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A Portal is a user-created structure that allows a player to travel to The Nether. This is not to be confused with an End Portal, which is naturally found in Strongholds and allows a player to travel to The End. There is talk of there being more portals added into the game in the future (other than The Nether).
Creating a Portal
To make a portal, the player must first build a 4x5 frame of Obsidian (corners not required). Once the frame is built, the player should either use Flint and Steel or Fire Charge on one of the Obsidian blocks to open the portal. Lava will not work. A purple vortex should appear within the frame, and the player can now reach the Nether. When building the Obsidian frame, it is actually unnecessary to construct the corners out of Obsidian, or even to include them at all - the portal functions exactly the same without them. Leaving out the corners creates an "economy" version that only requires 10 blocks of Obsidian as opposed to the full 14 that the full frame requires.
In the 1.7.2 update, Nether Portals can be made into different shapes. Any number of Obsidian blocks work, but the only portal whose shape can't be changed is the End Portal.
Using a Portal
To use the portal, simply enter the purple vortex and remain inside for several seconds until the Nether (or the Overworld, if traveling out of the Nether) begins to load. When you enter the Nether, a second portal, correlating exactly to the first portal's location in the Nether, is built automatically. It functions identically to the portal the player had made in the regular world, and it is used in the same way to exit the Nether.
Note that Mobs are capable of traveling through a Portal (not allowing you to escape from their pursuit). Be prepared for the possibility of hostile (or peaceful) mobs from the nether stepping through your portal, into the Overworld, or for Overworld mobs to end up in the nether.
It is important to note that a Ghast's fire charge can shut down an active portal. If this happens, you must reactivate the portal yourself as you did in the Overworld. One way to prevent deactivation is by sheltering the portal with Cobblestone, Stone (baked from the furnace), or Stone Bricks (any stone that doesn't break). Slabs and the Stairs also work.
A player may also choose to deactivate a portal by breaking one of the obsidian blocks which make up its frame, using a Diamond pickaxe.
There is only one Nether per world, so all Portals that are constructed in the world will lead to the same Nether. This allows you to use the Nether as an alternate route between two points in the Overworld (e.g. to enter a sealed mine or your house from a location outside). The travel distance ratio between the Nether and the Overworld is 8:1 (every 1 block distance traversed in the nether equals 8 blocks in the Overworld). This means that a player can traverse Overworld distances much faster by walking through the nether and creating new portal locations which end up 8-times further in the Overworld. When a portal is activated by a player, an algorithm is used to detect the corresponding location in the Nether (or Overworld) where the connecting portal can safely be placed.
Building a second portal within close proximity to an active portal in the Overworld will connect it to the same portal in the Nether which was already connected to the first Overworld portal. All three portals will remain active, but the Nether portal will lead only to the portal closest to it.
Choosing a Portal Location
If a Nether/Overworld portal connection has already been set up in a game, it is possible to choose any new portal's location using the 8:1 distance conversion and doing the following:
- Choose a location in the Overworld where you would like a new portal and build it.
- Write down the X,Y,Z coordinates of this new Overworld portal, and divide each coordinate value by 8 (write these values down).
- Activate this new portal, but do NOT step through it.
- Walk through the original Overworld portal (or another nearby), which already has an active connection to a portal in the Nether.
- Dig/walk to the X,Y,Z location in the Nether which you wrote down earlier to build/activate your new portal.