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Why Does it Take Forever to Buffer?

by Robert Kingsley

When you stream a video online, you computer attempts to play it while it is downloaded to a temporary folder on your computer. This allows the video to start almost immediately so you don't have to wait. If you have a slow connection, your video will play faster than it will download, resulting in a pause for buffering.

What is Buffering?

Before your video begins to play, a small portion is first downloaded to give the download a head start. You'll often notice a colored bar over the video's navigation bar that depicts this. The gap between your download and your playback is called the buffer. If your playback catches up to the download, it can no longer play and must pause to increase the gap. This is called buffering.

Contributing Factors

There are a few things that can work against you when you're streaming videos. The first and most important issue is your connection speed. If you have a strong high-speed connection. your videos will likely buffer very quickly. A slow connection will guarantee long buffer pauses regularly. If numerous users have bogged down the site providing the video, you may experience slow buffering regardless of your connection. If you use a shared bandwidth connection, like a cable connection, your neighbor's heavy usage may slow down your downloads, which slows your buffering as well.

How to Live with It

If you can't afford to throw money at this issue to resolve it, there is a trick you can use to make buffering less of an issue. After selecting a video, press "Play" to begin the download and eventually the playback. Immediately after the video starts, press "Pause." Wait for the buffer to get a good lead before pressing "Play." Watch the colored bar to ensure it is at least half-way through the video, or all of the way through for a slow connection. This way, when you press play, you are less likely to catch up and experience a break in playback.

How to Resolve the Issue

The best way to resolve the issue of buffering is to upgrade your Internet connection. Check with your Internet service provider to see if it offers any faster connections or check with competing companies for different technologies. There are many speeds of cable, DSL and fiber connections that you can subscribe to for different costs. If you are willing to spend more money per month, you should be able to speed up your buffering enough that you won't even notice it.

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