is really low.

As we covered above when talking about QoS, the issue of network congestion when using Wi-Fi is not really a bandwidth-availability issue, beyond a bare minimum.

It is more of a problem of router processing that is built into the way Wi-Fi operates, where the current standards of Wi-Fi only allow traffic to be handled sequentially and not simultaneously by routers handling devices connecting wirelessly.

In other words, devices on Wi-Fi have to queue up and wait for the router to process all the traffic demands from each device one by one.

Getting faster internet doesn’t solve this issue. If a router struggles to process 6 users at once with a 50Mbps internet package, then it will still struggle with a 100Mbps package. Regardless of the availability of bandwidth, routers can only do so much at once handling devices connecting on Wi-Fi.

The only ways to really solve this problem are to either instruct your router to process traffic in a certain order, which is the idea behind QoS, or to get off Wi-Fi altogether and use wired connections, either directly or through a powerline adapter, which is what we’ve covered in this post.

Elsewhere, changing the Wi-Fi channel on your router has sometimes been suggested as a possible solution, but again doesn’t really resolve the core issue. It can help in reducing interference from neighbor’s Wi-Fi networks, but doesn’t really address congestion on your own network.

Nevertheless, see here for a good guide on changing the wireless channel on your router to see if it helps. We prefer sticking to the core concepts of using wired connections and QoS to manage traffic on home networks.

See also:

Oliver

Online gamer and general home networking enthusiast. I like to create articles to help people solve common home networking problems.

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