Why are PlayStation 4 download speeds terrible? Here are some ideas.

Why are PlayStation 4 download speeds terrible? Here are some ideas.

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Downloads to the PlayStation 4 from the PlayStation Store are objectively terrible. Hell, sometimes just a visit to the PlayStation Store can be fraught with delays and spinning progress wheels. The true causes of this may not be provable or knowable, but one network specialist has taken a long look at the issue and has some recommendations that may help.

The very short explanation is that closing all games and applications seems to work. Juho Snellman, a systems programmer in Zurich, Switzerland, cautions that there may be other reasons for a slow download that are specific to a user’s network or internet service provider. (This is a great circular firing squad where Sony could blame your cable company which can blame your router and back and then no one ever has to be responsible.) But Snellman says he observed a jaw droppingly small “receive window” when anything was running in the background on the PS4.

Receive window,” in lay terms, is the volume of data the receiving device tells the sending device it’s willing to accept. Snellman says he ran two tests, the first with the download running in the foreground but a Netflix application running in the background. When the Netflix app closed, the receive window increased significantly.

So Snellman began a second test that introduced all kinds of different background functions to see what would happen. In one, the game Styx: Shards of Darkness idled in its title screen. That shrank the receive window to 7 KB. Snellman stresses this the artificial limit “appears to only apply to PSN downloads” — i.e. something coming from the PlayStation Store. And, notably, running the console’s built-in speed test will not reveal the reduced download capacity. For me, this is one of the most maddening things, to see a download is taking forever, to check what is wrong with my network connection and be told everything is A-OK.

A receive window of 7 KB “is an incredibly low value; it’s basically going to cause the downloads to take 100 times longer than they should,” Snellman explains. “And this was not a coincidence, whenever that game was running, the receive window would be that low.” That said, some games affect this window much more, others much less, and active play in a game seemed to influence the speed, too.

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