One of the most frustrating things in the world is playing a matchmaking game with lag. Yes, you know what I’m talking about – I can almost hear you cursing from here. Usually its because some genius is trying to play on a connection that rates just marginally better than 56K dialup. Everything starts fine, then the dreaded wait screen. Connecting… Connecting… Next thing you know you’re back in the game only to find out you’ve been spawn-killed 5 times already. And what could possibly be worse? Yup, you want to quit and find a new game, but you always do a double-take because you know quitting will penalize you. It’s just a no-win situation.
Hopefully, reading this post and passing this information on to all your gamer friends will help alleviate this issue and cut down on the number of laggy games.
So what is DNS? Well, without getting too technical, a DNS server acts like a translator and a map all in one. All computers and devices connected to the Internet are given a numerical address, or IP address, to uniquely identify them. Think of it like the address on your house – no two addresses are exactly the same, and that’s how the mailman knows where to deliver your mail to. Well the Internet works in the same way. If you request a website, like say this one, you would type http://haloreach-thegame.com into your browser’s address bar. You hit enter and the page appears. Simple. But what you don’t know is, your computer has absolutely no idea what http://haloreach-thegame.com is, or even where it is. Why? because remember, the Internet uses IP addresses, not names. So how does the page magically appear if your computer doesn’t know where to find it? The answer is the DNS server. DNS, or domain name server, is basically an address book. If you ask it where to find http://haloreach-thegame.com, it will return an answer of 184.108.40.206 – the site’s IP address. This IP address is really what your browser uses to find and deliver the website you requested. Since we have a much easier time remembering haloreach-thegame.com than 220.127.116.11, DNS servers make it possible to use all names instead of numbers. So to sum it up, a DNS server is absolutely needed to find any website or service on the Internet that uses a domain name. This includes your XBOX connecting to XBOX Live and Halo matchmaking…
So why do I need to change my DNS? As we all know, using the Internet or playing online multiplayer games is all about speed – the faster our connection, the better. Since we need to use a DNS server to connect to websites and play games, shouldn’t we use the fastest and most reliable server available? The truth is, if all you did was unbox your XBOX and connect it to your home network without changing any settings, your XBOX is using the default network DNS. The problem with the default DNS is that it just points to your home router or modem. But your home router or modem isn’t a root DNS server, is it? No, no its not. Your router will simply accept the request and then hand it off to the next node it finds. The more nodes involved in a request, the more time it takes to complete the request. Kind of see what I’m getting at? Since there are many DNS servers available across the world, we can speed up our requests by connecting directly to the DNS server that works fastest for us. Bottom line is – directly connecting to the best DNS server means faster requests and improved speed.
Ok, so now you see why you need to change your DNS, but how do you actually do it? Glad you asked. The process is very easy and will take you about 20 minutes to do properly. Notice I said “to do it properly.” Sure, changing the actual DNS variable on your XBOX takes only seconds, but first you need to know which DNS server to connect to. Follow the steps below to get it right.
What you will need:
- Your XBOX 360 (of course)
- NameBench software – free from Google
- A computer running Windows, Mac, or any flavor of Unix
Step 1 – Find the right DNS server
DNS server performance for you will depend on where in the world you are located – not all DNS servers are the same! To find which one you need to use, you need some free software called NameBench. This is free open source software from Google and there are versions for Mac, Windows, and Linux.
Download the software, install it, then run it. All you have to do is make sure “Include best available regional DNS services” is checked, then hit Start.
Ok, this is the part that takes the longest. Honestly, you might want to grab a drink or knock out a couple rounds of SWAT while NameBench is running. In my experiences, it usually takes about 15-20 minutes for the test to complete. When its done, it will open a browser window with your test results, that look something like this:
So now you know what the fastest DNS servers in your region are. If your computer is not near your XBOX, write down the Primary Server and Secondary Server addresses from the box marked “Recommended configuration” on the top right hand side of the test report. Now head over to your XBOX.
Step 2 – Change your settings
Follow the screenshots below to change your DNS settings on your XBOX 360
First, open the System settings panel and go to Network Settings
Next, choose your current connection. In this case, mine is wireless, but this works the same way with a wired connection as well.
You’ll see the connection status screen. Choose “Configure Network.”
In the next step, choose the DNS settings panel under Basic Settings
This screen will ask you which DNS to use, choose “Manual”
Now here is where you enter your new DNS settings. Start off with the Primary DNS. Change the address, then hit Done. Do the exact same for your Secondary DNS and enter in the secondary DNS address from the test. Hit Done.
This will bring you back to the Connection Status panel, where you can test your new DNS servers.
At this point, I would recommend that you restart your XBOX to flush out the old DNS cache. Once you’re rebooted and reconnected, you’re all set to go.
Keep in mind, if you were already working off of a fast broadband connection, you may not notice a difference after the change. That’s a good sign since now you know you weren’t slowed down because of your DNS. Even though you may not notice that you are connecting to XBOX Live faster, or matchmaking is taking less time, just trust that it is working. This fix is meant to speed up your connection and prevent lag – its not going to increase your rank or make you a better player.
And for those of you who worry about changing settings, rest assured that if you want to go back to default, just switch your DNS settings back into automatic mode. No harm done at all.
Questions or comments? Leave’em below.
Now tell all your friends so we can eliminate lag!