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Perhaps two weeks ago or so, I began having terrible latency problems whenever I began playing online. At first, I thought the wireless receiver (a USB device) on my computer was simply failing, but these problems also occur when using my laptop, and for my brother on his laptop (we share the same wireless network for about a month or so).

There doesn't seem to be a problem with internet connectivity in general (i.e., I have no problem browsing the net, streaming a movie, or downloading a file), but random spikes of lag, which would be much more noticeable when attempting to play, say, Team Fortress 2.

I'm trying to diagnose the problem, and my first idea was to check the consistency of the signal strength (i.e., a problem with my wireless router) vs. consistency of ping (i.e., a problem with my wireless provider).

Are there any programs I could use to test one or both of these? Note: I would like to be able to test over a period of time, because the problem is not consistent.

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This really would be better on SuperUser rather than here. I think you'd have a better chance of getting a good answer. –  Weegee Jun 25 '11 at 4:56
    
@Weegee - possibly. I may ask a similar question over there eventually. –  Raven Dreamer Jun 25 '11 at 5:07
    
The easiest way to determine if it's the wireless connection or the internet connection is to connect using a wire for a while. –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Jun 25 '11 at 10:50
    
@BlueRaja - unfortunately, that's a bit difficult in my case (just due to wiring around my house) but I'll keep it in mind. –  Raven Dreamer Jun 25 '11 at 16:52
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3 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

So, observing last mile internet performance is notoriously hard.

Depending on your wireless card you may be able to monitor signal strength over time (you'll also want to watch for noise, in many wireless environments this is a limiting factor). Additionally, you could plug a computer into a land line to compare performance.

However, if this is a down stream problem neither of these things will correctly identify the source, what you really need is route tracing. On a Windows computer this can be done by running tracert:

enter image description here

This will create a packet train with varying TTL (time to live) based on the number of "hops." Because of the shortened TTL you'll be able to see network data from along your route: enter image description here

By running this consistently over time you can identify common bottle necks.

An example of this came from when I lived in Canada, and I'd have intermittent issues connecting to WoW server. Tracert showed that occasionally (probably due to peering agreements) the path would route through Texas. In that case I was able to talk to my ISP and get them to fix the issue, but that's not always feasible.

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is Tracert included in windows or do I have to go and download it? –  Raven Dreamer Jun 25 '11 at 16:53
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@Raven tracert is standard on windows, on *nix it's traceroute –  tzenes Jun 25 '11 at 17:17
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If you want to test your latency to a given server and potentially rule out last mile and routing issues, then there are a number of tools that will help you out. Assuming you are on windows:

Ping will give you latency to a specific server. The best way to get an idea of your last mile is to ping your ISPs primary DNS server. This is always geographically specific and will only run on their network so you can identify latency issues specific to your ISP. You will want to run a continuous ping (ping -t dnsipaddress). A continuous ping should run for at least an hour to get accurate results.

Traceroute (tracert server.com) will give you the route with a single ICMP response (if you see * it doesn't necessarily mean there is a problem, it usually means that the server you just hit is not ICMP enabled and won't respond or has dropped the packet due to ICMP being too low of priority).

Pathping or WinMTR will combine the two and give you more solid results for latency to each hop on your route.

SNMP will give you a solid idea of bandiwth usage on your connection and will help you rule out utilization issues with your connection as this is the number one culprit for latency problems for end users.

All of these tests should be run directly connected to your ISP device.

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As someone suggested, you can try playing over the wire (instead of wireless) in order to check if the issue still happens.

Also, you can ping the internal IP address of your router. At normal conditions, it will always be around 0 or 1 milliseconds, but if occasionally increases, then you will know it is your wireless connection.

You can run Command Prompt (Start -> Run -> cmd) and then run ping -t IP_ADDRES_OF_YOUR_ROUTER

For the list of parameters, run ping /?. You can also save the output in a file: ping IP_ADDRESS > C:\Users\Username\Desktop\ping_output.txt

Anyway, this question is better suited to SuperUser.com

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