Hey friend! Have you and your buddies been getting into ARK lately? Want an easy way you can all play together privately? Hosting your own ARK server is the way to go, and I‘ll show you how to do it for free!
In this super detailed guide, I‘ll explain everything you need to know to host your own ARK server on PC. With your own private server, it can be just you and your closest pals playing ARK multiplayer without any random griefers. Sound good? Let‘s get started!
Why Have Your Own ARK Server?
Before we dig into the how-to, here‘s a quick overview of the major benefits of hosting your own ARK server:
- It‘s 100% free – You only need an extra computer and internet connection.
- Total control – It‘s your server, so you make the rules.
- No more wait times – Skip crowded official server queues.
- Better performance – Less lag with resources dedicated to just you and friends.
- More fun together – Customize everything to suit your playstyle.
According to the Entertainment Software Association‘s annual report, over 214 million Americans play video games. Out of those, around 27% play with friends at least weekly. With so many gamers playing socially, being able to host your own private server is a huge benefit.
But enough stats, let‘s get your ARK server up and running!
Step 1: Get Your Own Copy of ARK
The first thing you need is the PC version of ARK: Survival Evolved. The console editions won‘t work for hosting a server.
You‘ll need ARK installed on both the computer you want to use to host the server, as well as your own gaming PC to play on. So gather up your buddies and make sure everyone owns a copy on Steam.
Once you‘ve all got the PC edition of ARK, you‘re ready for step 2!
Step 2: Download the Server Files
Next, you need to grab the actual ARK server files from Steam. It‘s super quick and easy:
- Launch Steam and open your ARK game library.
- Click the "DLC" tab and locate the "ARK Server" option.
- Click the download button next to it. This will install the server files you need.
Once the download is complete, you‘ve got everything you need to configure your ARK server next.
Step 3: Configure Your ARK Server Settings
Now it‘s time to tweak your server settings to get your ARK server primed for you and your comrades.
The main file you want to edit is GameUserSettings.ini located in the ShooterGame/Saved/Config/WindowsServer folder of your ARK install.
Open up GameUserSettings.ini in any text editor like Notepad and adjust the following key settings:
- ServerPassword – Set one so only friends can join.
- ServerAdminPassword – Choose a secure admin password.
- MaxPlayers – Raise this to match how many friends will play.
There are tons of other settings you can customize including difficulty, taming speed, harvesting amounts, and much more. Change them to fit your preferences!
Once you‘re happy with your ARK server options, save the GameUserSettings.ini file and move onto the next critical step.
Step 4: Port Forward Your Router
In order for your friends outside your home to connect to your new ARK server, you‘ll need to port forward your router.
Port forwarding opens up your network and allows traffic to access your server computer. Here‘s how to forward the ports ARK requires:
- Log into your router‘s admin interface and navigate to port forwarding settings.
- Create a new rule forwarding port 7777 UDP to your server PC. This is the default query port.
- Also forward the full range of ports 27015-27030 TCP/UDP.
- Click save and your port forwards will be activated.
With those ports opened, your buddies will be able to join your ARK server from their own PCs via the internet.
Step 5: Launch Your Server
You‘re so close to playing ARK with friends now! All that‘s left is starting up your ARK server.
On the computer you want to host on, navigate to your ARK install location, then run ShooterGameServer.exe.
Your ARK server will launch and start loading TheIsland map by default. Wait 5-10 minutes for everything to fully boot up before trying to connect.
Pro tip: Use a free tool like Aero Admin to hide the server window completely once running.
Step 6: Connect to Your New ARK Server
Yay, your very own ARK server is up and running! Time to hop in.
On each of your friend‘s PCs, have them launch ARK and click Join ARK. Then:
- Click the Favorites tab at the bottom.
- Click Add Server.
- Enter your server IP and 7777 for the port.
- Click Find Games and select your server.
- Click Join and you‘re in!
Repeat those steps for every buddy who wants to play on your new ARK server. Then start having a blast together!
Some other quick tips:
- Use an ARK server launcher to auto-update and restart your server.
- Check out ARK mods to add new content.
- Tweak expert settings like CPU affinity for better performance.
Now you can all play ARK multiplayer together on your own terms – right from the comfort of your own homes!
Finding the Best 100% Free ARK Server Hosts
Running your own PC as an ARK server works great, but takes some PC know-how. If you‘d rather outsource to a free third-party host, check out the top options:
ScalaCube offers a barebones free ARK server with 20 slots but very limited resources. Performance suffers past 5-10 players.
Survival Servers provides up to 10 slots on their basic free plan with 2 gigs of RAM for decent gameplay.
GTX Gaming has a free ARK server with 10 player slots and acceptable performance for smaller groups.
PingPerfect offers 10 slots, okay CPU power, and basic DDoS filtering on their free ARK server tier.
No matter which free ARK hosting option you choose, the ability to stand up your own private server is a game changer. Let‘s recap the key steps:
- Get ARK for PC – requires Steam purchase
- Download ARK Server Files – free DLC
- Configure Settings – edit .ini files
- Port Forward Router – enable connectivity
- Launch Server – run .exe file
- Connect with Friends – via Steam
A bit of effort up front lets you enjoy endless quality time surviving with friends in ARK. No more annoying public servers!
Migrating Your Solo ARK Character to Multiplayer
Once you have your own server going, it‘s super handy to transfer your existing single player character, tames, and stuff over. Here‘s how:
On your solo game:
Open GameUserSettings.ini and set bAllowDownloads=True to enable uploads.
Launch ARK single player and open the Obelisk Data Ark menu.
Upload your character, creatures, and items to the Obelisk.
Then on your new ARK server:
Set AllowUploadDownloadCharacterData=True to allow downloads.
Travel to an Obelisk or Supply Drop and download your uploaded data.
Voila! Your single player character now exists on the server.
It only takes a few minutes to migrate your progress to multiplayer. No need to start totally from scratch again.
Administering Your ARK Server Like a Pro
Running your own ARK server puts you in charge. Here are some tips from grizzled ARK veterans on being a great admin:
Set fair rules that improve gameplay. Make things more fun, not more restrictive.
Don‘t abuse admin powers. Avoid spawning yourself gear or resources.
Ban bullies and bigots. Shut down toxicity fast to keep your community healthy.
Listen to your players. Get regular feedback and make changes based on it.
Automate restarts and updates. Use a service like ARK Server Manager to handle maintenance.
Make regular backups. Save your world and characters weekly to prevent disaster.
Recruit fellow admins you trust. Share the responsibilities so it‘s not all on your shoulders.
Follow those tips and your server will thrive with happy players over the long term.
Some common newbie admin mistakes are being overly controlling, playing favorites, tolerating abuse, and neglecting your duties. Avoid those pitfalls and your community will flourish!
Troubleshooting Common ARK Server Issues
Even the best admins run into technical problems now and then. Here are some common ARK server issues and their fixes:
Friends can‘t connect – Verify your port forwarding is set up right. Check your firewalls or anti-virus software. Temporarily disable them as a test.
Server not appearing – Make sure the server is fully booted before friends connect. Check that your IP and query port are entered correctly.
Connection timed out – Usually means a port forwarding problem, especially if uploading/downloading also fails. Double check your router config.
Poor performance – Lower view distance and other graphics settings. Stop any CPU/RAM hogging programs on the server itself.
Random crashes – ARK mods are a common cause of crashes. Remove all mods and re-add them one at a time to isolate any troublesome ones.
With a bit of tinkering you‘ll get things running smooth again in no time. The ARK community is also super helpful if you need advice.
The Final Word
And there you have it – everything you need to know to host your own ARK: Survival Evolved server for free exclusively for you and your best pals!
By following this guide you‘ll be able to:
- Host an ARK server on your PC or use a free hosting provider
- Port forward your network for external connections
- Easily transfer existing characters, creatures, and items over
- Customize your server settings just how your group likes them
- Admin your server smoothly and troubleshoot common issues
With your own private ARK server, you can play together free from queues, downtime, and toxic randoms. Just you and the buddies playing ARK multiplayer your way.
Now get your server up so you can all team up to take down the Ark‘s ultimate bosses soon! Just be careful not to get devoured by a Titanoboa in the swamp along the way.