How To Set Up A LAN Party – The Ultimate Guide for Windows PCs

If you never set up a LAN party before and you would like to know how to set up a LAN party for you and your mates, then here is the ultimate guide:

I have personally been to many LAN parties and I have hosted many LAN parties in my lifetime and I find that there are some misconceptions about LAN (Local Area Network) gaming. A Local Area Network does not involve the Internet and if you need the Internet to play a game, it is certainly not a LAN game. That is simply online multiplayer gaming using a WAN (Wide Area Network) like the Internet.

Here I will keep it old school and strictly LAN. Many of us staying in third world countries do not have fast Internet connections or lots of bandwidth and this is what makes LAN gaming so awesome. But it is more than that: It is the interaction, the jokes and laughter. It is a social event where teamwork, comradery and competition is much more fun than over a microphone to some distant teammate or friend.

LAN Party

Because most everything is done online or can be done online these days, true local network games are a dying breed and it makes sense that many of the awesome LAN games out there are a bit dated but not less fun.

This brings me to the very first step. Let the fun begin!:

Step One – Get A List Of LAN Games

It is no use inviting your friends for a LAN party and you do not yet have an idea what you will be playing. It is good to be organized; since small things like deciding what to play on the day can waste a lot of time and spoil things fast.

Ask your friends before the time what games they currently have, games they would like to play and perhaps give a suggestion of what you guys could try. You can perhaps decide as a group to pitch in and purchase a DRM (Digital Rights Management) free game from a place like gog.com.

Do this over social media, WhatsApp, e-mail or whatever your preference is. Keep this list safe on a spreadsheet for some preparation work later if needed.

Below is my list of super fun, true LAN games to play that I personally own and played. But feel free to choose something totally different.

Top LAN Party Games (Offline)

Here is my list of top LAN Party Games:

Game Max. Players Where To Get
Age Of Mythology 12 Amazon
Age Of Empires II 8 Humble Store
Age Of Wonders II and Shadow Magic 12 / 8 GOG
ANNO 1404 4 GOG
Baldur’s Gate II 6 GOG
Blur 4 Amazon
Battlefield 2 64 Amazon
Call Of Duty World At War 4 Amazon
Company Of Heroes 1 and 2 8 Amazon
Counterstrike Source 128 Amazon
Death Rally 1 4 Best Old Games
Descent 2 8 GOG
Diablo 2 8 Amazon
Divinity: Original Sin 1 & 2 4 GOG
Dungeon Siege 1 & 2 8 Amazon
Duke Nukem 3D 8 Best Old Games
F22 Lightning 3 128 Amazon
First To Fight 4 Amazon
Flatout 2 8 GOG
Freelancer 128 Amazon
Freespace 2 8 GOG
Heroes Of Might And Magic III and V 8 GOG
Heretic 2 32 Amazon
Homeworld Emergence 8 GOG
Homeworld Deserts of Kharak 6 GOG
Lord Of The Rings: Conquest 16 Amazon
Men Of War: Assault Squad 8 GOG
Medal Of Honor and its expansions 12 GOG
Neverwinter Nights 1 & 2 4 GOG
Need For Speed Most Wanted 2005 4 Amazon
Need For Speed Pro Street 8 Amazon
Need For Speed Underground 1 and 2 4 / 6 Amazon
Operation Flashpoint: Game Of The Year 16 Amazon
Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising 32 Amazon
Railroad Tycoon 6 GOG
Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 16 Amazon
Return To Castle Wolfenstein 64 GOG
Rune 32 GOG
Soldat 32 Soldat
Star Trek: Starfleet Command 6 GOG
Star Wars: Battlefront I & II 64 GOG
Star Wars: X-Wing vs Tie Fighter 8 GOG
SWAT 3 and 4 10 GOG
Sacred 2 8 GOG
Saints Row 2 and The Third 2 Coop / 8 Strong Arm / 12 Gangsta Brawl GOG
Serious Sam The First and Second Encounter 16 GOG
Titan Quest 6 GOG
Toca Race Driver 3 12 Amazon
Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 4 Amazon
Torchlight 2 4 GOG
Unreal Tournament 2004 32 GOG
Vietcong 8 Amazon
Warcraft 3 12 Amazon
Wolfenstein: Enemy Teritory 32 Splash Damage
Worms Armageddon 8 GOG
PDF List Of Best 55 LAN Games

Where is Quake 3 and StarCraft? Sure you can add those – I simply do not own those games and never been a big fan.

“Oh my! I see a game or two from the DOS days”, I hear you say. Can I even still play those? Sure you can. Simply use DOSBox even over TCP/IP. (I will show you how to do this a little-bit later in this article)

Graphics never determines the fun factor of a game for me. More pleasing to the eye, yes, but the fun to be had with a title like Death Rally; graphics is not that important. It will be sad missing out on laughs and fun just because it is a bit dated to your mind.

Please Note

Some LAN games I have listed above can be bought through Steam, but that may mean that you will need the Internet to perhaps patch the game which is silly. Rather buy the disc or get it from a DRM free online store so that the Internet is simply not a requirement and so that it will be easy for everybody to install the same patch. (A bit more about this later)

I am sure there are more games that I cannot think of right now, so please feel free to add them in the comments. Especially if you had some good or bad experiences with one of the LAN games I mentioned in my list, then simply discuss it in the comments below.

Tip

It will be a good idea to know what the specifications are of your friends’ computers they will bring just to make sure the games you choose will be playable by all. Jot down the specs of all the computers on your spreadsheet too.

Step Two – Create A Comfortable Environment

It is best to sit around a big enough table or in the same room/area.

GTRACING Gaming Chair

Because you will spend a lot of time sitting in front of your computer, chairs with good support for your back is essential. This can be any comfortable chairs where gaming chairs are obviously the ultimate goal.

There is nothing worse than a full glass of soda that gets knocked over on the table, a keyboard or computer. That is why I invest in cup holders that can clip to the table. This makes things more secure and comfortable when a tense moment occurs and all focus and concentration is on scoring that last winning point.

Lan Party Cup Holders
LAN Party Cup Holders

Otherwise a rule of only bottles with screw caps allowed on the table should be implemented and if you are not drinking the cap needs to be screwed on tight.

If it does happen that you end up playing in different rooms of the house, you can make use of Mumble or TeamSpeak for communication over headsets. These applications can be setup over a LAN and you do not need the Internet. This is not ideal for a LAN party but friends getting together is still better than playing an online game from different locations. There will be breaks and face time.

Optional

Set the ambiance and have a few posters of the games you will be playing displayed in the area, or action figures on the table and some LED lights. You can even have some nice mouse pads set out on the table.

Step Three – Get The Gear Ready

I will not encourage a wireless environment for gaming, but it can be acceptable for a couple of players. This is what I will rather recommend you get:

  1. Get a Gigabit switch with at least as many ports as there are going to be players.
  2. You will need already made-up network cables. CAT5e or CAT6 will work just fine. Just make sure you get a suitable length of cable to reach the furthest computer.
  3. Some spare headsets (Optional)
  4. Spare keyboards (Optional)
  5. A spare monitor or two will be great (Optional)

Your friends should bring their own gear but there is always the odd one that forgot his headset or keyboard.:-) What can you do but smile and say: ‘I have got you covered brother!’

My place is always setup with 3 computers on a LAN with all the games and patches installed and ready to go. So if there is an issue with someone’s setup, they will still be sorted. It is not an expense I will just undergo. It is simply what I accumulated and done over time for my benefit.

Now you simply put the switch on the table, give power to the switch and plug a network cable into each port of the switch. Keep the cables neat and still rolled up for the moment. You can optionally mark each end of the cable with the number corresponding on the switch. Do this with a marker or some stickers.

This will allow you to know the exact computer connected to each port of the switch and make things easier to troubleshoot when someone has a problem on his computer. Just in case it is something silly like a faulty cable.

After the group decided on some games to play, consult your spreadsheet to see if it will be playable for everyone by looking up the various games’ recommended specifications.

Now you will need to do a bit of preparation work:

On a shared folder, external hard drive, NAS (network Attached Storage) or memory stick, have a folder for each game and add all the patches for the game in there. In so doing, everybody can download and install the correct patches for the game; since it is important that everybody runs the same version of the game for it to work. 

It will be much easier and save valuable time if all downloads are simply available on the network like a shared folder.

This will be my checklist of software I will include on the shared folder/drive/memory stick:

  1. Mumble or TeamSpeak (Just in case)
  2. DRM free game installation files and their patches.
  3. D-LAN (Making it super easy to share large files among one another over a LAN)
  4. DosBox (In case you might consider playing a DOS LAN game)

Step Four – How To Set Up A LAN Network

For the computers to communicate with one another, they all need to be on the same IP address range.

To keep things simple in this article, stick to a Class C subnet and the IP version 4 range of 192.168.16.xxx

You will manually assign each computer an IP address and the first three groups of numbers will all be the same but the last group of numbers needs to be unique for each computer. The last group of numbers can be any number from 1 to 254.

I recommend not giving each computer just a random number. Be organized and assign each computer the same number as the network port on the switch where they are connected to.

For the Subnet mask, make it the same for all computers: 255.255.255.0 (This is a Class C)

This is what it will look like:

Computer 1

IP Address: 192.168.16.1

Subnet Mask: 255.255.255.0

Computer 2

IP Address192.168.16.2

Subnet Mask: 255.255.255.0

You do not need to put anything for the default gateway; since you are not connecting to the Internet or a router. The same goes for the DNS fields. If you want, you can enter the PC’s IP address that will be hosting the games in the first DNS field.

How Do I Change The IP Address Of My Computer?

Tip

Make a note on your handy spreadsheet of the current IP settings (If Any) before changing them.

Then do the following:

  1. Click Start Menu > Control Panel > Network and Sharing Center or Network and Internet > Network and Sharing Center.
  2. Click Change adapter settings.
  3. Right-click on Wi-Fi or Local Area Connection.
  4. Click Properties.
  5. Select Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4).
  6. Click Properties.
  7. Select Use the following IP address.
  8. Enter the IP addressSubnet mask.
  9. Click OK.

Sweet! All set. It is party time!!!

Hang on dude, what is a party without some snacks?

Step Five – Which Snacks Should I Get For My LAN-Party?

Savory snacks are a good choice and everybody can pitch in for this. Here is what I will suggest:

  1. Nuts
  2. Chips or Crisps for the English.
  3. Biltong (for our South Africans) and Jerky (for the Americans)
  4. Bacon Kips or Bacon Fries (for the Americans)

Depending on how long you will play, a well-deserved break for lunch is always good.

I recommend putting something easy together like Hot Dogs cut into smaller pieces, a cold meat platter (chicken wings, mini sausages, cheese, salami, mini pork ribs, etc.) Some finger snacks.

A favorite for me would be a barbecue or a braai (for our South Africans). Everybody sitting around the fire (or gas braai for some – shame), flipping some burgers or doing things the right way by grilling the perfect steak and boerewors (thick beef sausage to translate) with some toasted sandwiches made on the braai/grill with cheddar cheese, tomato, apricot jam and a bit of white onion. Top that off with a potato salad, beetroot salad or carrot salad and we will be friends in no time.

Doing the barbecue thing is for when time is not limited.

Beverages:

I enjoy some Coke ‘n Cola but there should be plenty of water. If it is a hot day, make sure there is plenty of ice.

Done and dusted!! Except for one last thing:

If you for some reason decide to play a DOS game over the network and have no clue how, then let me show you:

How To Set Up A Dos Network Game

I will give you the basic steps here, but should you require more information, please leave a comment below or read the article from the link below for detailed instructions:

>>How To Play DOS Games<<

  1. Download and install DosBox from here: https://www.dosbox.com/
  2. Run DosBox from the shortcut on your desktop or double-click DosBox.exe in the installation folder for DosBox
  3. Type ‘mount g D:\games\mydosgame’ (without the quotes) where D:\games\mydosgame is the directory of your installed Dos game.
  4. Type ‘g:’ (without the quotes) and press ‘Enter’
  5. Type ‘dir /w’ (without the quotes) and press ‘Enter’ and look for a .BAT or .EXE file representing the game
  6. Type the executable file name and press ‘Enter’ example: fatal.exe

Now that will start the game but to establish the network connection, do the following before starting the game:

Go to the installation folder of DOSBox and open the configuration file or run DOSBox0.xx Options.bat file.

Scroll down to the heading [IPX] and change IPX=false to IPX=true and save the configuration file.

Now go to the computer that acts as the server (The one hosting the game) and type in DOSBox command line:
ipxnet startserver [UDP port] 
UDP port is optional. Otherwise, it defaults to 213 

On Client computers type:
ipxnet connect [Server IP Address][UDP port]

Check your status with IPXNET STATUS 

When you exit the game, but want to remain in DOSBox, the clients can optionally use the following commands:

IPXNET DISCONNECT 
and only after all clients disconnect (or you’ll risk locking them up), the server can type: 

IPXNET STOPSERVER

Network setups for DOS games can either be in the game menu itself or many a time it will be a file called ‘Setup.exe’

So after you have established the network connection between the computers over IPX as explained above, run the Setup.exe file and setup the multiplayer settings. When starting a network game, the game will auto-launch once the other players join the hosted game.

Very Important

When you start any network game, the Windows Firewall window most likely will pop-up (if it is the first time the game wants to connect over a network). It can also be hidden in the background. Always make sure that the ‘Private Network’ is selected and click ‘Yes’ to allow the application through and always check in the background whenever you start a network game if the Windows Firewall window is not open somewhere.

So there you have it. Happy LAN gaming weekends. Now you too can set up and rock your own LAN Party.

Conclusion

Having a bit of face-to-face interaction is great. Having fun on the side makes it even better. A LAN-party can just as easily be replaced by a murder mystery game night or a Poker night. Whichever floats your boat.

For me it is gaming forever. 🙂

As always: Please let me know your thoughts, likes, dislikes, ideas and questions in the comments below. 


17 thoughts on “How To Set Up A LAN Party – The Ultimate Guide for Windows PCs”

  1. Interesting to know in this internet age when all we know now is how to click a mouse and auto update software!It is a bit lengthy,IMO, get started but it looks like it’s well worth it!  

    As far as drinks go,I would offer coffee mugs that close and power drinks to keep the team sharp.As well for keeping alert and sharp,to offer plates of nuts/almonds that helps the brain and fish sticks cause fish is great for our brains!

    Make sure there is good ventilation too and spiffy music to excite the troops!!!

    Your info on LAN parties makes me thinks of democracy.Why?In places where they block the internet,they may even censor the games and this is a sure way to contour the matter!

    Ever thought of poof chairs/cushions for comfort and movement?I think that could work!

    The hobby you have does sound expensive though.How did you manage to acquire tech stuff on the cheap cause some tech. stuff isn’t given!

    I makes me think that I could probably do something useful with playing LAN games…To do networking with potential business endeavors and partners!

    Original and absolutely incredible that you don’t need internet to do gaming!

    Thank you for your experienced information and looking forward to more of it cause I personally don’t know shnot about LAN and programming anything!

    Reply
    • I like the suggestions regarding ventilation, power drinks and closed coffee mugs. Coffee is a favourite of mine! This will surely keep the party going.

      An overall good vibe always makes for a great party – any party for that matter and a LAN party is no exception. So music can be a great idea. It depends on the group: I mostly play with headphones (as do those I play with) playing their own music preference.

      But when taking a break from gaming, music is a brilliant addition to the party.

      I have tried sitting on a poof before when playing, but playing for hours on end does make my back cramp up even though it seemed like a fun idea in the beginning.

      As for aquiring the equipment I have: 

      I worked in IT for many years and some parts I could get cheaper from the wholesalers than the public would do but also, just like most things, you aquire parts bit by bit as you can afford it until you have everything you need.

      I have the advantage that I can build the rigs myself, know what is value for money, install my own home network and I always invest in a good motherboard which will enable me to upgrade the computer with newer parts for years to come. So I mainly then maintain them until such time as a new computer build is needed by which time (during the 5 to 7 years of my computers’ lifetime) I have saved up for a new one – starting with the motherboard again and obviously parts that can be salvaged from the previous rig.

      All the best to you. To fun times, good music, good friends and prosperity this 2020!

      Reply
  2. The idea of hosting a LAN party sounds particularly interesting. Just like you, I’m so fond of video games so it makes a lot of sense to have a bunch of friends over to share in the fun without having to use the internet. Further I can also relate with the idea of making provisions for lunch in advance. It wouldn’t be ideal for your and your guests to breakup the fun because of the need to take a bite.

    Great post 

    Reply
    • Thank you, Rhain.

      I can tell you that some of my best weekends ever was hosting a LAN party. Being fond of games I highly recommend you set up a proper LAN party at least once in your lifetime. You will not regret it!

      All the best to you and have fun playing games.

      Reply
  3. That was a nice tutorial on how to set up a Local Area Network for connecting computers and enjoying LAN games. I learned this during high school in our computer hardware servicing lesson but since it was long ago, I have forgotten the exact steps. Thanks for this easy-to-follow tutorial.

    By the way, I’d like to ask, why is it I can’t see in the list one of my favorite LAN games which is DOTA2?

    Reply
    • I am happy to hear that this quick tutorial on ‘how to set up a LAN party’ brought back some memories. Now DotA 2 may very well be an excellent LAN game and I will surely add that to my list at one point. Thank you.

      It did slip my mind and the reason may well be that I played Warcraft III quite a bit before discovering the DotA (Defense of the Ancients) mod. Now DotA I played a lot to the point where I had my fill. 

      When DotA 2 became a standalone game I did get it and played the game a few times and somehow went back to playing Warcraft III. Nostalgia normally wins me over.

      Now that conversation went slightly off topic. 🙂 But a great game indeed which deserves to be added.

      Why not orginize a LAN party some weekend with friends and play a bit of DotA 2. Sounds like it can be fun.

      Reply
    • @Gomer – on second thought: DotA 2 used to be a free download but nowadays it seams like it is going through STEAM. It is now mostly an online multiplayer game. So sadly I will not be able to add it to my list of multiplayer games over a LAN without Internet connection.

      Oh well – perhaps an older version is still floating about somewhere. Who knows?

      Reply
  4. Hello there thanks for this awesome article it would be of great help to the public as it has been of help to me.i must say that you have done a great job on this article as it’s very interesting and informative too……I have been thinking of starting up something like this as a form of reunion with my old friends,LAN partying I one of the fun ways to connect with friends especially the gamers……most of the games there are really old….I hope we could play me resent once.thanks once more for this tips

    Reply
    • I am so glad you found the article helpful. I had a good laugh when I read about the gamers being really old there. It really is a good way to connect with friends and have some fun. There are some recent games that do support LAN play but they are few. With the Internet making all communication so accessable for most people, they do not really see the need for supporting anything but online multiplayer.

      Luckily there are game sites out there that still support the old gamers like me!

      It should be easy enough to find out if a game supports LAN play and I hope there are a few games out there that you can LAN with your friends.

      Look: If you have good Internet speeds and connection, you can still invite your friends and play your game online. But that normally limits the amount of players that can play without any lag to the Internet connection and the quality of it. Where playing on a LAN is limited to the number of players specified by the game itself. Well, to be fair, also your switch/s and the hosting PC will need to be able to take the load, but having only a few friends over you shouldn’t even have to worry about any of that.

      To me, the best experience ever is playing games over a LAN because there is no connectivity issues, no lag ever and communication between you lot cannot be easier and simpler or more fun.

      If you do decide to attempt a LAN party – please come back and tell me all about it!

      Reply
  5. This looks like it could be a lot of fun, and I myself have never heard of a LAN party. If you have a bunch of friends who love video games, why not, and this is a great post with some great ideas to host your own party.

    We also have a huge dining room table that we play board games around that comfortably seats ten, so this would be the ideal venue for one of these get-togethers. Thanks for the tip on the cup holders, as it would be a disaster if one of the keyboards got wet.

    Reply
    • I am glad you enjoyed my post and for me having a LAN party is surely fun but quite old school. So it will not surprise me if you have not heard of it. 

      In the end the idea is not that much different from getting together and play board games. It is friends coming together having fun conversations, funny and exciting moments the game creates and sharing good food.

      Imagine playing UNO with someone halfway across the world. It would just not be the same.

      When I first saw those cup holders, I really thought that it was a brilliant idea and it works like a charm. Before this, I have lost many keyboards due to coffee and sugary drinks. Now no more spills – Yippee!

      Whether setting up a LAN Party or enjoying board games – it is a way of enjoying part of life with friends and family.

      Reply
  6. Thank you so much for sharing with us such a beautiful article .I definitely want to thank you for such a great article .In the Internet age I am curious to know when we sell a mouse and auto update software it starts a bit longer IMO .Your information on the LAN party makes us think of democracy .The idea of hosting a LAN party for me is pretty cool .I think there is a lot of learning through playing this game .I love these video games so having a lot of friends to share in the fun without using the internet makes a lot of sense. That’s why I don’t have the idea of arranging dinner .Fun breakups will not be ideal for you and my guests because of the need to take a breakup .And I think it has been very helpful to me. I must say that you did a great job in this article because there is so much information here. This is one of the fun ways to connect with friends. Hopefully it will be very useful for my other friends too .

    Reply
    • Oh, yes. It is all about fun. Once you have the right games selected for the LAN party, it is quick and easy to share, play and have some fun.

      I am glad that you found the information helpful and it will be awesome if you can share this information with your friends.

      Seeing that you also enjoy games: Why not give it a try and let me know how it went. What can go wrong with good friends, good food, good music and heaps of fun?

      All the best in planning your first LAN party!

      Reply
  7. Interesting to learn that people still LAN, even though there are so many internets online gameplay though consoles going on. I had a handle on top of my case back in the day when we used to LAN, had a 120 port switch. I would have figured with such high-speed internet now that most everyone would be streaming from home and not even consider a LAN. Nothing like actually sitting in the same room and playing against or with some of your close friends.

    Keep the LAN alive

    Reply
    • Thank you for the input, Tina. 

      I agree. Playing online is nothing like having friends over for a LAN party. Perhaps it is only the old timers, like me, keeping LAN gameplay alive but I hope my article will inspire some new life into something a bit dated. At least now anybody will be able to se up a LAN party after reading this article just in case the lack of knowledge stopped them before.

      I am glad you had the experience before and hopefully my article inspired you to give it one more go.

      Reply
  8. There really is no better gaming experience than being right in the same room with a bunch of friends. That is a fond memory I have back in my college days and you have given some great tips on how to make it happen again. While I never took part in a LAN party (we were split-screen then), it was still a lot of fun and so much better than talking over a microphone to someone halfway across the country.

    I loved Age of Empires II and seeing it on this list only makes me want to go back and play it again! Thanks for the suggestions!

    Reply
    • I am with you on playing split screen games which forms part of couch co-op games. It is about the interaction. Age Of Empires II is indeed a great game as well as Age Of Mythology. In fact, I played it again not so long ago and it surprised me on how much fun it is to play. The day went by so quickly just wanting to play another round!

      It is good to know that I could provide some tips for setting up a LAN party and who knows: Perhaps this will enspire you to give it another go.

      Reply

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