Don’t run a Left 4 Dead dedicated server on your home PC

One of the games that really has grabbed my interest over the past couple of months is Left 4 Dead. The dedicated game server environment introduced match making. Instead of the traditional method of searching steam lists for a Left 4 Dead dedicated server as a player, you can join a lobby, or you can choose to join directly to a Left 4 Dead server based on your settings. The problem is, there’s lots of people hosting the server locally, or in short running a Left 4 Dead dedicated server, on inferior hardware, and on their home connection.

We hate lag on Left 4 Dead servers

I thought lag on CSS was irritating. But on on a Left 4 Dead  dedicated server, it’s deadlier than a being attacked by a Hunter. Have you ever played on a L4D server where you can see that big RED dot next to your name, when you hit tab? That means crappy connection. It usually means someone is hosting the dedicated server from their home PC. Ouch.

With Call of Duty 4, it might ruin your perfect score. With Counterstrike Source, make you look a total noob. On Left 4 Dead, it gets you killed. I seem to find it always happens as horde rushes you. A 10 second lag while the Left 4 Dead dedicated server recovers, and then great…you come back and you are dead on the floor, with the miserable game music ringing in your ears.

Minimum requirements for a Left 4 Dead dedicated server

You really do need at least a Dual Core Xeon, or above to be running a Left 4 Dead game server. Nothing less if you don’t want to repeat the scenario above. For maximum requirements, we recommend:

Quad Core Xeon
At least 4GB RAM
100mbit+ connection

A full, 8 player versus Left 4 Dead dedicated server alone uses around 18% cpu on one core on a Quad Core, so you can imagine how it holds up on an inferior home PC, where don’t forget the owner is going to be playing (more CPU!) and they’ll have their usual array of programs open.

Incidently, I know of a company that hosts Left 4 Dead dedicated servers. Until next time ;)

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30 Responses to Don’t run a Left 4 Dead dedicated server on your home PC

  1. Fenix says:

    Two cpus or cores are enough and ddr2 memory is cheap, so theres no point in getting less than 4 gigs of ram. Why not go for 8 gigs of ddr2 while its cheap? Considering the pricing of 775 quads why bother with xeons?

    The biggest choke point is the internet connection. I’d say 10Mbit upload MINIMUM for any serious hosting.

  2. vaca says:

    Yeah, you really need a quality connection, no doubt. But your specified hardware minimum requirements are WAY off. I’m running a single server on an old P4 2.8 GHz with 1gig ram and gameplay is as smooth as a baby’s bottom.

  3. Timothy says:

    100Mbit Connection? You show me someone with a 100Mbit connection that would run L4D.

  4. Olly says:

    To be fair…I did used to have 100mbit in my office, straight from our racks…but I get your point! :)

  5. Kristoffer BA says:

    Are you daft?
    Why would l4d require over a 100mbit/s connection?
    At most I would think it would use 5-10mbit/s.
    You are crazy to think that you would require such a high speed to be able to run a local/dedicated server.
    For private use a 10mbit/s connection would work perfect, but if you insist on hosts or hosting multiply servers (like 5-10), yeah then I can agree with you.
    Btw 100mbit/s is the highest connection available for most private persons (in my country at least.), I have only seen large corporations and other comapanies using a speed over 100mbit/s.

  6. Olly says:

    Kristoffer BA,

    While I agree with the sentiment of your post, I think you are wrong!

    What I am getting at is running L4D on a home PC. If you are doing nothing, cool!

    But something as little as a blip on your broadband line, or someone starting a download is going to effect the latency.

    On a 100mbit/gbit network, you just don’t get those problems! :)

  7. Kristoffer BA says:

    Oh, yeah. Pardon me for misunderstanding your post.
    I totally agree with you that a 100mbit connection is far superior to any other. I myself are getting it when we have moved to our new apartment.
    Could I ask you what you would recommend for hardware or server computer, that is in a reasonable price for a private indiviual who wants to run game servers from their home?

  8. Olly says:

    Home wise, not my area of expertise. Try asking on our forums though:

    There’s at least two people on there that post, that have worked for broadband ISP’s before ;)

  9. Joe says:

    xeons?? core2s??? LMAO, i run one on a p4 2.8 also, with 512 meg ram, on a 1.5Meg up connection. It runs smooth as hell, and it seems that each player only draws about 10kB of data per second. If i had a Xeon or quad to run it on, i would run 3-4.

  10. Ian says:

    lol shameless advertising plug for inx

  11. I cant see the downside with a server on a 100 Mbit connection. I have some servers on my 100 Mbit connection ;) Not in any office just my home connection.

  12. Vintageologist says:

    WTF? Xeons? 100MBit? On a single dedicated server?

    On my normal PC I can host a non-dedicated server while playing and it doesn’t lag. 100MBit for 4 to 8 players? That would require each person on the server to have either a 25 or 12,5 MBit connection “requirement”… that’s ridiculous.
    For a single server, your usual DSL/broadband connection will be sufficient. Mine is 12MBit, which is way too much for this kind of job.
    And if the dedicated server on your Xeon uses only 18% of ONE core, that means a much slower single core CPU would do for a dedicated server. Anyway, DEDICATED servers usually have way lower requirements to run smoothly than the game itself, since they only have to process a part of the game’s information and, most importantly, don’t have to provide video and audio.
    I’m quite positive that my old Athlon XP 2000+ with 512MB RAM would do as a dedicated server. Maybe with another 512MB RAM, totalling in 1 GB… but that’s it.

    Sorry, there’s quite a differency between a company hosting L4D Servers which may have a couple running on one machine and multiple machines running trough one connection and a single home dedicated server running through the home connection which it shares with just the other PC of the player.

  13. Mr. X says:

    I agree with Ian…

    This is INX trying to say, “Right, it’s obvious no average person has these components, so lets list them and then post a link to our purchase page underneath. They’ll come flocking!”

    My friend lives in the middle of nowhere in Scotland, with an average download of 100kb/s and upload of 75 – 125 kb/s, running an old Sempron with 1GB of Ram on his server. Me and 2 friends connect from about 13 miles away and play with barely any lag at all… just the occasional spike maybe every 20 mins… the type where you go a few steps back. – And that lasts for about 1 minute.

    So, yes, shameless plug/attempt to scare home-hosters into paying for things they don’t need by INX. Valve spent loads of money optimizing their network code to ensure the everyday average player could host for his/her buddies, so for most people, a 2GHz CPU, 1GB Ram, 512kb/s *DEDICATED* machine would work PERFECTLY for any average L4D use. Not sure about survival though…

  14. Olly says:

    Mr X, I can assure you we aren’t trying to scare anyone. We are hardly a big-bad corporation, using marketing to manipulate the masses.

    A L4D server is going to run way better on an uncontended connection, fact. It’s going to run better on hardware with no bottleneck, fact.

    Sister loads up Limewire and starts downloading the latest Pete Andre song, ouch lag. You have a few firefox windows open, lag :(

    I didn’t say you can’t host at home- I just said performance wise it’s not ideal, summed up best in your own words:

    ‘just the occasional spike maybe every 20 mins… the type where you go a few steps back. – And that lasts for about 1 minute’

  15. Ekcol says:

    “Sister loads up Limewire and starts downloading the latest Pete Andre song, ouch lag. You have a few firefox windows open, lag :(

    So instead of closing firefox*, pay a monthly fee to a hosting company. :)

    *Or me and my sister moving out from our parents house, apparently. Not sure why we’re still there, as we are both in our 30s and married.

  16. mingmerciless says:

    talking out ur arse matey as was said before server dont require much the packets are small as in farcry for 100mbits that’s run a server can join the game on your own pc no probs with no lag…if someone else is using the line I understand that…i have the same as the other guy 1.5mb download…in fc2 i can download stuff at same time and still ok…servers use very little as they aren’t playing the game…i don’t know where you come up with this stuff but you’re talking out your arse

  17. Olly says:

    You are welcome to your opinion mingmerciless….but

    You attack my claim that you need 100mbit.

    If you are truly downloading / utilising your home internet connection, the servers will not run ANYWHERE near as well as they would on a proper server class connection.

  18. Thats a negative says:

    Your idea of what a l4d server requires is hilarious. I have 8mbit down/1mbit up. I run a versus dedicated server, linux, P4 1.8GHz, 512MB RAM, with 8 players on it, there is NO lag. Ping is excellent. No lag spike problems.

    You should be able to run 25 instances of an l4d server on a quad core xeon, as long as you have the RAM.


  19. Kim says:

    Well, don’t run it in a linux box with only P3 550Mhz and 768Mb ram, it gets a little laggy..

  20. Rumface says:

    What? You are dreaming about those server specs. Anything above 2.5GHZ/1Gig with a stable broadband connection will do.

    Who wrote this?

  21. Mike says:

    hey guys, im gonna start to play the game, im downloading it at this time, so what are the minimum requeriments ? i mean broadband connection, video memory and speed processor ? please could someone help me

  22. realdreams says:

    This is totally BS. I think this article is assuming someone runs 50 games on the server.

  23. whatyatryingtomakeabuck says:

    lol rumface..the guy is clearly trying to make comissions of the server sales..

  24. Somestuff says:

    To be a totally lag free dedicated server you would need

    N+1 CPU/Cores (minimum of ~1.9 ghz phenom I or equivalent)
    (N*400mb)+300mb RAM

    N = instances of dedicated server

    Running a dedicated server on a single processor/core will open you up to lag spikes and stalls on the server side that will effect gameplay, as any service, network packet processing, or other background process can pause the processing of the game environment.

    As for bandwidth, for a 8 player game the max needed connection is an upload of 1.1 Mbit/s on a very low latency connection.
    A T1 connection at 1.536 Mbit/s > 100 Mbit/s cable connection.

    Also, for good gameplay, you need to move out of your sisters house and dont use limewire. This will get you 3,400 more.

  25. hoohoo says:

    This is a bit dated, but I doubt the telemetry requirements for an FPS can have changed much…

    Quake II CTF server 16 player limit: PII 300MHz with 256 MB RAM and fast-ethernet LAN connection; server located in server room in a major Canadian university: measured packet rates using SNMP probes into server room core switch… less than 2% utilization of a fast ethernet connection, less than 500kb/s data. Those numbers were averaged across several dozen clan ladder matches, 8 ppl per team, each match was three games.

    Also – LATENCY IS WEAKLY CORRELATED WITH ETHERNET LINE SPEED. Ethernet, fast ethernet and gig-E have increasing data transfer rates in the order listed. But any properly installed species of ethernet will have better than sub 10 mS latencies.

    Latency is largely an architectural artifact. Ethernet will get you very roughly latency on the order of 1 mS. If you want order(s) of magnitude less latency you use different tech: infiniband or such.

    Further: the most important network segments contributing to overall latency are the Internet itself and the endusers’ local loop (cable or DSL or dialup). The contribution of the server-to-hosting-company-external-router segment is (had better be) insignificant… and will be even if 10 Mb/s ethernet is used.

  26. Anomaly says:

    I think both extremes of this debate are missing the point. Naturally, I believe solution lies somewhere in the middle.
    Example: Just yesterday, I played L4D2, hosting a dedicated server on the same machine on which I was playing (Athlon 64 x2 6000+), with 2 of my friends connected, AND my wife was watching netflix on the same internet connection (which clocks in at a measly total of about 300/50 kBps down/up – notice capital “B” for Byte, not bit), and there was not a hint of lag. Now, where I “cheated” was having dd-wrt on my router, and iptables commands set up to guarantee my computer approximately one fourth of total available bandwidth at any given time.
    Anyways, my point is that that the ridiculously high specs outlined in this article are WAY OVERKILL! I’m sure M$ Word would run better on that Xeon too, but it’s not even close to being the recommended spec.
    Now, for the other side of the argument… No, it certainly won’t hurt to have wonderful specs like that. I agree that it is always nicer to have super-high-end equipment that can handle everything you throw at it five times over, and that removing bottlenecks is always something that one should strive for.
    So, in summary, you rich people can go ahead and buy an overkill connection and hardware. It’s obviously way more than is needed, but there’s no harm in having it. Meanwhile, we people who know what we’re doing will keep hosting our servers on “crappy” computers because there is absolutely no indication that it works any worse than a Xeon with 100mb/s connection. But yes, the people who don’t know what they’re doing (no QOS on connection; bittorrent running in background; etc) need to quit hosting servers.
    The key here is to understand the limits and act accordingly. There is an extreme to the both sides: those who ignore the limit and ruin user experience because of ignorance, and those who have cash to blow and would rather make sure they’re miles away from where the limit might be so they don’t have to put the effort into figuring out where that limit is. I like to lie somewhere in the middle. Research and learn the limit, and adjust accordingly. I don’t have the spare cash to buy a Xeon. If you do, then good for you, but I simply can’t afford it, just like most people.

  27. Vire70 says:

    Recommend spec’s are just outright hilarious on this article. You might as well recommend people use a networked Super Computer while you’re at it, I’m sure that would run things smoother as well.

  28. Dave says:

    @Anomaly: Good point, sir. I agree when it comes to avoiding extremes.
    As for the specs… I’d say way off. I run L4D2 on a Dual-Core Pentium, 2.4GHz, 3 gig DDR2 800MHz RAM, and a 10Mbit-down/~1Mbit-up network connection. I’ve hosted Listening servers (I play, not just run a Dedicated), and played with 8 friends across the Internet, all of them located withing 10-20 miles of me, no problem with lag whatsoever.
    “Sister loads up Limewire and starts downloading the latest Pete Andre song, ouch lag. You have a few firefox windows open, lag” – Well, usually, when I play, everyone in my family is online(sister, brother, mom, dad), with however many firefox tabs – FaceBook, GMail, whatever just usual internet browsing – no problem whatsoever. And anyway, I don’t know about most folks, but who plays games while running other programs that use a lot of CPU? When I play a game, I “dedicate” my computer to that. Who would play L4D or whatever when, for example, rendering a video in Adobe After Effects? In that case, you would need a Quad-Core Xeon… but who does that?
    In short… For most home users: Do not bother with having equipment such as this. Yes, it would be awesome, but unnecessary. Unless you want to play L4D2 AND play around in Adobe After Effects at the same time. ;)

  29. doob says:

    so what your all saying is my dual zeon (2 cpus not dual core) both 1.8ghz with 1 gb rdimm will work. I wouldn’t think it would be any worse than my 100tick CS:S dedicated on my p4 1.8 server with 1gb ddr. its just an updated version of the source engine so dedicated shouldn’t be much different, if any different, regarding sys. req.

  30. josh says:

    False. I have an i7 875k @ 4ghz 8gb ram. I run l4d2 versus matches 10 players thru a Linux VM having allocated 2 cores and 2 GB of ram while playing the game. I have normally all green pings in a full game no hiccups no lag. 25mbit service.

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