The popcorn is ready, everyone is settled, the movie is fine and… nothing. A spinning icon in the middle of the screen that tells you to wait, then wait some more. Will the movie start in a moment, in a few minutes, never? There’s no way of knowing. Buffering problems withvideo is a common problem and can lead to unfortunate pauses in the middle of a show, a significant drop in quality, and sometimes even preventing you from watching a show or movie altogether.
This problem is exacerbated if multiple people are trying to watch different shows on different devices or someone’s games onmeeting and so on.
Before slow loading and low resolution, switch back to cable (), try these simple fixes. The faster your internet, the better your streaming quality, but there are many ways to ensure your devices have the fastest possible internet connection. Our tips work regardless of whether you’re streaming to , , , , or applications in your . For more, here and to save money.
Upgrade your internet speed for better streaming
This is certainly the most obvious, but when was the last time you asked your provider how fast their offer is now? If it’s been a few years, there are probably new services (maybe even fiber) that could greatly increase your download speed.
You need download speeds of at least 15 Mbps for, but really, you want a lot more than that. It is also possible that there are new providers or services from other companies in your area. When I moved into my house, the phone company had the best option: pretty fast DSL that was much better than the local cable provider. Now, the aforementioned cable company has six times the speed at 60% of the price. I was able to save money and dramatically increase my internet speed.
This is definitely the first place to start. If you stay with the same provider, they will usually be able to flip the proverbial switch without sending a technician to visit your home. After that you will have faster internet. If you change providers, for example, from cable to fiber, the new provider will probably have to send someone to your house to install it.
Upgrade your Wi-Fi streaming hardware
The Wi-Fi router you get for free from your ISP is probably terrible. I upgraded my router the day before my new internet service was installed and that alone gave me a 20% speed boost. Many providers even charge for their basic routers, so if your provider allows it, you couldcompletely and reduce your bill every month.
You’ll also likely get better range and a better signal throughout your home with an upgraded router. So if you’ve always had a bad connection in the back of the house, say, a better router might help with that.
A new or different router may also give you the ability to connect via the 5 GHz band (“normal” Wi-Fi is 2.4 GHz). 5GHz is generally faster and less likely to interfere with other devices. However, it does not pass through walls either. Our favorite all-around budget option is the TP-Link Archer AX21.
If your house is particularly large or the walls appear to be lined with lead, it’s worth considering. They use multiple devices spread throughout your home instead of a single device. CNET’s favorite mesh system is .
Switch to wired Ethernet
Although convenient, Wi-Fi can be quite slow on some networks, especially if multiple people are streaming at once. Wired internet, aka Ethernet, is much faster and has no problems with walls, interference or distance (well, not in the house anyway). Although running wires can be inconvenient, it provides the most reliable connection and can pay off at least on the main TV.
If you want to use a wire, check your device. Most streamers lack the Ethernet port needed for a wired connection, but inexpensive $15 USB adapters are available for themand Amazon’s Fire TV sticks. Unfortunately, most Roku devices do not work with Ethernet. There are exceptions which has a built-in Ethernet port, and Roku Express 4K, Streambar and Smart Soundbar Pro, all of which work with an optional Ethernet adapter.
Streamers with built-in Ethernet, no adapter required, are generally more expensive, but could be useful if you want simpler connectivity or prefer Roku’s system. Our favorite streamers with built-in Ethernet areand .
Other options includestandard and . Most smart TVs and game consoles also have Ethernet.
Move the router
Simply changing the location of your Wi-Fi router can help a lot. If it’s on or near the ground, or in a closet or at the other end of your house, you could be limiting your signal and speed without even realizing it. Wi-Fi can go through walls, but being up high and with fewer walls between the router and the streamer will make a difference. If the router has antennas, positioning them properly can also help (one vertical and one horizontal).
The same is true at the other end. Having a streamer in your closet doesn’t help either. In a perfect world, the streamer would have direct line of sight with the router. This isn’t necessary, of course, but anything you put between the two reduces signal and potentially reduces speed.
An alternative version of this would be to get a Wi-Fi booster or run Ethernet to another Wi-Fi router (or the mesh option mentioned above). If your house is long or large, there are many options that are beyond the scope of this guide.
Limit the number of people on your Wi-Fi network
Think of your internet connection as a pipe full of water. There’s only so much water to go around. If you are trying to stream in the living room, but the rest of the family is also trying to stream in other rooms, there may not be enough “water” to go around. Everyone will have problems.
I leave it up to you who has the upper hand in that case. There’s no way I’m touching it.
However, moving some devices to wired instead of wireless could help that aspect of your home network’s overall performance. You can also try downloading your favorite shows and movies on devices likeand to watch around the house when a dodgy internet connection prevents streaming.
Test your bitrate results
An Speed test or Netflix Fast.com I can give you an idea of what you are dealing with now. If you are using Android or version, place your phone or tablet close to the streaming device to get the most accurate result. With each change you make, test again and see how it affects the signal.like
Many streaming problems can be solved with these steps that I have described. The key is for the device to get the fastest possible internet, by any means necessary.
For more, take a lookand
As well as covering TV and other display technology, Geoff leads photo tours of interesting museums and locations around the world, including nuclear submarines, massive aircraft carriers, medieval castles, epic 10,000 mile journeys and more. Check out Tech Treks for all his travels and adventures.