How to Buffer Video Streams

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Buffering a video stream allows you to watch online videos with minimal choppiness or freezing. According to Tech Terms, a computer buffers a video by loading some of the video file data before playing it, giving the player computer some reserve memory to fall back on if the Internet connection is interrupted and the stream of video is therefore interrupted. (See References 1) The keys to successful buffering, therefore, lie in the speed of the Internet connection, the amount of RAM being used by the player computer, the amount of available memory on the computer, and the efficacy of the video player. If you address all of these issues and still have buffering problems, there are a few other options worth attempting to fix the problem.

Things You'll Need

  • Internet connection
  • Streaming video player
  • Video acceleration software (optional)
  • Pause the video before watching. Most video players allow you to build a buffer before playing the video. It could be that the video simply isn't streaming data at a fast enough rate to keep up with the player. If you press "Play," and then "Pause," some video players, such as the YouTube player, will let most of the video load beforehand. You can monitor the buffer by looking at the progress of a pale progress creeping its way across the player bar. The speed of this bar will indicate the speed that the video is loading, relative to play speed.

  • Check the Internet connection speed. You can do this by double-clicking the "Network Connections" icon under the control panel. A menu should pop up, and the speed should be rated in megabits per second (Mbps) or kilobits per second (Kbps) if the speed is slower. PC World recommends a data transfer rate of at least 2 Mbps for basic MPEG videos, while full quality HD videos might require as much as 19 Mbps. (See References 2)

  • Disable and the re-enable the Internet connection to see if the speed improves. You should be able to do this by right-clicking the connection icon in the Control Panel and selecting "Disable Disable Connection." Right-click again, and select what should now read, "Enable Connection." If this does not work, there might be another problem with the connection.

  • Cancel all other data transfers happening on the network. If you are streaming multiple videos at once, or if you are downloading large files, this might be utilizing the bandwidth. Also, if you share a connection with other users, they might be using the bandwidth with their videos or downloads. If you are below still below the minimum threshold after shutting down all other data transfers, it might be time to call the Internet service provider and upgrade the bandwidth.

  • Shut down unnecessary programs running on the player computer. There is a small chance that the problem is not on the connection end but on the data processing end. This is especially true if you are using a downloaded player, such as Windows Media Player or RealPlayer to stream the video. Each program uses RAM, which is basically the most easily accessible memory for a CPU (central processing unit). If other programs are using all or most of the RAM, the CPU will access the hard disk directly, which can slow down applications, including the video player. You can find which programs are running by accessing the Task Manager or Finder, and shut down the ones that are not necessary to maintain the proper function of the computer.

  • Clear space on the hard drive. This is another processing issue. If the hard drive is close to full, it will slow down the applications, including video players.

  • Download a video stream accelerator. If none of the other solutions work, there are a few applications that assist buffering. These programs do not work with all video streams, but they do work with popular sites such as YouTube. One example is an application called SpeedBit Video Accelerator, which basically optimizes the buffering process, allowing much more data to be saved to the buffer at a faster rate.

  • Run the video accelerator when streaming a video. Most of these applications run in the background and will automatically begin buffering video every time a video is streamed.

References

  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
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