Note: This is a guest post written by Michael Wanjiru – What’s your worst experience when watching a movie online? If you ask many online viewers, the most irritating moment when streaming is when a spinning wheel interrupts. But when you also know the tricks to fix a buffering issue when streaming video, this is not something to stress over.
Basically, buffering is where segments of digital data preload into a reserved portion of memory, which we call a “buffer”. And once this buffer has enough data, your video starts playing.
However, when you click an online video file, only a portion of the data usually preloads to the buffer memory. The video will then start playing as the next portion of the data is preloading in the background.
Cause of Buffering Issues When Streaming Video Online
Sadly, not always your online video plays out as you were expecting. When watching the video, you expect a smooth playback like you’d do on a DVD or DVR tape. But when a video starts playing before downloading enough data to the reserved (buffer) memory, it cuts short between plays to preload.
When the video stops playing to download data to the reserved memory, that’s what we now call a buffering issue. It’s where you will see a spinning wheel, sometimes with a message of “buffering”, “loading”, or a progress percentage.
Now, buffering issues when streaming occur if preloading data to buffer memory can’t keep up with playback. If the buffering gets extreme, the video usually stops playing. Then, you may get an error of the “video file cannot be played”.
There are various reasons why video streaming online can have buffering issues. They include:
Slow internet speed
The most obvious cause of buffering issues when streaming video is poor internet connections.
As with any other online function, video streaming requires a data speed fast enough to support it. If the bandwidth of your internet is slower than the amount needed to stream video, buffering will occur.
An internet router is also like any other electronic machine. If it remains active for too long nonstop, the performance can drop. Thus, leading to unstable connections that will cause buffering issues during your video stream.
Heavy Traffic on Streaming Site
The second cause of buffering issues when streaming video is when the service in use is overloaded.
What happens is that the website or app you’re streaming from stores the video files on a server. Then, you can access and play these videos whenever needed.
If the servers of your streaming service have more viewers than they can handle, they get overloaded. Thus, causing slowdowns, which are consistent with extreme buffering.
Wireless Signal Interference
Many devices get online through wireless internet- WiFi. It’s the most convenient, as you can connect many devices without a mess of wires.
Unfortunately, though, WiFi tends to suffer interference from other wireless technologies of the same frequencies. A perfect example is the common WiFi 2.4GHz, which can be unstable if in an area of active:
- Bluetooth stereo system
- Cellular phone boosters
- Zigbee automation devices
- Electric radio-control “toys”
- Some automated garage doors
Heavy Video File
As I’ve just mentioned, an online video requires a specific internet bandwidth to stream. If the file you’re trying to stream is heavier than the bandwidth available, the video experiences buffering issues.
For instance, streaming a video in 4K quality requires faster data than in 1080 Full HD. Then, streaming in 1080p requires faster speeds than 720p HD, which takes more bandwidth than SD quality.
Outdated Streaming Tool
Another time you may experience buffering issues when streaming videos is if you’re using an outdated product. “Product” in this case can be an outdated browser that you use to visit a streaming link or app/ software.
Furthermore, a streaming device running on outdated firmware can affect the performance of streaming sites/ apps.
Low Operating Storage
I’m not sure if you’ve ever noticed, but when a laptop’s storage is low, even functions like streaming can be tricky. The same is true for tools we use to turn an old TV into a smart TVturn an old TV into a smart TV. (My Firestick often has a hard time loading a mere 1080p YouTube video when the remaining space is at a quarter of GB).
Overheating of Your Device
When a streaming device overheats, you also tend to experience buffering issues if watching a video. (I have also noticed the phenomenon on my old laptop that I use for gaming and streaming movies).
How to Fix Buffering Issue when Streaming Videos
We have just seen the common causes of buffering issues when streaming videos. In this next section, we’ll now look at the successful fixes for each problem.
How to Fix Buffering Issues from Slow Internet Speed
When you experience buffering when streaming videos, the first thing to check is your internet speed. If your data bandwidth has slow speeds:
Restart the internet router
Your internet can have lower speeds due to your router overworking nonstop. So, reboot the device, as it helps re-initialize processes and sometimes solves existing low internet speeds.
Once the internet speed resolves, you can stream your videos smoothly without buffering.
Reduce the Number of Connected Devices
When with fewer devices sucking up your data, your streaming device will also have enough bandwidth to download the video file packets. Then, you can stream the videos smoothly without “freezing”.
Also, your streaming device may be losing data bandwidth to other programs that may be running in the background. So, close all other programs you are not using when watching your videos- like online games and torrent clients.
Connect Your Device to a Wired Internet
Instead of disconnecting the other devices from WiFi, connect the streaming device to the router via Ethernet. A wired internet connection gives your device the full data bandwidth from your ISP, with no weak signals to worry about. Then, you can now enjoy your video stream with no buffering issues.
Check with your Internet Provider
If your internet speed is still slow with a wired connection or fewer devices connected, contact your provider to resolve it. Sometimes the issue can be on their end without knowing.
Pause Your Video to Load
Yes, I know it sounds stupid, but it usually works. All you want to do is pause your video for about 10 minutes or more for it to preload the data. Then, once your stream has a large buffer of data, you can resume playing.
Change the Location of Your Router
If your weak WiFi is from the router being too far from the streaming device, change its location. An example is when you have your TV in the bedroom while the router is on the far end of the sitting room.
So, moving the router closer to the hallway may help the WiFi reach your bedroom as well as the sitting room and kitchen.
Get a WiFi Extender or WiFi Mesh
Instead of trying to move the router around for a good signal, you can just get a WiFi extender. It helps boost your WiFi signal to your far rooms without affecting distribution to other rooms.
Speaking of distribution, a WiFi mesh helps distribute a WiFi signal much better if you have a large home. It kind of creates multiple routers within your home, allowing your streaming device to connect to the nearest strong signal.
How to Fix Buffering Issues from Heavy Traffic
If your internet bandwidth is good, your buffering issue when watching online videos may be from the end of the streaming service. And where that problem is an overloaded streaming site/ app, wait to stream when there’s less traffic.
How to Fix Buffering Issues from Wireless Signal Interference
To fix a buffering issue when streaming video caused by signal interference, you only need to minimize the interferences. So, when streaming from your smart TV, Firestick (and other streaming players), or laptop, make sure you:
- Disable the Bluetooth function of your phones and tablets
- Don’t have your cell phone signal booster near the WiFi router
- Turn off your Bluetooth-enabled stereos, wireless speakers, and even headphones
- Also, keep your other RF devices, like Zigbee/ RC models, away from your WiFi router
Configure your WiFi on 5G
In case you didn’t know, wireless signal interference often occurs when devices are transmitting on the same frequency. All the forms of interference I’ve listed above are those operating at 2.4GHz.
So, to fix the buffering issue, you could configure your WiFi to 5GHz frequency while the rest of the devices run on 2.4GHz. I have seen the trick effective when watching videos on a TV paired with a wireless JBL speaker.
How to Fix Buffering Issues from Heavy Video Files
The fix here is to just play your videos in a format that fits your available internet bandwidth. In the following chart, we have minimum internet/ data speeds various streaming services recommend:
|Stream in SD Quality
|Stream in 720p HD Quality
|Stream in 1080p Full HD
|Stream in 4K Ultra-HD
|15Mbps (previously 25Mbps)
|3Mbps and lower
|Amazon Prime Video
So, when you notice a video starts to buffer when watching in a higher resolution, click the settings gear. Then, choose a lower streaming video quality your internet speed can handle.
Upgrade Your Internet
If you buy a 4K UHD Smart TV, there’s no point streaming your videos in lower resolutions. The video will actually appear pixelated if the display is very wide.
So, where possible, upgrade to a higher internet subscription to watch your videos on high resolutions without buffering issues.
If already on a fast internet plan, the problem could be your router is too old. So, upgrade to a faster router that can match up with your connectivity.
How to Fix Buffering Issues from Outdated Streaming Tool
To fix buffering issues when streaming videos caused by an outdated system, you just need to update it. So, make sure:
- The browser you use to stream your videos is the latest version
- Your applications (apps) or software for streaming is also the latest
- The laptop or desktop computer you use has the latest software updates
- Smart TV or stream media players (like Fire Stick) have the latest firmware
- A computer or laptop has the latest video drivers (if updated manually)
How to Fix Buffering Issues from Low Operating Storage
If your streaming device still has buffering issues at this point, check the available storage. If the memory available is very low, expand it- applies to laptops, computer desktops, and mobile devices.
As for Smart TVs that solely rely on built-in memory, you can create more space by deleting some apps. Start by deleting the apps you never use, then go for the less relevant ones.
Clear “Buffer” Memory
After using your streaming device for a while, the portion of reserved memory to buffer can get congested. So, try clearing the cache, cookies, and browsing history of the device to create fresh space for performance.
How to Fix Buffering Issues from Overheating Device
If your streaming device is overheating, it means it’s working more than the core system can handle. So, turn it off for a while until it has cooled down. I have also seen this work with my streaming laptop.
Nonetheless, a device can overheat if the available space isn’t enough for performance. And this brings us back to creating more internal storage, plus RAM for your device.
If your laptop keeps overheating and buffering when watching videos, you can also try to:
- Close other heavy processes running in the background
- Clear the debris that may be blocking airflow to the fan
- Give your laptop a general cleanup- outside and inside
- Replace the fan if it’s defective and struggling to distribute cool air
Frequently Asked Questions:
Why are my videos buffering despite having good internet?
Your video can be buffering despite having good internet because of:
- Slow or unstable internet speed
- Heavy Traffic on Streaming Site
- Interference from other wireless signals
- The streaming system used is Outdated
- Operating memory is low
- Your device is overheating
What’s the best free way to stop streaming from buffering?
The best free way to stop streaming from buffering will depend on the cause. Some of the fixes you can use are:
- Restart the internet router
- Reduce the number of connected devices.
- Pause your video to load enough buffer
- Change the Location of Your Router
- Free up more space for your streaming device
- Minimize interference from other wireless devices
- Clear the cache, cookies, and browsing history of your device
- Update your streaming device firmware or platform to the latest versions
What’s the best internet speed for streaming video online?
The best internet speed for streaming video online smoothly will vary on the resolution you’re using. To stream videos in:
- Low SD quality requires 1Mbps to 3Mbps
- 720p HD quality requires 3Mbps to 5Mbps
- 1080p Full HD quality requires 5Mbps to 8Mbps
- 4K Ultra-HD quality requires 15Mps to 25Mbps