Buffering Got You Down? (Part 1)


Video buffering is an unwelcome visitor when streaming videos.

We’ve all been there.

Partway through a YouTube video on how to fix your toilet or right in the middle of a new Netflix movie release, everything stops, and the spinning wheel appears on your screen. It is beyond annoying, and most people immediately think that they have the worst internet service ever.

But is that true?

I can tell you that in the vast majority of cases, it’s not your internet provider, and there are actually steps you can take to improve the buffering that you are experiencing.

This four-part blog series will explain what buffering is and why it occurs. Then, I’ll take you through step-by-step all the various ways you can speed up your streaming and either reduce buffering significantly or eliminate it completely.

Buffering gif

What is Buffering?

Almost all of us grew up watching broadcast TV, so when we watch something, we have an expectation that there will be a continuous and uninterrupted signal at all times. However, much of the world has switched to streaming, which is a very different beast.

With streaming services, your device is actually downloading the YouTube video or Netflix movie, for example, in chunks. In order for you to start watching that chosen program quickly, your device will download part of the content to a buffering or memory storage area on your device. As you are watching that piece of the video, your device continues to download more of the program. In theory, this would produce an uninterrupted viewing experience as the data is downloaded in time for you to watch the next segment without pause. But like most things, it doesn’t always work smoothly, and that is when the little spinning wheel pops up on your screen.

I tell people to think of buffering like your own personal army of elves that stay in your device. Once called to action, they start loading data into the memory storage area.

Buffering is usually expressed as a percentage on your screen and will show it increasing to 100% before the video starts playing. This doesn’t mean that you have downloaded the whole video or movie. It only means that your buffering storage area is full, and as the video or music starts to play, it empties, allowing your elves to fill it back up again. As you begin watching the program, they scramble to keep loading more data as fast as you are watching. But many things can slow down your elves and inhibit their progress.

In the next blog in this series, I will talk about the top four reasons buffering occurs and why they cause your elves so much distress.

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