Ask LH: How Can I Stop VPNs From Slowing Down Online Gaming?

Ask LH: How Can I Stop VPNs From Slowing Down Online Gaming?

Dear Lifehacker, I’m planning on signing up for a VPN so I can get the US Netflix. However, my housemate is an avid online gamer and lag is the enemy. So my question is: if I set up a VPN on my computer, will his computer be affected too? If so, are there any easy workarounds? Cheers, McOz Lover

Dear ML,

Are you both connected to the same home network? If so, his gaming will definitely be impacted.

A VPN runs internet traffic through an overseas server which has the effect of anonymising your IP’s geographic location. Unfortunately, this can result in performance issues as the data has further to travel. The difference is usually tolerable when it comes to stuff like Netflix, but online gaming is another matter — the extra lag will make games like Counter-Strike virtually impossible to play.

So what to do? The easiest solution is to disable the VPN during online gaming sessions. (You can easily switch it on or off by delving into the settings.) Of course, this isn’t going to help when you want to access geo-blocked content while your roommate is in the middle of an online fragfest. Flipping a coin probably isn’t going to cut it.

If you’ve got some spare time up your sleeve, it’s technically possible to set up a VPN configuration with selective routing. In this scenario, connections that require an IP address from a specific geolocation will be routed through the VPN tunnel, with all other internet activity using local servers as normal. You can find a step-by-step guide here, but be warned — the process is rather complicated for non tech-heads.

And, of course, his internet access will only be affected if you set up the VPN on your router, not your computer. If it’s on the router, it’ll affect all devices on the network. If it’s only on one PC, only that PC will be affected.

Alternatively, you might want to consider a smart DNS proxy service. A smart DNS is capable of re-routing requests at the device level. Since it only re-directs certain portions of your traffic through its server, your friend’s gaming experience should not be affected as much. You can read an introduction on how DNS works here. Good luck!

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • I use Private Internet Access. The VPN runs as an app in the taskbar on my computer, so you should be able to either a: not install it on your mates computer, or b: install it on his computer and tell him to disable it when he wants to play.

    • Gaming online is incredibly popular. However, some games are geo-restricted, meaning you cannot access them unless you live in certain regions. Storing your details online can also be dangerous given the high profile data thefts that many online gaming services have suffered. A VPN fixes these problems for you. It keeps your data safe, your internet connection fast to reduce lag, and allows you to access games regardless of your location.

      If you want to improve your gaming experience online and keep your blazing fast internet speed, get HideMyAss VPN now.

  • Why would using a VPN on one computer affect another on the same network? Unless both using the same computer, or the VPN is set up at the router level.

    • I think you missed the second-last paragraph, the one that starts with “And, of course, his internet access will only be affected if you set up the VPN on your router, not your computer…” :).

  • I’ve got Private Internet Access and they have a program you can download that just runs on the computer you choose (I’m sure other providers have similar software). Also Getflix can be setup in Windows as WAN Miniport L2TP and only connects that computer to the VPN. Or am I way off the mark here?
    edit: Also worth mentioning depending on your internet connection speed, streaming and gaming at the same time I don’t think will mix very well.

  • is the service I use for Netflix and am also an avid gamer, 0 lag issues. It is what the article refers to as a smart DNS proxy service. Have it set on my router, only downside is I cannot access the AU netflix because I set it on the router.

    • Even if using UnBlock.Us at a router level, you can spoof to any of Netflix international offerings including AU.

      Just go to their website and login. On the homescreen it’ll show you your current Netflix country choice and allow changing this to whatever you like. Your DNS traffic is still routed through the same server but they will spoof wherever is your chosen location, even if local.

  • If latency and connection quality is that critical for your room-mate… answer, a seperate phone line with ADSL / Naked ADSL / NBN.

    Any other activity on the line during his gaming session could trigger lag. How many times I used to play World of Warcraft during a raid, find someone complain about lag, to find out someone else in the house was on streaming, torrenting etc.

    • Absolutely. Expensive option but the only way to ensure something semi-decent.

      Probably will still drop out at least once a week, like every internet service does. Always when you really need it.

  • Not sure who your VPN provider is but you can adjust the encryption settings. obviously the lower the encryption the lower the overhead ,etc. But then weaker encryption so I guess it’s a trade off?

  • nah the easiest solution is 2 routers / wifi APs, only one of which is using VPN.

    switching to a clear connection vs vpn is as simple as toggling wireless networks.

  • Well if you are looking at ways to stop a VPN from slowing down your gameplay, one possible way is by choosing the VPN server which is closest to the gaming server. Try to choose a server from where you can unblock the geo-restricted game and it is closest to the gaming server.

    Another method that could also help you lower your ping and stop a VPN from hampering your online gameplay, choose split tunneling ad-on. This way, you can direct a VPN to tunnel the traffic from that specific application and not the entire internet traffic on your network.

  • Normal online data and gaming data are two different things. You can use a VPN for daily online activity but that doesn’t mean it will work with online games too so if your purpose is online gaming then you should read the provider review whether their VPN support gaming or not. You can check from these too.

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