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Understanding how NAT types affect online connectivity

Question: What is NAT, or Network Address Translation, and why can't I play online because mine is 'strict'?

Answer:

NAT types and what they mean --


NAT Types:

  1. Open
  2. Moderate
  3. Strict
  • Open NATs can connect to any of the three types. --> Probably the least common type
  • Moderate can only connect to open and moderate. --> Probably the most common type
  • Strict can ONLY connect to open.

Strict NATs are a difficult problem with peer-to-peer games. Since most people don't have open NATs, the player with a strict NAT won't be able to find many joinable games.

Also, if the player with a strict NAT does manage to join a game, if another player with a moderate NAT joins later, the player with the strict NAT gets kicked out.

The problem is even worse since it is sometimes difficult for software (i.e. Games for Windows Live) to detect which NAT type it is running behind, and can often report that the player has a moderate NAT when they actually have a strict NAT.

Another problem is that sometimes the ISP (Internet Service Provider) is also NAT'd which often means even if you have a direct connection to the internet (without a router/firewall), the ISP still acts as a strict NAT.

These are some recommendations for getting a better NAT type:
The following ports must be available to your PC: 

  • TCP 80
  • UDP 88
  • TCP 3074
  • UDP 3074
  • TCP 53
  • UDP 53

Here are some additional tips that have helped many players improve their connectivity:

1. Make sure your router's firmware is upgraded the latest version (very important).

2. Unplug your router for 10 minutes and plug it back in. Some older routers degrade in performance over time until it is rebooted, similar to a PC.

3. Disable any firewall or other network filtering for the game.

4. Enable uPnP (universal plug and play) on your router.

5. If you don't care about security, enable DMZ (de-militarized zone) on your router for your PC's address. This turns off all of your router's firewall features for that specific PC.

6. Get a router that has the "Xbox LIVE compatible" or "Certified for Windows Vista" logo.

7. Contact your ISP and ask them what your DNS setting should be.

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