You know the feeling. You have your PS3 plugged into your TV, and your TV on Netflix. You’ve taken the appropriate time to scroll through the streaming video service’s massive library of movies and television series, and found that special show all your friends have told you to watch.
You decide tonight’s the night, you queue up the selection, press play, lay back, and watch as the little circle spins and spins, telling you that your video is buffering. And so, you wait. And wait. And wait….
Something is wrong. Your show doesn’t load. The little circle just keeps spinning, or the loading bar locks in place, taunting you with its frozen percentage number. Five percent or ninety-five percent–does it even matter? You’re stuck. Doomed to stare at a loading screen, and desperately wonder why your Netflix keeps buffering.
We are in a world where we care more about buffering, than suffering- Aadhil Basha
What Causes Endless Buffering
The trouble with popular streaming HD video services like Netflix is that the more people stream content, the greater the chance of longer buffering times.
Streaming service providers like Hulu, Amazon, and Netflix all store their content on servers, which their customers pay to access. Every time you click “play” on your device–be it a laptop, phone, tablet, or gaming console–a request is sent to one of these servers to stream a video to your screen. When providers get too many requests at once, this causes a delay in getting that video to your device. Other problems, like having an outdated Wi-Fi router (or an ethernet connection when Wi-Fi would be better), poor router placement, slow Internet speeds, streaming during peak hours, low bandwidth, multiple programs open and streaming at the same time, all can have an effect on the quality and the speed at which your video will buffer.
How To Speed Up Buffering
While Netflix will always be adding servers to keep up with the demand of its subscribers, waiting around for that fancy new server to be installed on your block won’t make those buffer times load any faster.
Here are some ways to improve the buffering speed of your Netflix:
Assess Your Device’s Physical Connection
Are you using Wi-Fi or an ethernet cable? Playstations, like other modern gaming consoles, have the option to have a wireless Internet connection, as well as an ethernet connection. Up until a few years ago, ethernet cables would’ve been the faster option with download speeds far-exceeding those of Wi-Fi routers. But today’s Wi-Fi systems are a lot faster than direct Internet cable connections, with potential speeds as high as 6.77 gigabits per second.
If you’re using an ethernet cable in your PS3 to access Netflix, try switching to a Wi-Fi connection. If that doesn’t work, it could be because you have an outdated router. (TIP: Do an Internet speed test on both to see which is working better.)
Do An Internet Speed Test
Though many pay for top Internet speeds from companies like Verizon, Charter, Comcast, and Time Warner, many are surprised to learn of the actual download speed of their Internet-connected devices. Sites like Speedtest, Bandwidth Place, and Netflix’s own Fast.com provide free Internet speed tests for users to see in real time how fast their broadband speeds really are.
Netflix’s help page has a list of required and recommended broadband speeds, depending on what you’re trying to stream:
- 0.5 Megabits per second – Required broadband connection speed
- 1.5 Megabits per second – Recommended broadband connection speed
- 3.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for SD quality
- 5.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for HD quality
- 25 Megabits per second – Recommended for Ultra HD quality
If your Internet isn’t meeting these minimum speeds, it could be time for an upgrade, or even a switch in service. If nothing else, a simple call to your Internet service provider might help you resolve the issue.
Adjust Your Router
In spite of all the advantages in wireless technology, Wi-Fi routers still function much the same as the devices of yesteryear. To improve your signal:
- Place your router closer to the device that is using it, or purchasing a Wi-Fi extender to boost the range of your signal.
- Make sure your router’s antennae is pointed up straight (vertically), if possible.
- Elevate your router off the floor.
- See that your router isn’t enclosed in any metal drawers or desks, or that any metal walls separate your router from your streaming device.
- Keep your router away from any household appliances that can cause electrical interference, like radios, baby monitors, microwave ovens, and cordless phones.
Avoid Streaming During Peak Hours
According to a report by the FCC, the majority of Americans use streaming content services like Netflix most often between 7:00pm to 11:00pm local time.
Netflix’s servers are at their peak use during evening hours. To lessen the odds of slow buffering speeds, stream your movies or TV shows before or after the late evening and night.
Switch Your Device
Using a gaming console’s own service network, like Xbox Live or the Playstation Network, has proven to have its own problems when it comes to streaming Netflix.
Try streaming on another device, like a laptop, PC, smartphone, or tablet. If the video buffers faster than on your gaming console, then you’ll at least know it isn’t a problem with Netflix’s servers or your home Internet connection, and in fact a problem with your console’s own internal network.
Close Other Programs Using Wi-Fi
If you’re running games on your console that require an Internet connection, or you have other browser windows open and streaming content on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it’s a good idea to close out those programs, because they are making demands on said Internet connection, which might cause some problems with video playback.
Turn Off Other Devices Using Wi-Fi
Just as you shouldn’t plug too many devices into one outlet, in theory, you shouldn’t have so many devices using up one Wi-Fi signal within the house. If you have a tablet upstairs streaming The Walking Dead, a smartphone in the kitchen binging on House of Cards, and your Playstation and PC each tuned to one of the many versions of Batman, you shouldn’t be surprised if your buffering speed slows to a halt.
You are allotted a set amount of bandwidth depending on what usage plan you and your Internet service provider have agreed upon. If you have a big household–meaning multiple users downloading and streaming at the same time–you should consider upgrading your plan to a higher bandwidth. If that sounds out of your budget range, then you’ll have to limit the number of devices that can be on and watching Netflix at the same time.
Adjust Your Playback Settings
If buffering speed is more important than actual video quality, you can adjust your Playback Settings to a lower streaming resolution. To do so:
- Log into your Netflix account.
- Hover your mouse pointer over your user name, located in the upper right corner of the screen, and a drop-down menu will appear.
- Click on the “Your Account” option.
- Scroll down to “My Profile.”
- Click on “Playback Settings.”
- Check “Low” under the “Data Usage Per Screen” menu.
While this will speed up the rate at which your video streams, be prepared for noticeably lower video quality. (Maybe use this as a last resort.)
Much like old Christmas tree lights, if there is one bulb that doesn’t work, the whole chain won’t turn on. The problem with buffering could lie in an individual link in your Internet chain. Your home network might be a configuration of electronic systems that include:
- a Modem
- a Wireless Router (if it is separate from your modem)
- a Wi-Fi Range Extender
- a Gaming Console (connected wirelessly or by ethernet cable)
Netflix’s own help site recommends shutting off each device completely, for at least ten seconds each, one at a time, before restarting and assessing if everything is working properly.
If nothing else, this will eliminate any suspicions of there being a hardware issue.
If you’ve tried everything listed here and are still dealing with stalled or stuttering video buffering, it couldn’t hurt to give Netflix’s help center hotline a call: 1-866-579-7172.
While it’s likely they’ll suggest you try all the things listed here, they might be able to shed some light on why you are still experiencing long loading times. Perhaps there are server problems in your area, or they are currently uploading an update to the Netflix application–which has caused problems before (especially for PS3 users).
Netflix employees are there to help and can be reached 24/7, either by phone or Internet chat.
Circle still spinning? Screen still frozen? (Or worse, have you been met with the dreaded Error Code UI-113?) Tried everything listed here, and still–still?–your Netflix won’t stop buffering? Then there is only one thing left to do.
When your friends ask if you finally got around to watching that show everyone has been talking about, that show everyone and their mom has binged and rewatched, again and again, and just won’t shut up about, that show your friends have all but demanded you watch, that’s when you turn to those friends, look them straight in the eye, and say that you’d love to–but only if you can watch it with them at their place.
If nothing else, you will find out who your friends are real quick.