How to Stop Buffering When Streaming with Satellite Internet

You’ve invited a bunch of friends over, piled your plates with snacks, and fired up Disney+ to watch the latest episode of The Mandalorian. Sounds like a great evening, right? But then you find yourself greeted by an endlessly spinning wheel and a “loading” message instead of Baby Yoda. It’s your old enemy: buffering.

What can you do to stop it this time?

Well, it turns out that buffering isn’t actually what you think it is. We’ll walk you through what it is, why it happens, and how to stop it so you can end that awkward hypnosis session with the spinning wheel of death and get back to watching your favorite stuff.

What is buffering, anyway?

First, let’s clear up a common misconception: 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.

To keep things running smoothly, streaming services preload videos by streaming ahead in the background as you watch. That way the video is ready to go when you reach any given point, instead of waiting for it to load. This creates a buffer that ideally lets you watch your content all the way through with no delays.

You can see this process in action on some services. If you look closely at the progress bar on YouTube, for example, you’ll see your viewing progress in red. Then you’ll see a gray bar extending out a little bit past your current progress. This shows how far out the video is buffered.

When your stream pauses and the dreaded loading circle message appears, that means the buffering has fallen behind. You’ve caught up to the point where the video is loaded, and you’re essentially waiting for more of it to download before it can continue playing.

So, although your video is constantly buffering, people have mislabeled the spinning wheel of death as the moment buffering begins. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll keep referring to it as “buffering” throughout this article.

What causes buffering?

Buffering can occur when your internet connection cannot download enough data in time to keep a video playing smoothly. Buffering can also be caused by the streaming service not sending your device the data it needs quickly enough.

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 streaming provider can’t keep up

Technology isn’t perfect, and sometimes things just go haywire. Your streaming provider 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 stop buffering while streaming

If you fire up a stream and find that the buffering is bad, try one of these options to fix the problem:

Turn it off and turn it back on. Yes, we’re serious. Although this advice has been the subject of many jokes, 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.

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.

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.

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.

Reduce the video quality. If all else fails, lower the video quality of your stream to get things moving more quickly. 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.

How to prevent buffering while streaming

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.

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.

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.

Upgrade your internet service. Finally, if you’ve tried the other suggestions and nothing is helping, you can always spring for a faster internet connection. More speed may be enough to power through other issues and get your streaming up to speed. To give you an idea of what you need, Netflix recommends a minimum of 5 Mbps per HD stream and 25 Mbps for 4K.

Need a faster internet package? Check out all the offerings from Viasat, HughesNet, and other internet providers in your area.

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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. 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.

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