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Don’t suffer the buffer: How to improve your video streaming connection

Alex Sheehan
AS
Alex Sheehan

Jan 8, 2020 — 3 min read

Having a good connection is important to quality online streaming. Explore some DIY tactics to improve your connection at home.

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We’ve all been there. Streaming video on your TV, straight lounging in comfy clothes. Ready to see what happens next. 

Then it happens: Hulu keeps buffering. You switch over to Netflix. Slow. Amazon Prime, Disney+, even YouTube TV all frustrate you with poor streaming quality and pixelated pictures. 

It’s time to end this nightmare. Want to improve video streaming? Let’s answer the questions that keep you up at night: Why is Hulu so slow? Why does Netflix keep buffering? How can you make it stop? 

What makes Hulu and Netflix quality bad?

In short: a poor internet connection will make Hulu and Netflix blurry, buffer or experience other issues. And there are lots of causes for a poor internet connection. 

First, it’s helpful to understand what type of internet connection you need to have a high-quality, reliable streaming experience. 

How fast do you need your internet speed for streaming?

What’s the best internet speed for streaming video? Each streaming service has their own recommendations. 

Netflix recommends the following: 

  • 0.5 Mbps per second – Required broadband connection speed
  • 1 Mbps per second – Recommended broadband connection speed
  • 3 Mbps per second – Recommended for SD quality
  • 5 Mbps per second – Recommended for HD quality
  • 25 Mbps per second – Recommended for Ultra HD quality

Hulu breaks it down like this: 

  • 3 Mbps for the Hulu streaming library
  • 8 Mbps for live streams
  • 16 Mbps for 4K content

And we’ve got the lowdown on Disney+ here. In sum: 5 Mbps of download speeds for HD content, and 25 Mbps for 4K. 

Test your internet speed to see if that’s the culprit. It could be the simplest fix. 

Though each streaming platform has its own recommendations, in reality, you might need more than that. 

When you get internet service for your home, you sign up for a particular speed. That represents the total speed. So if you have multiple devices connected at once, they need to share the bandwidth. And you likely have more than one: The average American household has more than six connected devices at any given time.

That also means you’re using more data. And some internet service providers cap data usage. In fact, if you stream enough 4K video, you could find yourself capped and throttled. 

How to improve stream quality

You’ve done your speed test and your connection is up to par. But you’re still buffering. Now what? 

There are a few tricks you can use to improve stream quality: 

  • Restart the streaming service. Log out and completely close out of the program. Reboot any devices you’re running it on, too. 
  • Reboot your home network. Sometimes, a quick reboot of the router is all you need to get things back in order. 
  • Move your Wi-Fi hub and router to an optimal location — somewhere central, open and away from obstruction. 
  • Kick some devices off the network. If you have other devices or people using your internet, boot them off — politely, of course! — so you can dedicate the bandwidth to your streaming. 
  • Disable your VPN. When you use a virtual private network, your connection is rerouted along the way, which can cause lag. 
  • Change your DNS server. Sometimes third-party DNS servers are faster than the default. Here’s a list of 14 free DNS servers to try. 
  • Upgrade your hardware — this could include any combination of your router, Wi-Fi hub, smart TV, streaming device or whatever you use to watch Netflix and Hulu. 
  • Upgrade your internet connection. You might have too many connected devices. In general, fiber optic offers the best speeds.
  • Upgrade your internet plan, especially if you’re regularly hitting your data cap. Ask for more bandwidth. 

What’s next?

If it’s time to switch internet service providers to get the speed you need to improve video streaming, make sure you shop around to find the best fit and the best deal.

For more information on switching internet, internet speed and video streaming, keep an eye on our Resource Center.