Few things online are as frustrating as trying to watch a video that won't stop buffering. But what can you do about it? Here are some tips to smooth things out.
We've all been there. You're trying to watch a video online and it wo… n't… sto… p… buff… er… ing. Blimey, it's irritating.
There are plenty of reasons why your videos won't stream smoothly, and we'll go into them as we go, but if this is a particular problem that plagues your life, there are a few things you could try to give your buffering a battering.
1) Do a speed test
Before you do anything, you should find out whether the problem lies with your broadband. Do a speed test to find out how fast your connection is - typically you'll want at least 3Mb to watch the likes of Netflix or iPlayer in standard quality, though some services will demand more. You can find our speed test tool right over here:
If your connection does turn out to be slow, check out our guide to boosting your broadband to find out how to speed it up. Alternatively, you could switch to a faster package - more on that later.
2) Pause your stream for a bit
Pause your video and let it download a bit before you press play. If your speeds are sluggish, this may provide enough of a buffer so that you won't get as many interr
3) Restart your device
To quote Graham Linehan's wonderful IT Crowd, "have you tried turning it off and on again?" A lot of tech problems can be solved with a simple restart, so switch off the gadget you're failing to watch a stream on, wait a few seconds, turn it back on and try again. Do this with your router too.
4) Clear your internet files
Over time, your computer can fill up with temporary internet files which, in some cases, can hinder the performance of video streams - and the device itself. Try clearing these out. Simply head into your web browser settings and choose the option that lets you clear the history and temporary internet files.
To do this on Chrome, select: Settings > Advanced Settings > Clear browsing data.
To do this on Microsoft Internet Explorer: Tools > Internet Options > Browsing history > Delete
To do this in Safari: Preferences > Privacy > Remove Website Data
5) Move the router closer… or move closer to the router
The further you are from your router, the slower your connection speed will be. That's before you factor in other signal-sapping things like thick doors, or other wireless gadgets that can cause interference. To get the best possible signal for your streaming, try to position the router nearby. If that's not possible, try moving yourself and your gadget closer to the router if you can. It may help.
Find out more about speeding up your Wi-Fi in our guide:
6) Disconnect other devices
The more gadgets you have using a connection at the same time, the slower your broadband will be. This particularly affects slow non-fibre optic broadband connections, as there's less bandwidth to go around.
If you're having trouble getting Netflix, Now TV, BBC iPlayer or any other streaming service to work, try disconnecting your phone, tablet, TV, games console and anything else that's currently online. The extra bandwidth might be enough to get your stream running more smoothly.
7) Switch to a wired connection
Wi-Fi is pretty good these days, but it's always going to be slower than connecting directly via ethernet cable. If you have the option, try connecting your device to the internet directly - the extra speed may be enough to take you out of buffer city and straight into smoothtown.
If you find your streams are as stop-start as ever, then the problem may lie with your connection itself. In that case, you may wish to consider switching to a faster broadband package - maybe even fibre. If only there was a site that made such a task easy.
8) Change the settings of your streaming service
Most streaming services will adjust their settings automatically to account for the type of connection you have. For example, if you have an all-singing all-dancing fibre optic broadband connection with megabits in the triple digits, Netflix will play in HD or even 4K quality, while those on a slow connection will get a much fuzzier image.
In some cases though, it's possible to force a streaming service to display at a particular quality, and dropping it down can help smooth out performance. For example, BBC iPlayer lets you turn HD on and off, while Netflix has a secret menu that lets you adjust the quality of your video stream. Knocking down the quality may leave you with a less pristine image, but it's worth taking the hit for a smoother viewing experience.
9) Switch to fibre optic broadband
If you've tried all the above, and your viewing experience is still bufferrific, then your best option may be to switch to a faster package - if you can, of course.
Fibre optic broadband is faster and more reliable than standard ADSL broadband, making it perfect for heavy downloaders, gamers, and people who like to watch online video. It's available from almost every major provider in the UK, including BT, Sky, and TalkTalk, with Virgin Media offering the fastest headline speeds.
*Average speeds are based on the download speeds of at least 50% of customers at peak time(8pm to 10pm). Speed can be affected by a range of technical and environmental factors. The speed you receive where you live may be lower than that listed above. You can check the estimated speed to your property prior to purchasing.
The downside is that it's still not available everywhere in the UK. Use our postcode checker to see if you can get it in your area.