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Can using a VPN when gaming lower ping?

What can you use a France VPN for?
(Image credit: EA09 Studio/Shutterstock)

Success in online gaming, particularly for fast-paced shooters, real-time strategy games, and multiplayer online battle arena games, depends on your ability to make split-second decisions. If you have a slow connection to the online game servers, you experience delays. This latency is known as ping time, and a high ping time can put you at a significant disadvantage to your competitors.

The best VPN clients can be used to connect to the internet through servers situated around the world. And a gaming VPN could be a useful tool if you experience high ping in your favorite online games. In this article, we look at how the use of a VPN might lower ping times in certain situations.

What is ping?

Ping is a simple software application you can run from the command line, that shows you the round-trip time for messages sent from your computer to an IP address online. This round-trip time is measured in milliseconds and is known as ping time, or colloquially, ping. Ping is an estimate of how much latency you’ll experience when gaming.

A ping time of under 50ms is considered speedy, and a ping time of between 50 and 150ms is about average. Anything higher than this is a high ping, and you will begin to see latency or lag in your games.

What causes a high ping time?

A poor internet service provider (ISP) can cause high ping times. You need a fast upload and download speed to avoid latency in games. It’s just as important for your ISP to offer a consistent service, as random ping spikes can be infuriating.

Sometimes, ISPs, schools, and workplaces block or throttle peer-to-peer internet traffic to combat file-sharing, or simply to stop people from playing games on their networks. This will affect your ping times.

Geographic location has a big impact on ping time too. If you’re connecting to a European server from the US, for example, expect a high ping time.

A high ping time can also be caused by problems with the online game server, particularly if it’s experiencing higher traffic than expected.

How can a VPN help improve ping?

A VPN can be useful for improving ping in some cases. Firstly, if your high ping is caused by a bottleneck somewhere in the network of computers between your PC and the online game server, you can use a VPN to connect through a different route. For example, if there’s an internet outage that’s affecting Los Angeles, you can use a VPN server to connect through New York instead—effectively bypassing the issue.

Secondly, using a VPN encrypts your connection, so your ISP or school won’t be able to see what you’re using your connection for. This can improve ping times when there is throttling or blocking in place.

Thirdly, a VPN can be used to connect through a geographical server of your choice. Sometimes, this can help you gain access to alternative online game servers that aren’t oversubscribed.

Does a VPN always reduce ping?

A VPN can’t solve all high ping problems. If you’re in Australia and connecting to servers in the US, for example, the high ping time caused by geographical distance can’t be overcome through the use of a VPN.

Similarly, if your high ping problems stem from a slow internet connection, employing a VPN won’t magically fix your issues.

Bottom line

If you have a high ping time when playing online games, you’re at a disadvantage compared to players with a low ping time. High ping times are caused by poor internet connections, overloaded servers, and long distances between gaming servers.

A VPN can improve ping time when your ISP or school is throttling peer-to-peer connectivity. It can also help when there are temporary server outages online. If you think a VPN could help reduce ping time in your situation, you can try a free VPN or a VPN free trial to test your theory.

Which VPN do we recommend?

ExpressVPN stands out from the competition in terms of price, features, and value. With servers in nearly 100 countries, excellent censor-evading power, blazing connection speeds, and reliable access to multiple streaming services, ExpressVPN has everything that one would need from a VPN for gaming. 

While some users may prefer certain features of other top VPNs, it’s the best overall option for most users – and now Tom’s Guide readers can claim three months absolutely free.View Deal

Richard Sutherland

Richard brings over 20 years of website development, SEO, and marketing to the table. A graduate in Computer Science, Richard has lectured in Java programming and has built software for companies including Samsung and ASDA. Now, he writes for TechRadar, Tom's Guide, PC Gamer, and Creative Bloq.