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How to Resolve Netflix Streaming Problems in Five Simple Steps

by Ian C. Paul

It's a quiet Friday night after a long week at work. You're ready to kick back, relax, and binge-watch your favorite show on Netflix. You're not alone—Netflix streaming now accounts for over a third of North America's wired Internet download traffic during peak hours, typically between 7 p.m. and midnight, according to TIME. It's the perfect time to unwind, but lo and behold, your video starts buffering, bringing things to a screeching halt. Your blood pressure starts going through the roof as disaster threatens. But fear not, your Friday night is in good hands. Most streaming issues can be resolved with a few simple tricks.

Here are five sure ways to resolve your Friday night crisis:

1. Restart Your System. Before doing anything too technical, try simply rebooting your system, which often solves many of the most common connection issues. If you're using a gaming console, computer, smart TV or Blu-ray player, just try turning it off or unplugging your modem and router. This is typically a short-term fix, so if you continue to experience streaming problems, there are other options you should consider.

2. Check Bandwidth Usage. The recommended bandwidth—the amount of data that can be transmitted through your Internet connection at a given time—for high-definition Netflix streaming is five megabits (Mb) per second. If you don't know your bandwidth, check your internet data plan or you can use an online bandwidth checker such as speedtest.net. You can easily max out your bandwidth if you're watching a movie and someone is playing video games using the same Internet connection, resulting in slow playback or video buffering problems. If you have a roommate who tends to hog your precious internet connection for streaming and gaming, you now know the source of the issue.

3. Adjust Netflix Playback Settings. Okay, so you don't have an annoying roommate who uses up all your bandwidth, but your internet provider caps your monthly usage, leading you to still experience inconsistent video playback on Netflix. To fix this issue, follow the steps below:

  • Log in to your Netflix account and click on "Your Account."
  • Navigate to "Your Profile" and click on "Playback Settings.”
  • Uncheck "Auto mode".
  • Select "Low" if you're using less than a 6 Mb connection, "Medium" if your connection is less than 12 Mb or "High" if your connection is 12 Mb or more. Choosing a specific playback setting will prevent your Netflix application from attempting to stream at a higher quality than your Internet connection can support.

4. Use Hardwiring. Even though wireless routers offer you the freedom to use laptops and mobile devices anywhere in your home, wireless connection limitations can cause video streaming problems. Correct this by using a streaming media player such as Roku, Blu-ray, Apple TV, Xbox, Nintendo Wii or PlayStation that physically connects to both your wired modem and a television or computer. Directly connecting a modem and a video streaming device eliminates distance or interference issues that often occur with wireless connections.

5. Create Space on Your Computer. When watching a TV show or movie on Netflix, the video content is actually temporarily being stored in your computer's memory. Your Netflix application will be competing for Internet speed and storage space with other applications on your computer or device. This might also be causing streaming issues that can be fixed by closing down other data-hogging websites or applications.

In most cases, one of these five simple steps should have you kicking back in front of your Friday night movie in no time. However, if you're still struggling to resolve the issue, the problem may be originating from Netflix's servers, meaning you might have to stream during off-peak times for better results.