How to Improve Video Streaming on Your Computer

By Jeff Grundy

Close tabs on your Internet browser to improve buffering speed.
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Millions of users now watch movies, music videos and the news on the Internet. Most major news companies stream newscasts on the Web, and companies such as Amazon, Netflix and YouTube are continuing to change the way people view movies and music videos. Since watching a streaming video requires that you download the clip as you view it, several factors can affect performance in your browser. While bandwidth speed is important to watching online videos, there may be other things you can do to improve performance if clips are not streaming smoothly or if they are starting and stopping constantly.

Close Other Web Applications

If streaming videos are buffering or starting and stopping frequently, the slow performance could be the result of chat programs, email clients or other programs sending or receiving data. Therefore, exit all Internet applications, except for your Web browser, which may be downloading information or otherwise using bandwidth. When you close other Internet programs, be sure to exit them and not simply minimize them to the Quick Launch tray in the taskbar. If an Internet application's icon appears in the Quick Launch tray, it is still open and only minimized. To close a program in the Quick Launch tray completely, right-click its icon and then click "Close" or "Exit." After closing other Internet applications, close your browser and restart it; then reload or refresh the Web page with the video and try to play it again in the player window.

Delete Temporary Cache or Internet Files

When surfing the Internet, your browser downloads thousands of small files needed to display Web pages. When you close your browse or restart your computer, Windows should delete those temporary files automatically. However, this is not always the case, especially if you perform a forced restart or shut down your computer before the browser has a chance to close completely. If Windows is not able to delete temporary cache or Internet files, this eventually affects performance and can hinder the loading and viewing of streaming videos. Deleting temporary files in your browser manually might help videos load faster and play more smoothly. In major browsers, deleting temporary files is relatively easy; just look for the "Clear Recent History," "Delete Temporary Internet Files" or other similar option in the Options or Tools section of your browser menu bar or toolbar.

Disable Windows Video Hardware Acceleration

Watching a movie or video in Windows Media Player or another media application is not demanding for your computer. Most modern video cards can play full screen videos relatively easily without taxing the graphics processor or memory. However, streaming Internet videos usually rely on software encoders that might perform more slowly if hindered by the hardware acceleration used by many newer video cards. To disabling the Video Hardware Acceleration feature in Windows, access the Video Hardware Acceleration feature from the Appearance and Display section in Control Panel. Disabling the feature is as simple as sliding the Hardware Acceleration control in the Change Display Settings window from "Full" to "None." Just ensure that you change the setting back to "Full" if you play 3-D games or run operations that require a lot of hardware performance from your video card.

Install a Software Video Accelerator

Software video accelerators such as Autobahn Accelerator, Giraffic Video Accelerator and Speedbit Video Accelerator are free applications that tweak Windows Internet settings and enable peer-to-peer streaming to improve performance of Internet videos. After you download a video accelerator program, close your Web browser before installing it. After you install the video accelerator, you'll probably need to restart your computer before it integrates fully with your browser. If you visit a video website supported by the accelerator application, it can improve streaming performance considerably by enabling more download threads in your browser and pulling or downloading data from multiple sources simultaneously. Virtually all accelerator programs support major video sites such as YouTube and Yahoo. However, these applications may not work with lesser-known video sharing sites.

Alternative Solutions

Upgrading to a faster Internet connection is the surest way to improve performance of streaming videos and reduce buffering. If you connect to a router with a Wi-Fi connection, you can probably improve streaming video performance by using a wired connection. With wireless connections, variations in antenna signal strength can reduce sustained bandwidth rates of wireless adapters to lower than the more consistent transfer rates a standard RJ-45 Ethernet connection offers. If you have tried everything else, and your Internet videos still load slow or start and stop, allow the browser video player to preload several minutes of video before pressing the Play button. The more of a clip you allow to preload in your browser, the fewer times the video will stop and start during playback.