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.
What is NAT?
NAT, or Network Address Translation, is not an app, but a set of procedures that translate the private IP 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.
- Press the Windows key and R.
- Enter cmd and press Enter.
- Type ipconfig in the new window and press Enter.
- Write down the address next to the Default Gateway line.
- Enter that address into your browser.
- Access the settings of your modem (most modems have passwords set to blank, admin, or password).
- 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:
- Turning on UPnP
- Port forwarding
- Activating network discovery
- Editing your router’s configuration file
- Enabling DMZ mode
Below, we will break down how you can go through each method:
Method #1: Turn on UPnP on the router
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 you can get your router IP on your preferred operating system. You will also find standard IP addresses for each router type.
Here are UPnP guides for specific manufacturers:
Method #2: Port forwarding
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
Network Discovery offers numerous local network benefits that include increased internet speed and the ability for devices to more 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 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 8. 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 where 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)
A lot of it depends on whether you have a router, and if you have a router, whether 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 preventing the external or internal connection from accessing you. Open NATs are the least secure for your network-connected devices, providing extreme exposure across the board.
Expect fast server connections and less lag for your gaming experience. However, this is a lot like leaving 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 will prevent 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.
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 is a must in any multiplayer endeavour (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…