How To: Easily Check for Packet Loss

Whether it is a first-person shooter or Rocket League, missed shots are brutal!

You and the boys (or girls, or any gender of the non-binary spectrum) are having a heated gaming session one fine night, and you notice your shots not landing or registering at times. As a result, you are left thinking to yourself that you could have sworn you had landed that shot; and obviously, your friends are calling you whiny as always and telling you you should stop being a big, 21-year old baby because they do not trust you. Of course, they are your friendsr/oddlyspecific.

Some games such as Rocket League give you a direct, visual indicator on your screen when your packets are being lost in transmission, but many others do not do so unless you have some special options or developer commands enabled. In either case, seldom would you ever get the packet loss amount represented in the form actual figures.

Just another day in Rocket League, the dreaded five-headed monster of the game (“Packet Loss” infamously being one of them)

In this post, we show you how you can quite literally see and also find out precisely the amount of packets you are losing, so you could perhaps raise this issue with your internet service provider to get it solved.

What Is Packet Loss?

When connected with a game server, your game activity (movements, shots, 360-no-scopes, embarrassing failures, etc.) is constantly sent in real-time to this server in small, regular fragments of data over the internet called as “data packets”. It is this consistent and continuous transmission of packets to and from the server that keeps the server accurately updated and synchronized with your true, current game activity (again, movements, shots, 360-no-scopes, embarrassing failures, etc.); and this is how your experience over the internet—whether it is gaming or web-surfing—is seamless. In essence, the higher your packet loss number, the lesser your overall connection quality.

However, upon suffering from the mysterious pain that is packet loss, the reason you show as “inconsistently moving about” for your teammate or miss shots is that the game server receives communication of all your activity, but the packet(s) that was / were supposed to convey that precise activity of yours failed to reach the server.

Checking for Packet Loss

Step 1: Summon the Command Prompt

Open a Command Prompt window on your Windows system, whether by pressing Win + R and typing “cmd” in that little “Run” box, or by searching for the Command Prompt in your Start menu and clicking on the result.

Step 2: Ping

We will be using the following command to test the connection for packet losses:

ping -n <number of packets to send> <address to ping>

Here, the “-n” option specifies the number of packets you would like to send to see how many of them actually reach the intended destination address. Like in Science and statistics, the larger the number of the sample, the more reliable the test. That stated, you may use a value as low as 10, but it may not be a correct representation of your lost packets. 50, however, could be a better figure.

Let’s try the following command in that freshly summoned Command Prompt window:

ping -n 50 1.1.1.1

Upon hitting Enter, this command sends 50 packets of data to Cloudflare’s DNS server(s) at 1.1.1.1, and the response for each sent packet is sent back as a “reply”.

You could even try other servers, such as Google’s DNS server(s):

ping -n 50 8.8.8.8

Or even a specific domain to check your packet loss for a particular web server, such as YouTube. However, it is highly recommended that either Cloudflare or Google DNS servers are used to test your connection as these are highly reliable, low-latency, publicly accessible servers:

ping -n 50 youtube.com

Step 3: Ping Results

Once 50 packets have been sent and their responses have been received, a quick summary is displayed at the bottom of the successfully completed ping:

Here, you can see that we had sent 100 packets to Google’s DNS server(s) at 8.8.8.8 and only 1 response timed out. This can be either because that one packet failed to reach its destination, or failed to reach back to us after being responded to and sent back. In either case, this 1/100 failure amounts to a 1% packet loss, which is not highly significant at all whatsoever, but clearly not 100% ideal.

To investigate further, let’s try a different server this time — Cloudflare’s DNS server(s), with the same number of packets:

Here, the results show that 100 packets were sent, and all of them were also successfully responded to and sent back to us as replies. This 100/100 success means 0% packet loss.

Though not entirely impossible, it is likely that you may get slightly varying results across these two major DNS servers (Cloudflare and Google). In our case, this was an insignificant 1%, that too, most likely not to exist across multiple tests. If you are seeing percentages above, say, 5% consistently, then you may need to have to examine your connection (cables, configurations, acces points) or a chat with your internet service provider about the quality of “internet service” you are being “provided”.

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