A woman is pointing a magic wand at her router, the router is emanating light beams because of it

If you know anything about network management, you know it can be challenging, especially as a beginner. The freedom of controlling your network settings is paramount for some activities. One form of managing your network settings and security is through NAT.

Table of contents

    What is NAT?

    NAT, or Network Address Translation, is not an app, but a set of procedures that translate the private IP (Internet Protocol) addresses of your network to one public IP. Given that there is a limited number of IPv4 addresses available for use, NAT is the stopgap measure to prevent IP address overuse until everyone adopts IPv6 (ETA: not soon).

    How do I check my NAT type on PC?

    The most efficient way to check your NAT type is the following: 

    1. Press the Windows key and R;
    2. Enter cmd and press Enter;
    3. Type ipconfig in the new window and press Enter;
    4. Write down the address next to the Default Gateway line;
    5. Enter that address into your browser;
    6. Access the settings of your modem (most modems have passwords set to blank, admin, or password);
    7. Find the NAT type under internet settings (varies from modem to modem).  

    Now that you know what you’re dealing with – and have the default gateway address – we can go forth and change the NAT

    How to change the NAT type on a PC: 5 methods

    There are five methods you can use to change your NAT type on a PC:

    1. Turning on UPnP
    2. Port forwarding
    3. Activating network discovery
    4. Editing your router’s configuration file
    5. Enabling DMZ mode

    Below, we will break down how you can go through each method:

    Method #1: Turn on UPnP on the router

    A display window of the universal plug-and-play panel found on the router's settings

    UPnP, or Universal Plug and Play, is a protocol set that allows devices to connect and applications (primarily gaming) to automatically forward ports.

    As you might expect, having automatically open ports poses a significant security risk. Hackers might use these port exposures to steal your data, gaining access to your local network.

    To activate UPnP, you will typically find it under a router’s advanced network settings. Here are the detailed steps:

    Step 1. Use the instructions above to find your router’s IP address;

    Step 2. Enter the IP address in your preferred browser;

    Step 3. Go to your router’s advanced settings;

    Step 4. Find the Enable UPnP box/button.

    If you do not use a Windows PC, check out our sister article on how to find out your router’s IP address. You will also find standard IP addresses for each router type.

    Here are UPnP guides for specific manufacturers:

    Method #2: Port forwarding

    Panel showing router settings of port forwarding and port triggering

    Port forwarding is a more controlled version of UPnP. Unlike having ports automatically opened via router settings, you have manual control of the ports you want to open up.

    Much like UPnP, having a port open exposes you to some security risks. However, you have control over the open ports, so you can choose to close them at any time.

    Before you begin, you need to know your game’s (or app’s) preferred port. You might find this on the creator’s website but can also find so through third-party online sources.

    After, you can follow our guide for VPN port forwarding across multiple operating systems. Otherwise, here are some quick instructions that apply to almost any router model:

    Step 1. Find out which ports you need;

    Step 2. Go to your router’s configuration page;

    Step 3. Go to your router’s advanced settings;

    Step 4. Find the setting that says enable port forwarding;

    Step 5. Input the port number details from step 1.

    Depending on your router model or internet service provider, your router might have a series of preset ports available for current games. You should find them under the same advanced settings.

    Method #3: Turn on Network Discovery on Windows 10

    A screenshot of the Control Panel on Windows 10 showing how to access advanced sharing settings and network discovery

    Network Discovery offers numerous local network benefits that include increased internet speed and the ability for devices to easily find each other on Windows. With all the devices able to communicate, it is the computer-side version of UPnP.

    To enable it, you can follow these quick instructions:

    Step 1. Open the Windows control panel;

    Step 2. Click on Network and Internet and go to the Network and Sharing Center;

    Step 3. Click on Change Advanced Sharing Settings;

    Step 4. Find the Network Discovery subheading;

    Step 5. Click on the bullet next to Turn on Network Discovery.

    Be sure only to do this with your local area network. Activating UPnP, forwarding ports, and activating network discovery mode all have the potential to expose your computer.

    Method #4: Edit the configuration file

    A screenshot of a cursor pointing at a configuration text file

    A router’s configuration file controls everything your routing device does. This includes security, network traffic, and any port forwarding you want. 

    Any changes to your configuration file should only come after you’ve made a backup.

    Here are some instructions you can follow to change your config file easily:

    Step 1. Open your config file using Notepad (should happen by default);

    Step 2. Click ctrl+F and search for last bind;

    Step 3. Type bind application=CONE(UPD) port=XXXX-XXXX with X’s replaced by the desired port number; 

    Step 4. Save your changes;

    Step 5. Go into your router and search for the option to load/restore configuration file;

    Step 6. Select your edited file;

    Step 7. Restart your PC.

    Older routers might rely entirely on changing config files. However, accessing your port forwarding via router settings will do much of the same thing.

    Method #5: Enable DMZ mode

    A router’s DMZ (demilitarized zone) refers to a single user being completely exposed to the internet. Typically, you see this done in moments of desperation when users struggle to set up port forwarding or change other router settings.

    Network specialists will prefer you to use port numbers or a router’s control panel over this method. DMZ modes are not security friendly, but it is one way to change your NAT type.

    Here are the steps:

    Step 1. Open your router’s configuration page;

    Step 2. Go to your router’s advanced settings;

    Step 3. Find DMZ mode and insert a manual IP address (the same static IP address from your IP config readout).

    DMZ mode should only be used in emergencies, like a video conference meeting that needs to happen. If you want to play video games with your buddies, DMZ mode isn’t worth it.

    Network Address Translation (NAT) in detail

    In simple terms, a NAT translates a private local network IP into a public IP. This enables you to access the internet, but how does this work?

    To understand that, one must have a good idea of network packets. A packet is a set of data that a computer or server sends to another network entity.

    This packet is released from the private address (your computer) and gets sent through the modem. The router modifies the packet by stripping away your private address and replacing it with a public one

    So, if you were to go to YouTube.com, any data the streaming data sends your way would bear the public rather than private address.

    Without a router, you’d have a static NAT. A static NAT happens when your IP address doesn’t change from private to public, leaving you exposed.

    What are the different NAT types?

    There is no single definition of NAT types as they’re just approaches, not actual apps, and the companies aren’t entirely open about what they’re based on. Here’s a table: 

    NAT types by company and openness:

    Xbox & PC (Microsoft)
    PlayStation (Sony)
    Open
    Type 1
    Moderate
    Type 2
    Strict
    Type 3

    A lot of it depends on whether you have a router, and if you have a router, whether the ports are forwarded. So the green cells denote NAT types most conducive to online gaming, but also least secure.

    Open NAT type

    Open NAT types are entirely unrestricted, disabling all firewall configurations and preventing the external or internal connection from accessing you. Open NATs are the least secure for your network-connected devices, enabling extreme exposure across the board.

    Expect fast server connections and less lag for your gaming experience. However, this is a lot like leaving the home unlocked and with the doors open.

    Moderate NAT type

    Moderate NAT types are the happy middle between open and strict. There are a small number of open ports, enabling restrictions for most network connections.

    As far as any network connection, this provides the best of both worlds. Still, it is kind of like leaving your door unlocked. 

    Strict NAT type

    Strict NAT types disallow all data from traveling through your local network. It is the safest type of NAT setting, as it prevents most attacks against your computer.

    Strict NAT types are less popular because they prevent connected devices from communicating and your ability to join with other servers. So, if you are a gamer, you constantly run into lag and often find yourself unable to access most servers.

    NAT type connectivity issues

    Sometimes, connectivity issues are caused by mismatching NAT types between your router and the service you’re trying to reach. What does a mismatch look like? You may be able to play the game online, but the voice chat doesn’t work. 

    A mismatch of NAT types means that not all of the info is being exchanged between two IPs. That happens because your router has firewalls blocking some part of the data.

    To help you troubleshoot your way through common NAT connectivity issues when gaming, here’s what they look like:

    • No voice chat;
    • Not being able to play with some people;
    • Sometimes matches won’t load or start (matchmaking is barely and rarely possible);
    • Can’t host games;
    • Lagging when you’ve got great internet speeds and great connection;
    • You’re getting thrown out of lobbies for no apparent reason.

    The table shows what NAT types can exchange information (different NAT types that can play multiplayer games together and hear each other over voice chat).

    Open
    Moderate
    Strict
    Open
    Moderate
    Strict

    What to expect from different NAT types when gaming

    • Open – this type can play with every other type, chat, and host matches. When playing, you’ll experience zero lag issues, but your security will be at risk because anyone can connect to your network.
    • Moderate – you’re going to be able to play with people who have the open and moderate NAT types and, in most cases, you’re not going to be the host of the multiplayer match.
    • Strict – you can only play with people who have the open NAT type. This is the safest option but it has a cost – sometimes you might experience lagging and some in-game functions not working.

    Why would you want to change NAT types?

    Changing NAT types enables you to have control over your network experience. An open NAT results in a faster internet connection with fewer speed bumps. However, the lack of security is concerning.

    If you are a gamer, you probably know about the benefits of moderate or open NATs more than anyone. Lower lag and easier connectivity are a must in any multiplayer endeavor (any that isn’t PBEM, obviously).

    Faster internet connection through less stringent NATs also helps server hosts. If you are hosting a server for a game (or any purpose), you likely need a less strict NAT.

    However, security-conscious gamers need to consider an alternative: getting a VPN.

    Getting a VPN is a better alternative than changing NAT 

    Fiddling with NAT settings is unsafe, rolling out the red carpet for hackers to easily take your data. Instead, a VPN for PC enables you to secure your data and still maintain solid gaming speed. Seems like it would be a good idea to look into Surfshark…

    Stop opening ports, secure yourself with a VPN

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    FAQ

    How do I change my NAT type on Windows 10?

    By activating network discovery:

    1. Start menu → Control Panel;
    2. Network & Internet → Network and Sharing Center → Change advanced sharing settings;
    3. Check the ‘’Turn on network discovery’’ option & click ‘’Save changes’’.

    Or, better yet, get Surfshark and don’t worry about changing your NAT type ever again.

    How do I change my NAT type to open?

    Enable UPnP. You can do that by following these steps:

    1. Open your web browser and type in your IP address in the address bar;
    2. Fill in your login info;
    3. Look for UPnP settings (usually goes under ‘’Settings” / “Advanced Settings’’ / “Network Settings’’);
    4. Enable UPnP, reset the router, and restart your device.

    Word of advice – changing your NAT type to ‘’Open’’ leaves you unprotected from hacking attacks. To ensure the least amount of lag and the most amount of security, use a VPN.

    Can you manually change your NAT type?

    Yes, and there are five different ways to change your NAT type: the UPnP method, port forwarding, the Network Discovery method, using a configuration file, or enabling the DMZ mode. But the safest and easiest to accomplish option is using a VPN. It will bypass NAT restrictions while simultaneously keeping you safe and letting you enjoy lag-free gameplay.