Here's how to banish buffering and get back to smooth playback.
How to Stop Buffering When Streaming
5 quick fixes for buffering while streaming
- Lower the video quality to standard definition (SD).
- Disconnect all other devices in the house from the internet.
- Reboot your router.
- Turn off other applications that might be running in the background of your streaming device.
- Upgrade your internet plan with more speed or data.
What is buffering?
Buffering is the process of preloading chunks of data so you can have a smooth video streaming experience. This creates a buffer of loaded content that ideally lets you watch your content with no delays.
Buffering is not the point where your video pauses and that irritating loading symbol spins on the screen: this is actually the point where buffering has failed.
Although your video is constantly buffering, people have mislabeled the spinning wheel of death as the moment buffering begins. But for the sake of simplicity, we’ll keep referring to it as “buffering" throughout this article.
How to stop buffering while streaming
If you fire up a stream and find that the buffering is bad, try one of the following options to fix the problem.
1. Turn it off and turn it back on.
Yes, we’re serious. True, this advice has been the subject of many jokes, but it actually works. Rebooting your TV, router, or streaming platform can be the fresh start your system needs to get back on track. Don’t knock it until you try it.
2. Make sure no applications are running in the background.
Make sure there are no downloads happening while streaming. It’s also a good idea to close any other programs or apps if you’re streaming on a computer or phone.
3. Disconnect other devices from the network.
If you’ve got other smart TVs, computers, tablets, or other devices connected to your network, they could be using up bandwidth and cutting into your stream. Either put them in airplane mode or turn them off. This is something you have to be especially conscious of if your internet speed is 25 Mbps or slower.
4. Delete your browser cache and temporary files.
If you’re on a laptop and streaming through your web browser, clearing the cache and other temporary files can clean out some gunk and may help speed things up. In Google Chrome, you can find this option under Settings > Advanced Settings.
5. Reduce the video quality.
If all else fails, lower the video quality of your stream to get things moving more quickly. If you have Viasat, you can do this automatically by using the Viasat browser.
The exact procedure to do this will vary depending on the device and streaming platform you’re using, but you’ll usually find this setting in either your streaming app’s settings or your device settings. Many streaming platforms will do this automatically when they sense slowing, but doing it manually can expedite things.
6. Switch your router to 5 GHz.
If your modem/router is using 2.4 GHz frequency instead of 5 GHz, the signal will travel farther but it will be slower, which could be causing buffering problems. Keep your router close to your main streaming devices and use 5 GHz for the best experience. To check out what frequency you’re using, type 192.168.0.1 into your browser window. It will bring up a window with your internet provider’s name and ask you for your admin name and password. After entering your password, you’ll be given an option to choose between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz.
7. Download content instead of streaming.
You can download content from popular streaming apps prior to watching it. Download content the day before you watch and you won’t have to deal with streaming problems.
8. Upgrade your internet service.
If you’ve tried the other suggestions and nothing is helping, it’s probably due to your internet plan.
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Satellite internet customers generally have problems with frequent streaming. If you run out of priority data before the end of the month, your satellite provider will deprioritize your data—which basically means it’ll slow down your speeds.
Speeds are slowed to 1–3 Mbps, which usually isn’t enough for streaming (Netflix recommends 5 Mbps). Satellite internet might not be your only option, though. Other good internet options for rural areas include 5G/4G LTE home internet, fixed-wireless, and DSL, which often offer ample data allowances and speeds for streaming.
If you live in a remote area and satellite internet is your only option, we recommend Viasat if you like to stream video content. Viasat's top two plans include 200 to 300 GB per month of data, while comparably priced HughesNet plans offer only 50 GB per month. Cheaper plans get you much less data—a measly 12 GB per month on budget plans.
What causes buffering problems?
Internet buffering problems are usually caused by one of three issues.
- Your internet connection is too slow to keep up with the incoming data.
- The streaming provider can’t send your device the data it needs fast enough.
- Your home Wi-Fi network is slowing things down.
How to know if your internet can’t keep up
There are a number of reasons why your network might be struggling:
- There are too many devices on the network at one time.
- Your internet equipment (modem and router) are outdated, damaged, or not operating properly.
- Your internet service provider (ISP) is experiencing technical problems or is otherwise overloaded with traffic.
- Your internet package’s speed lacks the bandwidth to support the quality of video you’re trying to stream. (Many streaming platforms will automatically downgrade the video quality if issues arise, but this is not always enough.)
The good news is that if the problem is on your end, you can do something about it. We’ll get to that in a second.
How to know if your Wi-Fi network is causing buffering problems
If you’ve noticed that you get a lot of buffering pauses while streaming in certain rooms of the house but not others, it’s a Wi-Fi network issue. Your router may have a range that’s too small to cover your whole house, or perhaps the signal is having to pass through walls, glass, metal, or other things. It might cut out completely or it might just be slow.
The first solution to home network problems is to move your modem and router to the same room you use the internet in the most frequently. If this isn’t possible or if you have several rooms you need internet access in, then you can get an extender to stretch your Wi-Fi signal farther so it will cover more of your house. To learn more about boosters and extenders, check out our review on the top 5 Wi-Fi boosters.
How to know if your streaming provider can’t keep up
Technology isn’t perfect, and sometimes things just go haywire. Your streaming provider (Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime, Peacock, or another streaming service) may be experiencing a ton of traffic. Another possibility is that a key data center may have gone down, dramatically cutting the amount of data your streaming provider can push out.
In any case, there’s not much you can do to resolve these problems, so now we’ll focus on what you can fix: your own connection.
How to prevent buffering while streaming
If you’re wondering why Netflix keeps buffering every time you try to watch something, you might want to look at prevention. The best way to deal with constant buffering is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Fortunately, this is a problem that has many solutions.
Plan your streaming for non-peak hours. You may not realize it, but the internet has a rush hour. According to the FCC, internet usage peaks from 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. More people are actively using the internet during this time than any other. This can put a major strain on an ISP’s network, which in turn trickles down to you in the form of slower overall speeds as the provider tries to balance bandwidth and keep everyone’s connection running as smoothly as possible. Planning your streaming time outside this rush hour can go a long way toward minimizing issues.
Upgrade your router. Not all wireless routers are created equal, and while they generally last a long time, the technology they use can become outdated quickly. If your router is more than a couple years old, it’s a good idea to check its specs and make sure it can support the internet speed you’re paying for. If you have HughesNet or Viasat satellite internet, you will probably be using a modem/router combo provided by your ISP. But if it hasn’t been updated in more than three years, contact HughesNet or Viasat to see if you can get a newer model.
Connect your streaming devices using Ethernet instead of Wi-Fi. If possible, connecting your streaming device directly to your modem and bypassing Wi-Fi entirely is a sure way to get more out of your connection. Even the fastest Wi-Fi networks are vulnerable to interference and signal loss from traveling through the air and objects in your home. An Ethernet connection avoids these problems.
Move your router closer to where you stream. If an Ethernet connection isn’t possible, try moving your router closer to your living room (or whatever room you do most of your streaming in). This can reduce signal loss and interference, resulting in a stronger, faster Wi-Fi connection.
Download video content before viewing. Most streaming services allow you to download video on a device like a tablet or iPhone for offline viewing later. If you’re having a lot of buffering issues while streaming and it’s due to a slow internet connection, then take the internet speed out of the equation by queuing up your future shows as downloaded content. Netflix, HBO Max, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime, and other streaming services all offer this feature, although not all content is available for download. You’ll need to use the streaming app to download content. Look for the download icon (an arrow pointing down) next to the content you want to watch.
Keep your devices updated. We know it seems like a nuisance, but letting your devices update their software when the prompt pops up helps ensure they’re as secure and functional as possible. Many times these updates include bug fixes or other improvements that can increase performance and may cut down on streaming problems. The same goes for your apps. And remember: updates aren’t just for computers. If you have a TV that’s connected to the internet or a gaming system you stream through, these need periodic updates too. To update your smart TV, use your remote to go to Settings > Support. If there’s a software update shown, click update.
Get faster internet. More speed may be needed to stream throughout the month. To give you an idea of what you need, Netflix recommends a minimum of 5 Mbps per HD stream and 25 Mbps for 4K. You can find out what internet speeds are available in your area by typing your zip code below.
Tips for livestreaming events
Livestreaming events creates some unique issues, particularly with satellite internet. If you want to stop buffering problems on livestreaming events you’re broadcasting, here are a few tips.
- Skip the Wi-Fi and connect your computer directly to your modem with an Ethernet cable. This will give you the fastest speed possible.
- Test your internet upload speed—this speed will determine how fast you can send data out to your viewers if you're the one streaming the content, so it’s important. Find your upload speed with an internet speed test.
- Once you have your upload speed, divide that number in half to get your maximum video bitrate speed. Don’t try to stream at a higher bitrate or you’ll have buffering problems while livestreaming.
- You can set or change your bitrate in OBS (Open Broadcast Software) by going to Settings/Output and then checking Streaming/Video Bitrate. Enter your maximum video bitrate speed. The lower the maximum bitrate is, the smaller the resolution (canvas size) you will want to use.
- Do not use any other devices while livestreaming. Turn off devices or put them in airplane mode, and make sure your BFF isn’t in the basement gaming during your livestream.
FAQ about buffering
Why does my streaming service keep buffering?
Your streaming service is buffering either because your internet connection can’t keep up with the amount of data coming in or your streaming provider can’t push the data to your device fast enough. Learn more about streaming with satellite internet.
Will a Wi-Fi extender stop buffering?
It’s possible that a Wi-Fi extender could stop buffering,but only if your buffering is caused by slowing from your home Wi-Fi network. The best Wi-Fi extenders are designed to strengthen the signal of your Wi-Fi connection, potentially raising the internet speeds your device is using. If you don’t want to buy a Wi-Fi extender, try moving your router closer to the device that’s experiencing issues or vice versa.
How can I speed up HughesNet internet?
You can speed up your HughesNet internet connection by connecting your computer to the HughesNet modem with an Ethernet cable. Also, watch your monthly data allotment. Once you reach your limit with HughesNet, your internet connection will still work but it'll be much slower than normal until your data resets the following month. Data issues are behind a lot of satellite internet slowing problems, including streaming issues.
How can I troubleshoot TV streaming buffering problems?
Follow these TV streaming buffering troubleshooting tips:
- Reduce video quality to SD (or from UHD to HD).
- Turn off the TV and turn it back on.
- Turn off other devices that are online (they’re using some of your bandwidth).
- Power cycle the modem (turn off and on again).
- If you’re using a computer or tablet, quit all other applications (multiple applications can slow the processing speed of your device).