Entertainment

8 Useful Tips to Speed Up a Slow Streaming Service

Gavin Phillips Updated 24-03-2020

There seems to be no end to the human hunger for media. It’s how we keep tabs on current events and entertain ourselves. And while we’ve seen a proliferation of next-generation media channels emerging recently, all of them serving content in a variety of formats, some media puts a greater strain on our technology than others.

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Anybody who streams music or video regularly knows this. All-you-can-eat streaming is a great thing. That is, until your stream slows to a crawl or your video dissolves into a maddening mess of buffering pixels. With this in mind, here are eight ways to speed up your streaming services…

1. Turn Off Competing Devices

How many internet-connected devices do you have in your home? The sheer number of devices in our households that depend on internet connectivity can cause issues when you’re trying to watch Netflix or another streaming service.

Furthermore, the use of smart devices is also increasing, putting further strain on your bandwidth. While many of these devices are extremely low power and create very little network overhead, it all adds up.

If you’re struggling to stream on your TV or laptop, check out what the other devices in your house are doing. Is your partner torrenting or already watching a video-on-demand service? Is a smart device running haywire and eating all of your bandwidth?

Head around your home and figure out what devices are slowing down your streaming service.

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2. Check Your Network for Intruders

Alongside checking your house for devices using too much bandwidth, you should also check your network for any unexpected devices.

If you live where other people can access your Wi-Fi connection and your Wi-Fi password security is a little lacking, someone could piggyback on your bandwidth. If someone else is using your internet connection, it could explain why your video streaming service is struggling.

If you are unsure what’s eating your bandwidth, check out our top tips for monitoring your home network What's Using My Bandwidth? 5 Tips to Monitor Home Network Usage Is something draining your internet bandwidth capacity? Check and troubleshoot what is using your bandwidth with these tips. Read More .

3. Use an Ethernet Cable Instead of Wi-Fi

Cords and cables are not sleek. They get in the way and cause a trip hazard. Still, if you want the best performance from your consumer-level hardware, cables are a must for certain things. Most PC gamers will opt for wired peripherals like mice and keyboards over their wireless counterparts, all for that tiny boost to performance.

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When it comes to streaming, an Ethernet cable offers a direct-wired connection between your router and your hardware. Using a wired connection over a wireless connection can make all the difference to the quality of your stream.

For example, most Ethernet cables support speeds up to 1Gbps, while the latest Cat 7 Ethernet cables support a phenomenal 10Gbps.

Furthermore, your connection speed will suffer due to limitations in Wi-Fi technology The Most Common Wi-Fi Standards and Types Explained Confused by the various Wi-Fi standards in use? Here's what you need to know about IEEE 802.11ac and older wireless standards. Read More . An old router might bottleneck at around 150Mbps, while a router using the most common current Wi-Fi technology, 802.11ac, will top out at around 1.3Gbps. Even if your router reaches that maximum speed (it won’t!), the connection can still suffer interference. And interference means slower streaming and patchy video playback.

Of course, the real limiting factor is the speed of your internet itself. If you have a slow internet connection, no magic can drastically increase your connection speed. Running cables throughout your home may not add to the aesthetic—but it will help you speed up your streaming services.

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4. Move Your Router and Devices

I know, I know; I just said to use Ethernet instead of a Wi-Fi connection. That isn’t possible for everyone, however, so moving your router is the next best option.

Your Wi-Fi signal will struggle to travel through thick walls and over very long distances. If you can, move your router closer to the device you’re streaming on to increase your connection stability. With a more stable connection, you’ll experience fewer streaming issues and better video streaming quality.

Keep your router away from thick walls, out of cupboards, and other cubbyholes, and place it somewhere the Wi-Fi signal can flow throughout your home.

Change Your Wi-Fi Channel

If you’re moving your router about, you should also consider changing your Wi-Fi channel.

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Your Wi-Fi connection broadcasts on a specific channel. The default Wi-Fi channel for the standard 2.4GHz frequency Wi-Fi is channel 6. Because of this, it is also the most congested Wi-Fi channel and could experience interference in high-density areas.

There are alternative Wi-Fi channels in the 2.4GHz frequency, and numerous channels in the 5GHz frequency channel, too. Here’s how you change your Wi-Fi channel How to Pick the Best Wi-Fi Channel for Your Router What's the best Wi-Fi channel for your router and how do you change it? We answer these questions and more in this quick guide. Read More to boost your video streaming quality.

5. Choose a Lower Streaming Resolution

Some of the easiest ways to boost your streaming speed seem like the most obvious. Lowering your video streaming resolution is a simple fix that could make a big difference.

The resolution you try to watch a video at makes a huge difference to the amount of data your internet connection is attempting to stream. The higher the resolution, the more data is required. Not only that, but it must also be a consistent stream of data to cope with the high resolutions. A prime example is the difference between streaming Netflix in HD and 4K. You can stream Netflix in HD with a 5Mbps connection, whereas a 4K stream requires a consistent 25Mbps connection.

Next time you fire up a video stream, pay close attention to how your browser or device handles it. Does it try to play the highest-resolution video first? Or does it start with a low resolution and slowly ramp up the video quality as the stream progresses?

If it looks like your videos default to maximum resolution each time and it’s causing slow speeds or endless buffering, switch to the next-best resolution. The small step down from 1080p to 720p could significantly improve your experience. And visually speaking, you’ll barely notice the difference on most mobile screens.

There is another bonus, too. If you are streaming on a mobile, you’ll use less of your data plan if you stream at a lower resolution. We have crunched the numbers, so read our article exploring how much data streaming video uses How Much Data Does Streaming Video Use? Because streaming video is one of the easiest ways to eat through your data, it's important to know how much data it uses. Read More to see the differences between the most popular streaming services.

6. Delete Temporary Cache Files

It may sound strange, but those temporary files creating digital clutter could slow down your video streaming service. Cached files and temporary licenses tend to clog up our local directories and make our devices work harder than they should to serve fresh content. Whenever a website is updated behind-the-scenes, many of these files become irrelevant clutter.

If you want to get to the bottom of your slow streaming woes, it’s time to learn how to banish your cache files.

Modern web browsers and operating systems are pretty good at clearing out temporary files regularly. However, if you’re not in the habit of shutting down your devices properly, or doing so frequently, you’re likely not realizing the benefits of these features.

Cleaning temporary files works differently depending on your operating system. Here is how to clean temporary files on a Windows system Delete These Windows Files and Folders to Free Up Disk Space Want to clear disk space on your Windows computer? Take a look at these Windows files and folders you can safely delete. Read More , and how to clear the system and internet caches How to Clear the System and Internet Caches on a Mac Want to clear the caches on your Mac? Here are several places to find and clear temporary files to regain storage space on macOS. Read More on a Mac.

7. Disable Hardware Acceleration in Settings

Buried deep inside your favorite browser is a setting called “Disable Hardware Acceleration.” Have you seen it before? Do you know what it does?

This option is an answer to a frequent issue experienced by streamers and graphics professionals. Hardware acceleration is meant to shift some of the burden from the software and onto your machine’s processors. Shifting the onus should improve performance for certain tasks, including streaming and manipulating digital media.

Unfortunately, because there’s so much hardware out there, certain devices or combinations of internal components operate more predictably with this feature turned off. If you haven’t had any success improving your streaming speeds any other way, take a moment to locate this setting and disable it.

8. Make Use of Local Storage

One way of enjoying crisp video playback is to download the files to your playback device. You’ll have to plan for the films and shows you want to watch. But most popular video-on-demand streaming services now allow you to download and store a limited amount of content.

While not quite the same as streaming video, downloading the video ahead of time could help you manage a poor internet connection. Instead of attempting to stream video in the middle of the day when other people are using the internet, download a show or a film overnight, ready to watch the following evening.

When you want to watch something new, trash the local files and download something else.

Speed Up Your Video Streaming Services!

You can make buffering a thing of the past using these handy video streaming tips.

Even if you already knew you should lower your resolution, you’ve now got a few other troubleshooting tips to try out before giving up and doing something else instead.

Look for that pesky Hardware Acceleration toggle in settings and clear your caches while you’re there. Try winnowing down your stable of connected devices or even investing in the benefits of a physical connection via Ethernet.

The point is you don’t have to tear your hair out over slow streaming anymore. And best of all, most of these fixes are either free or inexpensive to try.

Remember, there is one final option: upgrade your internet connection. You should also consider upgrading your router What Is Wi-Fi 6 and Do You Need a New Router? There's a new wireless standard coming. But what is Wi-Fi 6? And should you upgrade to a Wi-Fi 6 router? Read More to take advantage of the latest Wi-Fi standards.

Image Credit: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock

Explore more about: Amazon Prime, Apple Music, Ethernet, Google Play Music, Hulu, Internet of Things, Media Streaming, Netflix, Spotify, Streaming Music, Troubleshooting, YouTube Music.

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