How Much Data Does Netflix Use?


Nothing beats sitting down on the couch after a long day of work and watching an episode of your favorite show . . . except maybe watching an entire season of your favorite show. Of course, the last thing you want to be doing in the middle of binge-watching Netflix is worrying about how much data you’re using. Going over your data caps could put an abrupt end to your relaxing night, or worse, surprise you with a hefty overage charge at the end of the month.

Fear not, TV fans. We’re here to give you everything you need to know to stay below your data limit and make the most of your precious data.

How much data do I use streaming Netflix?

Netflix data use

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SD QualityHD Quality4K UHD Quality
Data per hour1 GB3 GB7 GB

Watching video on Netflix uses about 1 GB of data per hour, if you’re watching in standard definition.1 If you’re watching in HD, that number goes up to 3 GB per hour. If you have a device that can stream Netflix in 4K UHD, you’ll be going through approximately 7 GB of data every hour.

That means that if you decide to binge watch Tiger King one evening, you’re going to burn through about 6.4 GB of data, or 19.2 GB if you watch it in HD. One 4K viewing of Tiger King will use almost 45 GB of data.

It’s also worth noting that this is only the amount of data used by a single stream. If you have kids or roommates watching their own shows in other rooms, all of those streams can add up pretty quick.

How do data caps work?

Many internet service providers (ISPs) place a limit on how much data can flow through your internet connection every month. What happens when you reach that limit varies by ISP. Some providers will throttle your internet speed, allowing you to connect to the internet but with lower bandwidth than usual. Other ISPs will allow you to continue to connect at your usual speed but will charge you a fee on top of your normal internet bill for the extra data you use.

In either case, going over your allotted data limits is going to be a bad time. There are some plans that give you unlimited data, but many just give you a really high data cap. If you’re not sure how much data you’re allotted on your current plan, contact your ISP to find out. Satellite internet customers and those in rural areas often face much lower data caps than those in more urban areas. This makes finding the best options for high-speed internet all the more important.

How to reduce your data use on Netflix

If you have a low data cap on your internet plan, you might want to reduce the amount of data that Netflix uses. Fortunately, Netflix provides the tools to do this, though you do need to be logged on using a web browser.

To reduce the amount of data that Netflix uses, follow these steps:

  1. Log into your Netflix account using a web browser and go to your Account page.
  2. Find your profile under “Profile & Parental Controls.” Note that this is different than the actual parental controls, which are listed under “Settings.”
  3. Click on your profile to reveal more menu options. Toward the bottom of these options is listed “Playback settings.”
  4. Click on the “Change” button to the right of playback settings.
  5. Set your data use. Setting it to “Medium” will reduce your data usage to 0.7 GB per hour, while setting it to “Low” will reduce it to 0.3 GB per hour.
  6. Save your changes.

Don’t forget!

Reducing your data usage will also reduce the quality of your video, especially on the lowest setting. Also, these changes to your settings can take up to 8 hours to take effect, so plan ahead if you’ve got a marathon scheduled later in the day.

Other tips and tricks for saving data

Is lowering your video quality worth the trade off? If not, there’s a few other things you can try before you fork out the cash for a better internet plan.

First, you can try downloading certain shows from Netflix instead of streaming them. Downloading and streaming use the exact same amount of data, so this won’t make a difference the first time you watch a show, but it does mean that watching the same show again won’t cost any data. This is especially handy for kids that watch the same shows over and over again. It’s also useful if you have a go-to show that you like to have on in the background while working on other things.

Second, some ISPs also give you other ways to save on data. Some satellite plans, for instance, count data limits differently in off-hours in the middle of the night. This means that you can download shows in the off-hours and watch them whenever you want without them counting toward your data cap.

For more information on how to reduce the amount of data you use in a month, check out our detailed guide to internet data caps.

Sources

  1. Netflix, “How can I control how much data Netflix uses?” Accessed December 14, 2020.
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