Streaming TV shows and movies is increasingly becoming the norm in home entertainment. Why wait a whole week to find out what happens on your favourite show when Netflix allows you to watch a whole series in an afternoon? Sadly there is one blot on this utopian landscape and that comes in the shape of the dreaded pauses caused when content has to be buffered due to slow internet connections.
Take heart though because Netflix has a few settings that might make your viewing stutter free once more. We show you how to find them and what they do.
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How to stop Netflix buffering on Mac | What is buffering and what causes it?
When you watch video content on your Apple TV, Mac, iPad or iPhone the device pre-loads a certain amount of video into its memory so that it can play the content without stuttering. This essentially creates a buffer between the viewer and the loading process.
On a fast internet connection this is fine, but on slower variants you can get to the point where the video playback catches up to the video currently loading. This will cause the content to pause as it waits for the buffer to be filled once more, and is usually accompanied by a loading icon or a message telling you that the device is ‘buffering’.
Alternatively an app might reduce the quality of the video to enable a smoother playback. This is due to the fact that lower resolution video is quicker to load.
The easiest way to see buffering is on YouTube. At the bottom of any video you play there’s a timeline, the long grey line that runs nearly the entire length of the panel. As the video is buffered the grey line turns white, giving you an indication of how much of it is currently ready to play.
The line doesn’t need to turn fully white before you can view the content as the buffering will continue while you watch. All it needs is to be far enough ahead of the playhead (the red dot) to ensure that there are no interruptions.
If you’re watching Netflix on your Mac, presumably via the Chrome or Safari browser, and find that you’re having issues with buffering then there is a way to instruct the site to lower the video settings. This does mean you won’t get the glorious HD quality that you might have hoped for, but it will increase the chance of you actually be able to watch the show or movie.
First of all you should go to the Home screen on Netflix and move the mouse pointer over to your account icon in the upper right corner. A drop down menu will appear from which you should select My Account.
On the next page scroll down to the My Profile section and click on Playback Settings.
Now you’ll see four options for video quality.
Most likely you’ll already be on Auto, which will try and serve the best quality for the speed of connection you’re on. This doesn’t always work though, so you can instead choose one of the less demanding levels and see if that improves your experience. If you find yourself on a faster connection later in the day you can always move back to Auto by repeating the steps.
For more granular control over the video quality settings you can access a hidden menu in Netflix. To find this you’ll need to start a video playing on the site then press Ctrl+Shift+Option/Alt+S and a menu will appear.
Here you’ll find the options for the video quality settings. In the central Video Bitrate column you can select the quality you want (the higher numbers represent higher quality). You achieve this by holding down the shift key while clicking on the relevant number. When you’re happy with your selection click the Override button and Netflix will now treat that as your default video quality. You can of course change this at any time by bringing up the hidden menu.
How to stop Netflix buffering on Mac | Optimising your router
If you are experiencing buffering at home then you might want to ensure that your router settings are optimised for video content. This is especially true if you share your connection with other people. Our sister publication PC Advisor has prepared a guide on
How to get all the bandwidth on a shared network which is well worth a look if you want to leave no stone unturned.