Internet Speedometer

In all probability, almost everyone you know goes online and uses the internet to some extent or another. Whether it’s simply for social media and email, streaming music and movies, gaming, or even all of the above, the speed of your internet connection is just one factor in determining the quality of your online experience.

Regardless of how anyone else in your household is using the internet, you’ll want to make sure you have the least lag for the smoothest gameplay. That being the case, you might be wondering: how fast should my internet speed be for gaming?

What Factors Affect My Internet Speed?

Mouse and Internet Icons

In answering this question, it might be easier to discuss which factors don’t affect your internet speed! In essence, and in no particular order, it comes down to these main influences:

  • Hardware
  • Wi-Fi
  • Latency
  • Network Traffic
  • Data Caps
  • Upload and Download Speed

How Does My Hardware Affect My Internet Speed?

The word “hardware” encompasses a broad range of computer equipment, and it’s no surprise to learn that any one of them can have a say in deciding whether you live or die online today.

How old is your PC or laptop? If you’re using a desktop, it might benefit from having a few improvements, especially when it comes to increasing its RAM, upgrading the graphics chip and swapping out that standard hard disk drive for a solid-state drive instead.

When it comes to laptops, your options are a little more limited, as not every manufacturer will allow you to make hardware changes after you’ve made your purchase. That said, there are still a bunch of ways you can get more speed from your gaming laptop – check out our 15 Tips to Improve the Gaming Performance of Any Laptop for more information.

Besides upgrading your hardware, you can also activate Game Mode in Windows 10, disable automatic updates and background apps and make sure your drivers are up to date.1 All these small changes can help your PC run a little quicker and reduce lag.

Do you own your modem and router or do you lease them from your internet service provider? If you lease them, you don’t really have a choice as to which modem and router you receive, but if you buy your own, you can choose the modem that’ll give you the biggest bang for your buck. (Our article, The Best Modems for Gaming, will give you the top 5 options.)

Should I Use a Wi-Fi Connection for Gaming?

Wi-Fi Icon

The short answer to this question is no! It’s very difficult to get the full speed you’re paying for when you use a Wi-Fi connection. Obviously, it’ll depend upon the number of people you’re sharing the connection with and what they’re using it for, but other factors will also have an impact.

For example, if you live in an apartment building, you’re probably surrounded by a multitude of Wi-Fi networks, and any number of them could be using channels that overlap with yours. Using a Wi-Fi analyzer app can help to identify a clear channel, but it still might not be enough.

You’ll also need to consider the location of your router. If it’s near a wall you share with a neighbor, a load-bearing wall, a microwave or even an aquarium (signals lose strength when they pass through water) then you’ll need to move it. Likewise, if you’re too far from the router, you won’t get the signal strength you need.

In order to get the strongest connection with the least data loss, you’ll need to connect your computer directly to the modem with an ethernet cable, but if that’s not possible, make sure your router is using the 5.0 GHz network as it’s less congested than the 2.4 GHz.2

Lastly, if all else fails, you may need to upgrade your router and/or your internet speed with your provider.

What is Latency and How Does It Affect My Internet Speed?

According to, the definition of latency is “the time required online or in a network for the one-way or round-trip transfer of data between two nodes.”3 In other words, it’s the amount of time it takes your data to get from point A to point B.

High latency can result in lag, which can be a serious disadvantage when you’re playing games, such as Call of Duty, that require hair-trigger reflexes. If the lag isn’t caused by your hardware, then it might be the result of latency on the network.

Latency has a number of causes, from too many people on the same server to high traffic on the internet in general. Just like cars in the real world, packets of data must travel along a specific route to get to their destination, and if there’s a jam at a particular point along the way, then the data will be delayed.

It also depends upon where the server you’re trying to reach is located. If it’s a couple of hundred miles away then it shouldn’t be too much of a problem, but if it’s located halfway around the world, then it’ll take a lot longer to get there and back.

(Similarly, be aware that it’s not unusual for traffic to be routed through servers in another country, even when the data’s final destination is in the same country as it originated from.)

How much latency is acceptable, and how can I measure it?

Gamer Glitching

Latency is measured in milliseconds (ms) and, generally speaking, anything less than 40ms is best while anything over 100ms is unacceptable. You’ll find various recommendations for the upper limit and latency ranges that are considered acceptable from different sources. In general, if you’re experiencing lagging, then your latency might be a problem and you should take steps to improve it. 4

If you want to find out what your latency is, you’ll first need to know which server you’re connected to. One way to do this is to use the netstat DOS command:

  1. Close down all other programs that have access to the internet (e.g., browsers, Zoom, etc.)
  2. Press the Windows and R keys at the same time.
  3. Type cmd and then click the Okay button.
  4. Next type netstat -n and press Enter on your keyboard.
  5. Ignore any Foreign Address that begins and look for other IP addresses instead.
  6. One of those IP addresses will be the game server. You’ll need to look up each IP address on a site like IP WHOIS Lookup to find out which one. (Ignore any numbers after the colon in the address. For example, belongs to Google.

In order to test your latency, you’ll need to PING the IP address.5 When you PING a server, your computer sends four tiny packets of data to it and then waits for a reply. You’ll then be able to see how long it took for the data to make its trip. If no reply is received within 300ms, you’ll get a timeout error.

In order to PING the server, type ping and then the IP address into the same window you used for the netstat command, and then press the Enter key.

For example, to PING the Google server mentioned above, you would enter ping

You’ll then get the results showing the time, in milliseconds (ms) that each of the four packets took, plus a summary that includes the number of packets that were sent, received and lost. In the case of the Google server, you might get 24ms, 18ms, 24ms and 17ms as the response times, for an average latency of about 20ms or 21ms.

Bear in mind the following when PINGing a server:

  • While latency greater than 100ms is bad for gaming, it might be just fine for regular internet use.
  • Some servers are configured to ignore PINGs and won’t respond. This is to prevent a Denial of Service (DoS) attack; this occurs when a server receives so many PINGs that it’s unable to respond to regular user requests for access.6 For example, if this was to happen to Google, then anyone trying to reach would get an HTTP 503 error. (This error can also occur if the server is receiving more regular traffic than it is able to handle.)

How Does Network Traffic Impact My Online Gaming?

The internet has often been called “the information super-highway,” and while it sounds like hyperbole, it’s not an inaccurate description. As mentioned before, packets of data travel from server to server across the network, like cars traveling from city to city along the highway.

Just as peak travel times (such as rush hour and holidays) can bring your road trip to a grinding halt, so can network traffic ruin your gaming day. In theory, like the GPS on your phone or in your car, your data should be pushed along the least congested route, but sometimes hold-ups still occur.

So how can you tell if the slowdown is due to too many players on your server or congestion elsewhere on the network?

One way is to run a traceroute to the server.7 This is similar to PINGing the server, but besides seeing the current PING times for your data, you’ll also discover the route the data took – and where any network delays might be occurring.

Like PING, you’ll need to open the command prompt window by pressing the Windows and R button at the same time and then typing cmd and clicking the Okay button.

Once the window appears, type tracert followed by the IP address (eg, tracert and then press the Enter key on your keyboard.

You’ll then see three PING times for each of the servers the data went through to reach its destination. Identifying the location of the hold-up is simply a case of looking for the server with the slowest response time and then using IP WHOIS Lookup again to identify who the server belongs to.

What is Data Capping?

Slow Computer

Data capping happens when you use more data than your service allows, so your internet service provider (ISP) cuts your speed. For example, if you’re paying for the 100Mbps service, you may be limited to downloading a maximum of 100GB a month. Once you’ve reached that limit, your ISP may reduce your download speed.

This may happen sooner than you think, especially if you play a number of games and download updates and add-ons. If anyone else in your household games or streams a lot of TV and movies (especially in UHD or 4K) then your data usage can quickly add up.

This can obviously have a serious effect on your gaming, but there isn’t an easy solution. Realistically, you’ve only got four options:

  1. Wait for a new billing cycle to start and suffer in the meantime.
  2. Pay for a faster internet speed (with higher data caps).
  3. Play fewer games.
  4. Ask the other members of your household not to stream and/or download as much (and good luck with that).

Which Speed is Best for Online Gaming?

So now we come to the heart of the matter: which speed is best for online gaming? Of course, there isn’t a simple answer, but let’s consider some possible answers.

If you’re still suffering from lag after you’ve upgraded and/or customized your hardware, connected your computer directly to the modem with an ethernet cable, checked for network congestion and data capping and asked the other members of your household to limit their internet usage, then it’s probably time to consider increasing your speed through your internet service provider.

The first thing you need to be aware of is the difference between megabytes and megabits. Why? Because your internet speeds are measured in bits per second, rather than bytes, and it can make a big difference.

A bit is a single piece of data with a binary value of either 0 or 1. A byte is made up of 8 bits.

In computer terms, the word “mega” means one million, so a megabit (Mb) is one million bits. However, because a byte is made up of 8 bits, a megabyte (MB) is eight million bits.8

Your internet speed is measured in megabits per second (Mbps) and not megabytes per second (MBps.) This is very important to know because if you have a 100Mbps (100 megabits per second) connection and a 100MB (100 megabytes) file, that file will take 8 seconds to download, not one.

In this scenario, at max speed, data is being downloaded at the rate of 100 megabits (100 million bits) per second – however, the file is 100 megabytes (800 million bits) in size. Therefore, the file will take 8 seconds to download (800 megabits filesize downloaded at 100 megabits a second).

So if you’re thinking your internet connection is slow and that you’re not getting what you paid for from your ISP, make sure you do the math before you call the customer service line!

That said, let’s review the speeds you should consider for gaming. According to the FDC9, a good speed for online gaming is 3Mbps or 4Mbps if you’re playing Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games. That’s only going to work if you live alone or with your grandmother who only checks Facebook once a week.

Assuming you live with others who also use the internet for more than just Facebook, you’re going to need more speed.

Realistically then, you’ll need an absolute minimum of 20Mbps, and even then, you’ll need more speed if you’re playing with hi-res graphics. If you have a 20Mbps connection, lowering the resolution of your game can help, but you’ll still be better off increasing your speed, and the more you can afford, the better off you’ll be.

This is especially true if you’re playing a cloud-based game, such as those on the subscription service Stadia. If that’s the case, you’ll need at least 35Mbps as there’ll be a lot more data to download. Cloud-based games are also prone to latency due to the number of players who might be accessing the game at the same time.

More traditional games, where the software is installed locally on your machine, will run faster and doesn’t require such a fast download speed because the data is already on your hard drive.

Fast Internet

Lastly, if you’re going to livestream your gaming via a service like Twitch, you’ll need as much upload speed as possible. The upload speed is always less than download because the vast majority of users send far less data up to the internet than they download.

For example, when you go to your favorite gaming site, your computer uploads a small amount of data requesting to access the site and then downloads a lot of data (in the form of text, images, videos and ads) in order to have the complete page appear.

Many internet service providers will provision an upload speed that’s about a tenth of the download speed. If, for example, you’re paying for a download speed of 100Mbps, you’ll most likely get an upload speed of 10Mbps.

The truth of the matter is that there’s no clear-cut, simple answer to the question “how fast should my internet speed be for gaming?’ because there are just too many factors involved. That said, if you can’t afford the fastest speed your service provider has to offer, then go with the next best option over 20Mbps – and may the odds be ever in your favor!

Article Sources

Tech Pro Daily uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Microsoft. Use Game Mode while gaming on your Windows device. Accessed November 1, 2021.
  2. Speedify. How do I connect my PC to wired Ethernet? Accessed November 1, 2021.
  3. Dictionary. Latency. Accessed November 1, 2021.
  4. Cox. How to improve latency when gaming. Accessed November 1, 2021.
  5. Binary Lane. How to check network latency using Windows. Updated May 7, 2020. Accessed November 1, 2021.
  6. McAfee. What Is a DDoS Attack and How to Stay Safe from Malicious Traffic Schemes. Published March 24, 2021. Accessed November 1, 2021.
  7. Microsoft. How to Use TRACERT to Troubleshoot TCP/IP Problems in Windows. Accessed November 1, 2021.
  8. Telecom. What is the difference between Megabit (Mbit) and MegaByte (MByte)? Accessed November 1, 2021.
  9. Anon. Broadband Speed Guide Published February 5, 2020. Accessed October 21, 2021.