How to use a VPN for gaming

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There are steps you can take to ensure online safety while gaming. First, ensure you have antivirus protection turned on. As well as helping to protect you from bad actors, antivirus (especially one with a gaming mode) can enhance your online gaming experience. Second, consider using a VPN for gaming. Read on to learn more about gaming on a VPN and how to choose the best VPN for gaming.

How to use a vpn for gaming

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How to use a VPN for gaming

A virtual private network (VPN) can elevate your gaming PC as a does-it-all device for both gaming and streaming, and is both easy to set up and to use. Computers are uniquely positioned as the easiest means of enjoying the gaming benefits of a VPN, as you can be up and running in just a couple of clicks, but consoles and smart TVs require more technical know-how to route through one.

You’ve probably heard of how VPNs allow you 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 very much the case, but a VPN can also enhance your gaming experience, particularly if you play peer-to-peer (P2P) online games like GTA Online.

Before you search for the best VPN for gaming, it’s worth noting that not all VPNs are created equally. The best free VPNs can come with notable limitations, such as bandwidth caps or missing features. However, there are numerous premium options available, but you’ll need to conduct your own research to figure out which VPN is right for you. Thankfully, the tips and tricks described below will work with whatever VPN you use, be they of the ursine or Nordic variety.

Whatever your level of experience with PCs, whether you’re unsure of how to build a gaming PC or proudly rock the best graphics card and best gaming CPU available, a VPN provides a universal improvement to a system. Following our step-by-step guide, you’ll come out the other side with a safer and perhaps even internet online connection to bolster your online gaming sessions.

Installing a VPN on a gaming PC

Once you’ve decided which VPN you want to use, you’ll need to download and install it on your PC by heading directly to the official website. This process shouldn’t differ from any other program installations, simply requiring you to follow the setup wizard to completion. However, we strongly recommend that you don’t rush this and pay close attention to any programs the installer may try to sneak alongside your VPN, like free antivirus software, as well as what you’re agreeing to in the program’s terms and conditions.

Following the installation, you may notice that a new network connection has been created on your computer. This is the route all your internet traffic will take when you use the VPN, masking your IP address from your ISP (internet service provider) and other parties. More on that later.

Setting up a VPN on a gaming PC

With your VPN installed, you now need to select what region you’d like to connect to. When you select a region from the VPN’s dashboard, you tell the software to route your traffic through the service provider’s servers within a given location. So, why do this? There are two main benefits to directing your data through a VPN: privacy and safeguarding.

When you use a VPN, your browsing activity is made private to all but you – and in some cases, your VPN supplier. This means your internet service provider (ISP) can’t identify what it is exactly you’re doing on the internet, circumventing what’s known as ‘bandwidth throttling’. This is a common practice where ISPs limit your internet speeds during intensive tasks, like downloading files and playing games, in an attempt to alleviate demand on their services.

In terms of safeguarding, a VPN makes your internet traffic private by masking your IP address and replacing it with the server you connect to. So, let’s say you’re playing GTA Online, Valorant, or another competitive game and someone’s decided to get nasty and target you with a DDoS attack. In their attempt to clog up your network to the point of it being unusable, they’ll instead be met with the stalwart security of the VPN server and your gaming can go on unaffected.

When it comes to what servers to choose, that depends on what you want from your VPN. You might find games cheaper in certain countries or want access to region-exclusive titles, in which case you should choose a server in the corresponding country, but it’s important to note that this could violate terms of service agreements that risk you losing access to your account. To mitigate any potential latency, we recommend selecting a server within your own region, only using neighbouring regions as a backup. And if you’re playing with friends that are oceans away, hopping on a server located in their country could cut out the middleman, streamlining your connection and potentially reducing your ping.

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

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

Here’s how to connect your console to a VPN using your gaming PC:

  1. Setup and run your VPN on your PC
  2. Connect your console and PC together with an ethernet cable
  3. On your PC, navigate to your ‘Network & Internet’ settings
  4. In your ‘Network & Internet’ settings, select the ‘VPN’ tab
  5. Look for ‘Related settings’ and select ‘Change adapter options’
  6. Right-click your VPN and select ‘Properties’
  7. Navigate to the ‘Sharing’ tab
  8. Check the ‘Allow other network users to connect through this computer’s internet connection’ option
  9. In the ‘Select a private network connection’ dropdown menu, select your console’s ethernet connection and select ‘OK’

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

Are VPNs legal to use for gaming?

VPNs are legal in most countries, but you should always check your specific region’s laws before using one. For instance, while VPNs are legal in China, they are heavily restricted and using them is viewed as suspicious behaviour, so proceed with caution.

Otherwise, it isn’t the VPN itself that is illegal, but what you use it for. Using one to access region-locked games or purchase titles at cheaper region-specific prices often violates a storefront’s terms of service and can result in loss of your account, but won’t see you suffer legal repercussions. On the topic of using a VPN to torrent copyrighted material, it’s safe to assume this is against the law, but different countries have different policies.

Here’s a list of countries where VPN use is outright illegal or frowned upon:

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

Does a VPN decrease ping?

Generally, no, but there are rare circumstances where it can. The amount that a VPN affects your ping will vary depending on the distance between you and the server you’ve selected, so one in your native region will have a much lower effect than another in a neighbouring or distant country.

It’s possible that sending your data packets through a more direct route can decrease your ping, but this isn’t guaranteed. The best things you can do to decrease your latency is reduce the traffic on your network, invest in a new gaming router, or consider alternative packages that offer faster speeds from ISPs.

For more VPN guidance, read our guide on the best VPN providers.

More from PCGamesN

Samuel Willetts Samuel Willetts spends his time poring over the latest developments from AMD, Intel, and Nvidia. Failing that, you’ll find him tinkering with his Steam Deck. He’s previously written for PC Gamer, T3, and TopTenReviews.

Network N Media earns commission from qualifying purchases via Amazon Associates and other programs. We include affiliate links in articles. View terms. Prices correct at time of publication.

Should You Use a VPN for Gaming?

As an online gamer, once you’ve invested in your gaming setup, it’s important to keep it safe and protected. This is especially true if you play online games on the same network as other computers in your household or office. If other computers are connected to the web while you’re playing, they can also be vulnerable to cyberattacks or online risks.

There are steps you can take to ensure online safety while gaming. First, ensure you have antivirus protection turned on. As well as helping to protect you from bad actors, antivirus (especially one with a gaming mode) can enhance your online gaming experience. Second, consider using a VPN for gaming. Read on to learn more about gaming on a VPN and how to choose the best VPN for gaming.

What is a VPN?

VPN stands for virtual private network. VPNs are tools that allow you to access the web with a different network from the one you connect directly to with your own computer. With a VPN, your computer links up to another computer connected to the web, and then you can use the internet via that computer’s web connection. If that computer (or, in this context, server) is located in a different country, then you can access content or websites available in that country, even if they are unavailable in your own.

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Why use a VPN while gaming?

There are several smart reasons to use a VPN while you game. These include:

Protect yourself from cyberattacks

Gamers can experience DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks if other players want to stop them from playing the game. To perform a DDoS attack, players must be able to access your IP address. If you use a VPN while gaming, competitors can’t find your exact IP address, which helps to protect you from experiencing DDoS attacks while you play online.

Access geo-restricted games

Using a VPN for gaming means you can access games restricted in your geographic area. When you pick which server you want to use for playing, you can choose one that offers access to the games you want to play. Sometimes, games are released in certain regions of the world earlier than others. If you are excited to play a game released early somewhere else, you can use a VPN to take advantage of that early access.

Reduce the risk of swatting

Swatting can take place when an opponent uses your IP address in conjunction with other information to figure out your physical location and sends a SWAT team to your home on a fake emergency call. There have been some eye-catching examples and it can be dangerous since SWAT teams burst into your property expecting to find a genuine emergency, which increases the risk that someone could get hurt in the process. Using a VPN can’t completely protect you from swatting (not least because swatters don’t rely solely on IP addresses to carry out their attacks) but can help to reduce the risk.

Game on public Wi-Fi

If you only have access to public Wi-Fi and still want to game online, you can use a VPN to stay safe. By accessing a public Wi-Fi network through a VPN, you protect the information on your computer from bad actors who might be using the same public Wi-Fi network. You also protect yourself from malware or spyware or other cyber threats posed by someone who has access to your device by being connected to the same network as you.

Overcome IP bans by hiding your IP address

A game can ban an IP address if they disapprove of players’ behavior from that IP address or if a player from a specific IP address breaks game rules. It is possible to get around an IP ban by using a VPN, which allows players to appear in the game from a different IP address. However, be aware that using a VPN to overcome IP bans breaches the terms of service for most online games.

Play anonymously

It’s possible you may not want people to know what games you’re playing online, or you don’t want to be identified while you are playing with opponents. Using a VPN completely anonymizes your identity and data, so you can be sure that nobody knows what you’re doing—or playing—online.

Other VPN benefits

Beyond gaming, benefits of using a VPN include:

  • Working remotely: People often work remotely using VPNs. If they are not in the same country as their company, employees can use a VPN to access the internet in the company’s country, so they won’t have trouble doing work on their company’s server or network.
  • Avoiding internet connection throttle: If you use too much data or bandwidth while browsing the internet, your ISP might throttle your speed—meaning they slow down the connection. Some people turn to VPNs so they can browse without worrying about a slowdown. Be sure to choose a VPN with no data caps or limits, to avoid experiencing throttle when using a VPN.
  • Keeping your information safe: People use VPNs to keep data on their devices or accessible via their network safe. VPNs can protect information from government surveillance or hackers who may be spying on your internet usage. When you connect to a VPN, any bad actor only sees encrypted statistics via the VPN server, keeping your hardware and the information on it safe.
  • Accessing restricted content: If you can’t access certain content in your country—such as television shows, websites, or movies—you may use a VPN to connect to a computer in a different country. Then you can browse everything available on the web in that country. People who live in countries where internet use is censored sometimes use VPNs to bypass this.
  • Browsing the internet anonymously: If you don’t want to have your internet usage attached to you in any way, you can browse using a VPN. This ensures that your online behavior can’t be traced back to you.

Does a VPN lower ping speeds?

When people ask, ‘does VPN affect gaming’, they’re usually asking about ping. Ping refers to the amount of time taken for a message to get from you to another IP address. A low ping time means that you are experiencing as little latency as possible. A high ping time means it’s taking a long time to communicate with whoever you’re gaming with. High ping times can happen with connection throttle.

Some VPNs claim to reduce ping time and help ensure there is no lag or latency in your gaming—giving you an enhanced playing experience. However, this is not always the case, since your data has to travel from your computer to a VPN server and back – a journey which can slow things down. The best VPNs for gaming involve only minimal lag but some lag is obviously greater than no lag.

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How to choose a VPN for gaming

There are many VPNs on the market so how do you choose the best VPN for gaming? Here are some considerations to bear in mind:

Consider server location

When picking a VPN, make sure you can access servers in the location you want or need. You may want to access a game that has only been released in a certain location or one that is restricted where you are but not in other places. Ensure the VPN you choose has servers that will provide access to the games and content you want.

Make sure it allows for P2P connections

Many online games require peer-to-peer (P2P) connections to play. Not all VPNs allow for P2P connections. Make sure you choose one that does so you can play the game you want.

Ensure the VPN is compatible with the platform you want to game on

Not all VPNs are compatible with all gaming platforms. You can use many devices to game online—from your PC to your mobile device to your Nintendo Switch. Make sure that the VPN you choose will work with all the devices you use for online gaming because you don’t want your choice to limit you by not working with one of them.

Choose a secure, safe, and trusted VPN

Make sure the VPN you choose is reliable and safe. A VPN might enable access to a game you can’t otherwise access but won’t be worth using if it exposes you to cyber threats. Check the reputation of the VPN for gaming you are planning to choose, and make sure it offers a secure connection. This is essential to make sure it helps to protect you from DDoS attacks.

Select a VPN with a no-log policy

A key reason why many people choose to game or browse with VPNs is that they anonymize your online experience. Make sure you choose a VPN that doesn’t log user data because this defeats the purpose. A VPN should allow anonymous browsing and gaming to help you have a safer and more anonymous experience online.

Make sure it is fast

Make sure you choose a fast VPN. VPNs with servers in the right location won’t compromise your gaming experience by unnecessarily increasing lag. You don’t want your VPN to slow down your connection because this will negatively affect your gaming experience. Look for a VPN with many high-bandwidth servers, as this will ensure you keep playing your game smoothly.

Look for a VPN without a data cap

Some VPNs have data caps, which means that the amount of data you can use on the VPN is limited. Online gaming can take up significant bandwidth and data, so make sure the VPN you choose won’t cap your data. If your VPN does limit data and you reach the maximum allowed, the provider might throttle your connection speed, impacting your ability to play.

Check that the VPN has options for configuration

Any VPN gives you the ability to configure your VPN. You may want to choose a faster connection, which will help you reduce lag time and improve your gaming experience and performance. Alternatively, you may want to choose a VPN to optimize security if you are accessing a game that might make you vulnerable to cyber attackers or malicious actors online. If you pick a VPN where you can set the protocols, ensure the VPN you choose for gaming meets your needs, no matter if those needs change or differ from situation to situation.

Check whether the VPN is compatible with cloud gaming services

Cloud gaming services stream video games to portable devices like smartphones and tablets. If you enjoy popular cloud gaming services like Stadia, Amazon Luna, Xbox Game Pass and others, make sure the VPN you choose is compatible.

How to set up VPN for gaming

Here are three different ways you can secure your gaming activities with a VPN:

  1. Use a VPN app:Download your chosen VPN app onto your gaming device. A good VPN will have apps for all the major platforms, to enable you to set them up easily on your gaming PC, laptop, or mobile device.
  2. Install it on your router: For security while gaming on your console, you can install your chosen VPN on your Wi-Fi router. This means that every device connected to it will be protected by encryption.
  3. Configure it yourself: If you prefer manual connection, you can set up your VPN on your devices yourself.

FAQs about VPNs and gaming

Frequently asked questions about VPNs and gaming include:

What are the benefits of a gaming VPN?

A good VPN for gaming protects you from DDoS attacks, reduces the risk of swatting, allows you to play games safely on public Wi-Fi, helps you avoid bandwidth throttling, enables you to play geo-blocked games, makes some new releases available early, and can – in some cases – reduce lag and ping times.

What makes a good VPN for gaming?

A key feature for any gaming VPN is an excellent connection speed. Ideally, you’ll get as close to your regular connection speed as possible. You also want a gaming VPN with good privacy credentials. Above all, look for reliability – you don’t want a VPN which cuts out at crucial moments of the game.

Is it legal to use a VPN for gaming?

VPNs are legal in most countries but check your specific country’s laws before using one. For example, while VPNs are legal in China, they are restricted and using them can be viewed as suspicious behaviour. In general, it’s not the VPN itself that is illegal, but how it is used. For example, using a VPN to access titles at region-specific prices can violate a provider’s terms of service and can result in an account suspension. Using a VPN to torrent copyrighted material is generally against the law. Jurisdictions vary so check the laws in your specific country.

Recommended products

If you’re looking for a VPN for gaming, Kaspersky Secure Connection can help. Kaspersky Secure Connection offers you lightning-speed VPN security that can help ensure your data isn’t stolen while you play games online. In addition, it can help you connect to more global content and games that may not be accessible in your country. Kaspersky Secure Connection covers five devices that can connect via the VPN.

Further Reading:

  • Should you disable antivirus while gaming?
  • Does having antivirus installed slow down games?
  • How to find the best antivirus for gaming
  • How to build a secure gaming PC for beginners

Should You Use a VPN for Gaming?

Is VPN good for gaming? Gaming on a VPN can protect you from cyber threats & hide your IP address without slowing you down. Find out more.

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