Over the past week I’ve had several requests to do a post about the problems people run into when trying to watch videos online. Problems like videos pausing (while a “buffering” message appears) or a video stopping during playback for no apparent reason.
So here’s what you need to know.
First, videos pausing during playback (where a “buffering” or “wait” message appears). The majority of videos you view on the Internet are progressive download videos.
That means while the video is being downloaded to your computer, it is also simultaneously playing. Sometimes, either due to the speed of your Internet connection or intermittent technical issues across the Internet, videos play faster than they can be downloaded to your computer.
This causes the video to pause, so more of the video can be downloaded (buffered) before playback continues. Beyond getting a faster Internet connection, the only real solution is to start playing a video, pause it and let it download completely. Once it’s completely downloaded you can play it without any issues.
But wait…your Internet Service Provider told you that you have a super-fast broadband connection, right? And you can watch videos on YouTube just fine.
Well, here’s what you need to know. That super-fast broadband connection may not be as fast as you think. How can you tell? It’s easy, just go here and do a speed test:
The number you want to watch for in the above test is your download speed. It will be reported as “2,700 kbps” or something similar. Also keep in mind this number can vary minute by minute.
For example, I use Verizon Fios. My download speed is 20,000 kbps (20mbps)…plenty fast for most files (including video) on the Internet.
But I use a “wired” connection most the time. If you are using a wireless connection, you will lose speed. A lot of speed. And wireless connection speeds can fluctuate moment by moment.
You also have to understand that videos are encoded at certain bitrates (kbps). Low quality videos (like those on YouTube) are typically encoded at a bitrate of 500 or below. If you performed the speed test above, and it reported a speed above say 800 kpbs, then yes, you should be able to watch YouTube videos without a problem.
However, high-quality videos are often encoded at a bitrate of 1,000 or above (even a video bitrate of 6,000 is not so uncommon these days). That means if your download speed is reported at say 2,000…and the video you’re watching was encoded at a bitrate of 2,400…you’re going to get a buffering message.
This is why you can play videos fine on one site but not another; the site you’re having trouble with has likely encoded their videos at a much higher bitrate (meaning their videos will typically have much higher quality as well).
The next problem people run into is a video stopping at some point during playback, and no matter what you do, you can’t get the video to play any farther.
This is caused by the cache settings in your browser. Your browser is set to store or “cache” a certain amount of data you download from the Internet. Videos are huge files and can fill up your browser’s cache very quickly. So you need to clear your browser’s cache or increase it’s size. Here’s how to do it depending upon the browser you are using:
If you’re using Internet Explorer, do this:
1. In Internet Explorer, from the main menu bar, choose Tools and Options
2. Click the Delete Files button and choose OK
3. Click the Settings button. Increase the “Amount of Disk Space To Use” under the “Temporary Internet Files Folder” option.
4. Click OK to exit out of the options.
5. Try viewing the videos again.
If you’re using FireFox, do this:
1. In Firefox, from the main menu bar, choose Tools and Clear Private Data
2. Make sure only Cache is checked
3. Click the Clear Private Data Now button
4. Try viewing the videos again.