Ping is a common term among gamers and is one of the essential factors that determine user experience in gaming. Gamers often complain about high ping which causes lag. In online gaming, a delay of a second or two can affect the result considerably.
For example, you and a friend are standing apart at a certain distance. The time it takes for your friend to speak and you to respond is 2 seconds. Another example is SONAR (Sound Ranging and Navigation), which sends sound waves that are reflected upon hitting an object — revealing the location of that object by measuring the time taken for the sound waves to travel back and forth.
Ping works in the same way, but on Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP). It is an echo request utility program, developed by Mike Muuss in 1993, that measures the time taken by a data packet to travel to and fro from a device to a server. Ping tests reveal two important bits of information — whether the device is connected to a network or not, and the latency, which is the time delay in data travel.
Ping vs Latency
Latency is the time delay in data transfer from one point to another. The two terms are used interchangeably in the gaming world, but technically they are different. In simple terms, we can say that ping measures latency. Lower ping means lower latency.
Ping is the overall networking test that relays information about network availability along with the latency, while latency is the actual measurement of the lag (time delay). Ping is primarily used for troubleshooting network problems while latency determines the average delay of the relay of information between the server and PC.
How to measure ping on a network?
Here, we are covering a ping network test on Mac OS. For Windows, you can refer to the article here. Below is the step-by-step process of ping testing in Mac OS.
- In the Spotlight search tool, type network utility and open the app or simply search the app in /System/Library/CoreServices/Applications.
- Click on the Ping tab located on the upper horizontal menu.
- Type the website address. For example, candid.technology or google.com.
- Select the number of pings you want to send. For example, 10 or 20 times depending on your requirements.
- Click the blue Ping button on the lower right corner.
How to analyse ping results?
A ping result has two components:
- The number of packets sent (usually Windows send 4 packets of 32 bytes each) by the PC. Mac OS can send many more data packets, and
- The statistics, which tells us about the connection along with the approx. round trip time. In this case, the average round trip time is 300 milliseconds.
Let us understand the various terms of the results (The result is on the featured image).
- Reply from <IP address>: It is the IP address of the server to whom the PC has send data packets. It also means that the PC and server are now connected.
- bytes=32: It refers to the size of the data packet. Here, the size of the data packet is 32 bytes.
- time= 301ms: This is the response time of the server which is in milliseconds.
- TTL=54: TTL specifies the total number of routers a packet of data travels. Here, as we can see the TTL is 54, which means that the data travelled through 54 routers before halting.
- Packets: Sent= 4, Received = 4, Lost = 0 (0 % loss): Specifies the number of packets sent by the server and received by the PC. As we notice here, the data loss is 0, which means that the connection is fine. Data loss shows that there is a problem in the connection.
- Approximate round trips in milli-seconds: Shows the approximate time taken by the data packet to travel. Connection speed is inversely proportional to the time taken. This means that higher the approx. time, lower the connection speed.
Applications of Ping
Ping has the following uses.
- Checking network availability.
- Checking the number of devices between the device and the server.
- Knowing the IP address of a particular URL.
- Assessing the problem source. If you cannot reach a website, try pinging to your router. If the ping works fine, then the problem is on the server and out of your hands.
- Relaying various other pieces of information like data loss, average round trip, among others.
- Self-assessing the network adapter on the device. If your router is on and you cannot ping it back, then you can try sending the loopback address. The loopback address pings successfully, you are sure that the network adapter is working fine.
Former Senior Editor at Candid.Technology. Hemant has a keen interest in social issues and international relations.