How to stop buffering when streaming movies

How to stop buffering when streaming movies

“Why does my Netflix not play?” or “Why won’t my video stop buffering?” That is a very common question. There is good news and bad news. The bad news is that is NOT buffering. We actually DO want buffering.  The good news is I am going to show you tips to get that awesome viewing experience!

Confused? Let’s unpack this whole buffering issue and what to do about it.

What is buffering?

Think of buffering as someone is building a road a couple of yards in front of your car. The idea is that as your car gets to that spot, instead of waiting for the road to be built, it has a nice road to drive on. What happens when the car drives faster than the road is being built? The car has to wait until the road is constructed before it can continue.

The same thing happens when it comes to video movie streaming or playing games. Just as you hit the play button, the software quickly downloads a bunch of data into memory and fills up the buffer in the device’s memory so that your device’s processing units can quickly get that data and you have a nice smooth watching experience.

This process happens continuously as you move through your streaming show or play your game.

So you actually want buffering. Buffering means a nice smooth viewing experience.

When your devices have caught up with that data that was supposed to be pre-downloaded before you got there, that is when you used up all the data in the buffer and now you have to wait until the next bit is downloaded.

Why do videos and games buffer?

There could be several reasons for buffering (or lack therefore) to occur, but it usually boils down to bandwidth.

Your network doesn’t have enough capacity to keep pre-downloading the movie or the game so you land up watching faster then it can download it.

You “catch up” to the data in the buffer and now you have seen that waiting circle on your screen as you wait for more data to download so you can watch the next bit.

15 Tips on how to stop buffering:

Since buffering boils down to bandwidth, what we need to do is make sure we are getting all that we can out of the bandwidth we pay for.

Here are some tips that will help with and stop buffering issues.

1. Direct or Split lines:

This one is a physical check. You need to find the cable from your Internet service provider which is typically in the attic/ roof. You want that cable going directly to your modem.

If you see the cable is being split and going to different rooms, then this could mean that your bandwidth is also divided between the various rooms.

This is especially common if you have both Internet and TV from the same provider – they run both services on one cable.

Ask the company to run a second line for the Cable TV. If you have cables needlessly going to different rooms in the house, remove those and just have the cable going down to your modem.

stop buffering split cable for internet tv

2. Reboot Router and Modem

When was the last time you switched off your modem and your router? If it’s been a while then that’s a good maintenance task to do. These devices are like your computer or your phone, they created loads of temporary files, cache, and processes that are run in memory, so a power cycle cleans these up which makes your router and modem work more efficiently.

3. Wired Over Wireless When Possible

The fastest and most stable internet is going to be a wired connection. If you can, and not everyone can run a network cable from your router to your smart TV or to your Android box or your PS4.

Remember that not all network cables are the same. Without going into too many details, amongst other things, there is a speed difference between a CAT5 and CAT5e and a CAT6, etc. Look at the printed marking on the cable and make sure its at least a CAT5e.

Also, make sure that your router has a nice fast gigabit LAN port. There is no point in getting fast internet from your ISP, fast LAN cable and your router is only capable of 100Mbs.

4. 5GHz WiFi over 2.4Ghz

If you can’t run a wired connection, then you need to squeeze as much bandwidth out of your WiFi as possible so connect on 5Ghz and not 2.4Ghz.

5Ghz is typically great for higher speed at a shorter distance to your router. 2.4Ghz is a slower speed but better for longer distances from your router.

5. Boost your WiFi

Use one of the WiFi Extenders to get the best signal to the room where your gaming station is or your smart TV or Android streaming box.

The secret to getting the most out of the extender is not placement. Don’t place it right at the edge where you already have little signal and expect it to boost your WiFi. Place it where your WiFi is strong and let it extend that strong signal.

6. Get a Mesh WiFi system

If you have one of those modem and router combo units from your ISP, you should purchase your own router and ideally a Mesh WiFi system. These will really help with the buffering issue as they route your WiFi traffic around the network avoiding data-congestions.

7. Guest WiFi Network

Move all the smart home devices over to the guest network. There is no reason to have non-essential items like some lights or window shades or assistants on your main WiFi network where they can access anything they wish. By moving them onto a guest WiFi network, you are separating their traffic away from your main network.

If your system is having buffering issues, you can switch off the guest network with its non-essentially devices while you are watching your movies or playing your games. It will disconnect all those devices which means less network traffic.

When you are done don’t forget to switch the guest network on again so they will reconnect.

8. Reduce Quality

While we want to stream and play at stunning 4K quality, this means that your network needs a lot more bandwidth to consume all that 4K data. If you are struggling with bandwidth and loads of start/ stops, then you might want to reduce the quality to 1080 Full HD. This requires much less data and you will probably not notice much difference.

Check this out from Netflix  and here is how you do it on YouTube:

YouTube reduce quality for better streaming

9. Quality Of Service

Look in your router’s software, and look if you have Quality of Service (QoS). This is a system that allows you to give priority to specific types of data over another.

For eg. If you send an email and it takes an extra couple of minutes to leave your system, it’s not the end of the world and you probably won’t even notice. However, if you are trying to stream a movie or play a game and there is a lag, you will instantly notice.

With QoS you can prioritize your PS4 or your smart TV over email which stop buffering issues.

stop buffering with QoS on TheTechieGuy

10. Restart your VPN

When you connect to a VPN, it will connect you to a faster connection. However, these connections tend to change over time.

So if you are using a VPN, disconnect from your VPN, wait a couple of seconds, and then reconnect. The VPN provider will find the current best connection for you and this could dramatically speed up your connection.

11. Close Apps

Another way to stop buffering is whatever device you are playing on or watching your movie on, make sure no other apps are running. No cloud backup is happening at the same time, no updates are going on – all of these consume bandwidth.

12. Anti-Virus

When you have a device that is infected, it can be used to spread the malware or can be part of a larger BOT network. This consumes as much data as it can get.

Make sure you have an up to date anti-virus and run a scan of your network to make sure no devices are infected.

13. Update your drivers

You often hear tech geeks saying make sure your system is up to date. While we are used to having our computer check for updates, we need to do this on our phones, tablets, gaming systems, and even on our Smart TVs and Android streaming boxes.

Usually, these are found under settings, software, and updates.

14. Pause and Start

An oldie but still a goodie tip to stop buffering is if your connection is just slow and there is nothing else you can do, you might want to start the movie and then immediately pause it. While you are getting your snacks you are buying your network time to grab that data and fill up that buffer.

When you hit play, the buffer is nice and full and will hopefully continue filling up as you watch.

15. Pick your Time

This is a long shot, but worth a try and isn’t so convenient: Stream when others are not. While the streaming providers do plan for peaks viewing times and allocated bandwidth accordingly, you might get ahead if you stream during non-peak times. Fewer people watching means more bandwidth for you. In theory.

So in summary:

These tips are essentially to stop buffering and about being smart with your WiFi.  You want to get the most out of the internet speed that you are already paying for. Of course, the simple answer is to simply give your ISP more money for faster connectivity. However, not everyone can afford to. The ISP might not offer a higher tier service in your area. And why should you give your ISP more money if they are not delivering on the speed you are currently paying for?

Check out this handy guide to troubleshoot your own WiFi network before you call your ISP. If you are trying to reduce the lag on your PS4, then check this out too.


Liron Segev - TheTechieGuy

Liron Segev is an award-winning tech blogger, YouTube strategist, and Podcaster. He helps brands tell their stories in an engaging way that non-techies can relate to. He also drinks way too much coffee! @Liron_Segev on Twitter