When it comes to playing games, the last thing you want to worry about is why your PC or console won’t connect to game lobbies when you fire up online play. In nine out of ten instances, you won’t have to worry about port forwarding. But in the instance that you cannot connect no matter how many times you hit play, or unplug the router, or disconnect your system from the Wi-Fi/Ethernet port, knowing what ports are and how to forward them is key to ensuring that your experience is a smooth one.
As gaming has become more prominent within the public eye and the network traffic from gaming has become bigger, most internet service providers set up the routers that they provide to their customers with the necessary details to be able to play without the need to change any of your settings. However, some providers who offer cheap or poor quality routers, or more expensive retail routers from known brands such as TP-Link, NetGear, and Linksys (the retail arm of network giants Cisco) can have these restrictions set up from the box, and it’s down to you to set it up to allow for gaming. Some may even have pre-set modes such as Gaming Mode that will automatically open them up and once set; you’re good to go.
If you’re unsure if the issue that you’re having with a game is to do with ports on your router, the best thing you can do is to look out for any error codes that you’re presented with as you play. Note them down, and put them into a search online. Usually, the error codes should link to the developer’s website with details of the code. If it mentions ports, port forwarding, or that the connection to the game’s servers was blocked or refused, then port forwarding may be necessary.
What are Ports and Port Forwarding?
Put simply; your router has a built-in firewall, a layer of protection that stops certain types of connections from going through to your router and onto your network. These types of connections are called Ports, and when they are blocked, your router will stop any data from going through it and onto your Wi-Fi or cable connection. Ports are universal, meaning that every router uses the same number of and numbered ports for the same purpose.
Some ports are used more frequently than others and are required to be opened for even the most basic of internet use. For example, Port 80 allows the use of the data for the Hypertext Transfer Protocol, or more commonly known as HTTP. Port 443 uses encryption to provide a more secure version of HTTP, named HTTP Secure (or HTTPS). If you look at the URL of most websites, you will see that the very beginning shows either HTTP or HTTPS before the name of the website. If the ports 80 and 443 were blocked or restricted on your router, you would effectively be locked out of being able to browse the web, aside from a few websites that don’t use those ports, and in that instance, you leave yourself at a security risk.
You’re rarely going to find a router that has these two ports blocked aside from possibly work networks, where the host of the network may only want you to access data from within that network. At home though, these shouldn’t be a problem. However, many game developers use a high number of ports that are related to connecting to servers for systems such as matchmaking, and so if your router has one or more of them ports restricted, it will stop you connecting to the game. Games such as League of Legends and FIFA can be the biggest culprits of this.
Port forwarding is the action of opening the ports, meaning that your router will stop blocking any connection that uses the previously blocked port. For example, if you did previously have Ports 80 and 443 blocked, you wouldn’t be able to browse the web using Chrome. Port forwarding the two ports, opening both of them up, will allow your router to let data from them go through, meaning you can begin browsing the web through Chrome.
So how do you forward ports?
This is where things begin to get more complicated. The method for forwarding ports on any network is typically through your home router. Even if you still use a modem that is separate from the router, this is what creates that barrier of protection from certain connections. Unfortunately, the interface used for changing settings on a router is not universal, and each brand will have its own interface with places to be able to make changes.
Before going any further, you are using public Wi-Fi, a college, university or other educational networks, or internet provided by your workplace, you will likely need to contact the administrator of the network to allow the ports that you need to be opened as you won’t be allowed to access the settings yourself. Typically though, each of these is blocked for a reason, so while you are free to ask or request access to the required ports, you’re likely to find that you might be out of luck. Similarly, if you are using a neighbor’s Wi-Fi with their permission, you would also need their permission to change the router settings, especially as access to the user interface to make settings changes is going to require access to the Administrator information located on the router itself.
As each router will be different, it would be almost impossible to describe every possible way to access the admin tools on a router in this one post, so here is an easy way to get to the router settings.
It’s recommended that you do this on a PC or laptop as most user interfaces are designed for them, though more modern ones are beginning to use more metro-style interfaces, and it can still be done through a mobile phone or tablet.
You may find that your router will have the address on its label to go to, but if not, here’s how to find it. While connected to your network on a PC, bring up a command prompt. This is commonly found by searching for ‘cmd,’ and it will look like an old computer terminal. This usually doesn’t require you to run it as an Admin, but if it doesn’t seem to work, right-click on CMD and run it as administrator.
From here, type in ‘ipconfig.’ What this does is bring up the configuration of your connection to the internet. You can ignore most of the information as what you’re looking for is the Default Gateway. This is the IP address (an Internet Protocol’s location). You need to copy this number, and then paste it into a web browser. After hitting search, you should find yourself in the menu of your home router.
On a mobile device, in most instances, going to the connection in your WiFi settings should yield network information, including the Default Gateway, though it may be labeled simply Gateway. The procedure is the same, take the IP address, and place it into a web browser. Putting it into a search engine is likely to yield no results, so be careful that you didn’t put it into a search widget/engine by mistake.
At this point, if you’re unsure of your model of router, this menu should give you those details. From here, we would recommend visiting PortForward.com. This is an excellent set of tools that will guide you through the process of setting up port forwarding on your make and model of router. The sidebar will provide a link to an extensive list of routers, where you can find your make and model, and from here, it will guide you step by step the method for completing forwarding a port on your router.
We hope that this helps improve your experience in gaming online in case you need to port forward.