How to use a VPN for gaming

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A virtual private network (VPN) can turn your gaming PC into an all-round device for gaming and streaming, and is both easy to set up and easy to use. Computers are uniquely positioned as the easiest means to enjoy the gaming benefits of a VPN as they are up and running with just a few clicks, but consoles and smart TVs require more technical know-how to traverse them.

You’ve probably heard of using VPNs to access content that’s exclusive to other countries, from the best Netflix TV series in each region to otherwise restricted streaming services like Hulu and HBO Max. This is still the case, but a VPN can also improve your gaming experience, especially if you’re playing peer-to-peer (P2P) online games like GTA Online.

Before looking for the best VPN for gaming, keep in mind that not all VPNs are created equal. The best free VPNs can come with notable limitations like bandwidth restrictions or lack of functionality. There are numerous premium options out there, however, but you will have to do your own research to find out which VPN is right for you. Luckily, the tips and tricks outlined below will work with any VPN you use, be it Nordic or Urinian.

Regardless of your PC experience, whether you’re unsure how to build a gaming PC or proudly rocking the best graphics card and gaming CPU available, a VPN offers a universal upgrade for a system. On the other hand, if you follow our step-by-step guide, you will have a more secure and perhaps even internet online connection to aid your online gaming sessions.

Install a VPN on a gaming PC

Once you’ve decided which VPN to use, you’ll need to download and install it on your PC by going straight to the official website. This process should not differ from other program installations, as all you have to do is follow the setup wizard to completion. However, we strongly advise you not to rush this and pay close attention to any programs the installer may be smuggling alongside your VPN, such as free antivirus software, as well as the terms of the program that you agree to.

After the installation, you may find that a new network connection has been created on your computer. This is the route all of your internet traffic takes when you use the VPN, with your IP address being masked by your ISP (Internet Service Provider) and other parties. More on that later.

Set up a VPN on a gaming PC

Now that your VPN is installed, you need to choose which region you want to connect to. When you select a region on the VPN’s dashboard, you’re instructing the software to route your traffic through the service provider’s servers in a particular location. So why? There are two main advantages to running your data over a VPN: Privacy and protection.

When you use a VPN, your browsing activity is made private to everyone but you – and in some cases, to your VPN provider. This means that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) cannot see what exactly you are doing on the Internet, which bypasses what is known as “bandwidth throttling”. This is a common practice where ISPs limit your internet speed during intensive tasks like downloading files and games to reduce demand for their services.

In terms of protection, a VPN makes your internet traffic private by masking your IP address and replacing it with the server you are connecting to. Let’s say you’re playing GTA Online, Valorant, or some other competitive game and someone has decided to get nasty and attack you with a DDoS attack. In their attempt to clog your network to the point of uselessness, you will instead be confronted with the unshakable security of the VPN server and your game can continue undisturbed.

The choice of servers depends on what you want from your VPN. You may find games cheaper in certain countries or you may want access to regional exclusive titles. In this case, you should select a server in the appropriate country account. To minimize potential latency, we recommend choosing a server in your own region and only using neighboring regions as a backup. And if you’re playing with friends oceans away, hopping on a server in their country could shut off the middleman, streamline your connection, and potentially reduce your ping.

Set up a VPN on PS5, Xbox Series X, and Nintendo Switch

Console users will have a harder time than PC gamers as Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, and Nintendo Online don’t allow you to download and run VPNs natively. Instead, you’ll either need to invest in a VPN router to cover all of the devices in your home or connect your console to your gaming PC first.

To connect your console to a VPN using your gaming PC:

  1. Set up and run your VPN on your PC
  2. Connect your console and PC with an ethernet cable
  3. Navigate to your “Network & Internet” settings on your PC
  4. Select the “VPN” tab in your “Network & Internet” settings
  5. Find Related Settings and select Change Adapter Options.
  6. Right click on your VPN and choose Properties.
  7. Navigate to the Share tab
  8. Activate the option “Allow other network users to connect using this computer’s Internet connection”
  9. In the “Select a private network connection” drop-down menu, select the Ethernet connection on your console and select “OK”.

If you followed all of these steps correctly, you should now be able to connect your console to the internet with the security of a VPN. However, you should keep in mind that if you want to keep your connection to your VPN, you will need to keep your gaming PC powered on.

Are VPNs legal for gaming?

VPNs are legal in most countries, but you should always check the laws of your region before using one. For example, while VPNs are legal in China, they are severely restricted and their use is considered suspicious behavior. So proceed with caution.

Otherwise, it’s not the VPN itself that is illegal, but what you’re using it for. The use of this to access regionally blocked games or the purchase of titles at lower regionally-specific prices often violates the terms of use of a storefront and can lead to the loss of your account, but does not lead to legal consequences. When it comes to using a VPN to torrent copyrighted material, it would be believed to be against the law, but different countries have different policies.

Here is a list of countries where VPN use is completely illegal or frowned upon:

  • Belarus
  • China
  • Iraq
  • North Korea
  • Russia
  • Turkey
  • United Arab Emirates

Does a VPN reduce ping?

Generally no, but there are rare circumstances when this can be done. The extent to which a VPN affects your ping depends on the distance between you and the server you choose, so a VPN in your home region will have a much smaller effect than another in a neighboring or distant country.

It is possible that sending your data packets in a more direct way will decrease your ping, but this is not guaranteed. The best thing you can do to reduce your latency is to reduce the traffic on your network, invest in a new gaming router, or consider alternative packages that offer higher speeds from ISPs.

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