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Routers Setup for Gaming

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I LOVE online gaming, from the XBOX to PC games to the Nintendo DS. Nothing is more frustrating to me than when I am playing Call of Duty, have the perfect sniper shot lined up, breath slowly, start to pull the trigger and then my network connection dies. I also love flying games like Microsoft Flight Sim X or Aces High. This is especially frustrating when I am playing on a team with a bunch of my friends and get disconnected. Sometimes these things can be hard to figure out why they happen and I love to blame Microsoft or some of the other vendors stupid server but in reality many times it is my own equipment causing the problem. If you are using any kind of router at your home it is more than likely that you have more than one PC that you want connected to the internet and are not directly connected to your cable/DSL modem. This article has some steps to help you if you are having problems with you your games or connections to the internet.

If you have a problem connecting to a game or have an intermittent connection one of the easiest things you can do to see if the problem is in your hardware or not is to simply directly connect to the cable/DSL modem. This will bypass your router, if when you do this the problem goes away you have a fairly strong indicator that you have a problem in your router. Assuming you still have a problem after you bypass your router the next step is to see how old your router is. If you have one that is more than a few years old you really should just go out and get a new one. They are very inexpensive new and the firmware/software has been upgraded to handle the new problems people are having with all of the gaming applications. Bypassing the router and buying a new one are easy steps and not to technical. Unfortunately now I have to throw some technical terms at you but don't be to scared, anything you do to the router can be easily undone by doing a hardware reset. So lets talk about that for a minute. Before you begin to monkey around with your router you need to find the owners manual or go on the internet and find out how to do a hardware reset. This will reset all of the configurations in the router to the factory settings so that you can get out of any horrible situation you get yourself into. Think of it as the EASY button. You will be glad to have it should you get buried to far in the weeds. Make sure you know how to do this before you proceed. At any point you can hit the EASY button and it will put you right back where you are now.

Now for some technical talk. When you are using a router your internet IP is assigned to your router. Normally this would be assigned to your PC when you directly connect to your cable/DSL modem. This is the IP that the world sees when you connect to the internet. To the world this is you. If you look directly at your PC or XBOX or whatever you will see that the IP there is NOT what the internet sees. This is your INTERNAL IP that is assigned to the devices on your home network by your router. It is most likely something like 192.168.1.xxx.  So for example if you had an XBOX and a PC on your network the XBOX could be 192.168.1.1 and the PC 192.168.1.2. Your INTERNET IP could be something like 68.234.2.54. In this case BOTH the XBOX and the PC are seen as the 68.234.2.54 IP to the world even though their actual IP is the 192.168.1.xxx. This is done through something called Network Address Translation or NAT. NAT uses the Media Access Controller address or MAC address if your network card to manage this. So what is a MAC address? Well every network card is given it's own MAC address when it is built. This is it's very own number assigned to it when it is built. Your router knows that the device with a certain MAC address is a certain IP on your network and it therefore knows that when that MAC address makes a connection to the internet to a certain server it will route the traffic to that machine and not the others on your network...get it...it ROUTES the traffic..that is why it is called a router!

Ok enough about that. All you really need to know is that it will, in most cases, connect and make sure that all the devices get what they need. Sometimes this does not always work and you need to step in and manually configure your router for certain applications. I will use Microsoft Flight Simulator in this example. When you connect to a server with a game there are specific ports (numbers) that you will use. Think of them as a road. When you play a certain game you use road 123. Sometimes this road or path does not find it's way to your PC, it cannot find the off ramp. So you need to make it clear where your want the traffic to get off. You do this by using something called port forwarding. This is a way to tell your router that you want all traffic on a certain port to go to a specific PC on your network. When you are having an issue with a game the first thing you need to do is find out what ports (roads) that game uses. The best way to do this is to go the the games web site or do a Google search for them. When you find them you need to port forward them to the computer or game you want to use. In this example I show you how to port forward the needed ports for MS Flight Sim to the PC.

If you go to the Microsoft web site you will find the MS Flight Sim uses these ports:

Port Protocol Inbound / Outbound
23456 UDP Both
6073 UDP Both

This means that I want the all traffic on these routes (23456 and 6073) to go my PC that has the IP 192.168.1.2. You can tell the IP of you PC by opening a command prompt and typing "ipconfig" (without the quotes). What pops up is your IP. Now you need to port forward these two ports to your PC. There are many types of routers so you need to read up on yours but it will be called port forwarding or port triggering. Set it up with the port information you find on the internet for your game. Once this is done it is as if your router is no longer there and these ports will always connect directly to your PC. Word of waring, this also means that they will NOT connect to any other PC on your network. If you were to go to another PC on your network it will not be able to connect to the game. Also you need to remember that your IP may change on your PC/XBOX when you re-boot it so you will need to update the IP in the port forwarding when you reboot if you notice it no longer works.

This is the first in a series of articles on Gaming and Routing. There is a lot more that can be done but this would be one of the first things you can do when you have an issue with a game or application. Good luck and good gaming!

 
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