Reload your stream.
You might have come up with this trivial step yourself – but we would still like to mention it: Simply reload your stream once. Sometimes communication problems between the server and the browser or app cause a stream to hang or stop loading.
If you are streaming via a web browser, you can simply press the F5 key on your keyboard (CMD+R for Mac users) and reload the current page. Alternatively, you can press the round arrow in the browser bar. If you are watching via an app, leave the current stream by pressing the back button and start it up again. A complete restart of the streaming app can also help under certain circumstances.
Is there a disturbance with your provider?
Before you continue troubleshooting, you should check whether the problem could be with the streaming provider. Events that attract large audiences – such as the highly exciting series finale or the eagerly awaited football final – can cause the servers of any streaming platforms to buckle. If your stream is stuttering or won't load at all, there may be an interference with your provider.
A quick Google search or a look at the provider's website can yield information on potential server problems. Websites such as Downdetector.co.uk also provide information on whether you are alone with your problem or not.
Is there a proper Internet connection?
If there are problems with the Internet, you should check whether your device is connected properly. Use an online speed test, for example from Ookla, to test your current Internet speed. If a value seems too low, try restarting your Internet connection.
To do this, deactivate the Wi-Fi or LAN connection on your device and reactivate it a few seconds later. You can do this manually via the Wi-Fi symbol in the task or menu bar, activating the flight mode or by restarting the device.
Our tip: When you are having trouble with Wi-Fi you should try connecting via cable once, if possible. An Ethernet (LAN) connection is faster, more stable, and a real advantage overall – especially when dealing with 4K streams.
Test the stream on an alternative device.
Does your stream only stutter on your current end device, or on other devices as well? Simply test your desired video briefly on an alternative device and find out! The best way to do this is to reach for your smartphone or tablet.
If your stream runs smoothly here, most likely there is a hardware or software problem with your original device. If the desired video also stalls on other devices, however, you can assume a problem in your home network.
Try restarting the router.
Your video buffers when playing, on more than one device? Then you can try restarting your router. To do this, disconnect the device from the power supply and wait for about 20 seconds. Then plug the power plug back in and wait until the usual LED indicators light up continuously and the router is ready for use again.
Stop parallel Internet applications.
Streams, downloads and video conferences can steal each other's bandwidth. A large background update of your device can potentially be a disruptive factor as well. If your stream is jerky, you should therefore prevent any parallel data traffic. This is especially important if your Internet connection only has low bandwidth to work with and you want to use data-intensive 4K streams, for example.
If you do not notice any major data traffic on your device – and neither on other devices in your vicinity, such as your smartphone – you should look around the living room for data hogs. Does a family member also want to stream, download or play online? Then you will have to put your foot down – or come to a peaceful arrangement.
Lower the streaming quality.
If nothing else works, but you absolutely want to watch a live event, you can still try to lower the general streaming quality. All conventional web players offer a small settings menu – usually symbolised by a cogwheel – through which you can choose between different quality levels and resolutions.
Here you can reduce the quality step by step and see if your loading times improve. Or whether your possibly weakened device now plays the video more smoothly. For the moment, this may be a reasonable solution – but let's face it: no one likes to be fobbed off with muddy quality. To find a long-term solution, you should look deeper into the issue.
If the root of your streaming problem lies deeper, systematically going through all possible causes might be worthwhile. To do this, follow the detailed guide below. Hardware and software problems can cause a stream to stutter. In most cases, however, the problem lies within the home network.
Before taking random measures, it is worthwhile to systematically narrow down the root of the problem. With this in mind, you should first check whether it is an isolated, device-specific complication or a general problem that affects all devices in your household.
Is the stream stuttering on your Smart TV? Then take your smartphone or tablet and try the desired online video again. It is important that you do so under the same conditions – so do not change your location in the house or flat and try the same app as well as the same stream. This should not be a problem, as popular streaming services like Netflix are available on numerous systems, including:
- Smart TV
- Streaming stick
If the stream runs smoothly on the alternative device but is still buffering on the original device, this indicates a specific hardware or software problem with the source device.
If, on the other hand, the stream is stuttering on both devices, there is probably a general problem – most likely rooted in your home network. In this case, we will help you below.
Is there a problem with the stream, although your Internet line offers sufficient bandwidth? If the desired video does not work properly on only one device, there are a number of possible causes that you should systematically check.
Is Wi-Fi working on your playback device?
In the first step, you should check whether your end device has a flawless Wi-Fi connection. If, for example, websites and social media feeds load only slowly or not at all, this may indicate that something is wrong with the Internet connection of your device. Try restarting the Wi-Fi connection as a test!
On PCs and Macs, you can do this by clicking on the Wi-Fi symbol in the task or menu bar and choosing "disconnect". Wait a few seconds and re-establish the connection.
Alternatively, on Windows PCs, smartphones and tablets, you can briefly switch to airplane mode (or flight mode). In the case of a Smart TV or streaming stick, navigate to the respective options menu and restart the Wi-Fi – or simply switch off the device for a moment.
Are firmware and drivers up to date?
To rule out streaming errors within the software, you should make sure that your device is running on the latest firmware. If your device does not already notify you of pending updates, simply navigate to the settings menu, look for an update or firmware section and press the button to check for updates.
If you are streaming on a Windows device, you should also check it for new drivers. If, for example, your graphics card driver is no longer up to date, this can have a negative effect on media playback. In order to be able to use network adapters properly, you should also keep any chipset drivers up to date. Intel and AMD offer convenient diagnostic tools for this purpose.
Is the device utilization too high?
Does your video stutter when playing? Then you should check the hardware utilization of your device. On Windows, use the key combination CTRL+ALT+DEL to open the task manager. On macOS, open Activity Monitor on “Applications” > “Utilities”. In the detailed process view you can now see all apps and background processes. Google Chrome or alternative browser applications should be relatively high up here.
Do you notice unusually high CPU or main memory usage? Your computer reaching the edge of its capacity might be an indication for insufficient computing resources available for high-quality streaming. At this point, there are several things you can try:
- Restart browser and/or device.
- Delete the browsers intermediate storage (cache) using the key combination CTRL+SHIFT+DEL.
- Try an alternative browser that may be less resource-hungry.
By the way: You can also use the process view to see which programs are involved in network utilization. Here you can identify and end background apps that may be taking up bandwidth from your stream – more on this in the Home Network Optimization section.
Are you using outdated technology?
If the computing load does not drop significantly even after any background processes have been stopped, your device might simply be outdated. Browsers like Google Chrome take up quite a bit of system resources these days. Is your video not running smoothly? For a clean surfing and streaming experience, you should have at least 8 gigabytes of main memory available.
Other streaming devices may also be showing their age. The Fire TV Sticks from Amazon, for example, have increased in computing power over the generations. An outdated stick might no longer fully meet the requirements of modern streaming platforms. Similarly, an outdated Smart TV in combination with modern apps, media libraries and 4K streams can now start to sweat.
Do you use VPN software?
VPN services offer numerous advantages, especially for your privacy on the Internet – and are particularly tempting for streamers. Because the clever tools disguise your real location, they can be used to bypass country blocks and access streaming content that is inaccessible otherwise.
Sometimes though VPNs also noticeably throttle the Internet and streaming speed. That’s why you should temporarily disable a VPN tunnel and see if this improves streaming performance. If this is the case, you should select another server within your VPN service that is closer to your actual location – or, when in doubt, switch to a different service altogether.
The stream is stuttering on TV, tablet, smartphone and laptop? If all end devices experience stagnant streams and buffering problems, this indicates a problem in your home network. In this case there are also various steps that you can try – and simple technical measures that will improve your home network.
But do mind: the time and context of a (live) stream can be decisive, because events that attract a particularly large audience can cause a technical infrastructure to collapse in no time at all.
If you have never struggled with online videos but your live stream is now stuttering during the exciting World Cup final, it is likely that the servers of yourstreaming provider are overloaded. Series and movies may also stutter when too many users are accessing them at once. A quick Google search, a look at the provider's website or services such as downdetector.co.uk can supply you with information about a potential server problem of the provider in question.
If there is a disturbance, all you can do is check if there is an alternative platform for the desired stream – or wait until the service recovers. Of course, you should also find out whether there isa problem with your Internet provider. Lastly, if an external problem is unlikely or uncertain, you should check your home network for problems.
Restart your router
A router restart can already help you solve potential home network problems. The reason: As a small, constantly running computer, a router can be subject to certain software errors and memory leaks. IP address conflicts and other errors can slow down the home Wi-Fi or cause it to fail completely.
You can restart the router via the web user interface of your model – it is even easier to unplug the device from the power supply, wait about 20 seconds and then plug it back in. As soon as the usual LED indicators light up continuously, the device should be connected to the internet again.
Check your connection speed – how much bandwidth do Netflix & Co. require?
Netflix won't Load – or just slowly? Use an online speed test – such as Ookla – to find out what your current Internet speed is. The most important key figure when accessing streaming content is the download speed.
Netflix, Amazon and other services recommend a relatively low guide value of 1 mbps for videos in SD quality. With increasing image resolution though, the demands on your Internet speed also increase.
In order to be able to watch videos in Full-HD without interruption, at least 5 mbps should reach your device. And for razor-sharp 4K-UHD images, according to Netflix and Amazon, your bandwidth should be 15 mbps – Disney Plus even recommends a whopping 25 mbps.
If your device does not receive the required amount of data, although your Internet connection should provide enough, you can be sure to have found the root of your streaming problem. There are a few simple solutions to this.
Stop parallel applications
Your streams load slowly despite fast Internet? Data-intensive background applications – such as parallel streams, downloads and video conferencing – can massively slow down your stream buffer. For example, if a family member or house guest is watching an online video themselves, you may be "stealing" each other's bandwidth. In this case, you should arrange yourself somehow.
But before you search through the house for potential culprits, you should first check your own devices. Are you downloading something in the background, like a major update? You should stop or let it finish and try the stream again afterwards. Furthermore, mass downloads of large games, for example, can bring even the strongest internet connection to their knees and should be switched off for the duration of a stream.
Upgrade to a new Wi-Fi standard
If you think that your Internet line should have enough bandwidth for parallel applications, an upgrade to WiFi 6 can be worthwhile. The modern Wi-Fi standard offers increased data throughput and improved multitasking. The so-called OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access) ensures that many different network requests and applications of all family members are processed more efficiently.
If you live in an apartment building, the neighbors can be another disruptive factor. Though they might (usually) not tap your Internet line, they most likely still share the same Wi-Fi frequency. Wi-Fi 6 is even more efficient here: With BSS Coloring, the Wi-Fi standard offers a practical function for avoiding conflicts in residential buildings.
More information: Wi-Fi repeater with Wi-Fi 6 function
Change the Wi-Fi channel
Are you using the 2.4 or 5 GHz frequency band? If your end device is not too old and the distance to the router not too far, you can switch to theoptional 5 GHz band instead of the 2.4 GHz frequency that is usually used. This offers increased data throughput over a shorter distance and is less prone to interference because it is used by far fewer end devices in the area.
On many routers you can set up a separate 5 Ghz Wi-Fi or alternatively set your streaming device to be prioritized in the data traffic. Very handy: Modern routers and Wi-Fi repeaters with Band Steering automatically assign the optimal bands for your devices. Airtime Fairness also prevents older, slower devices from blocking the entire network.
Shorten the distance to the router
As the distance from the router increases, a Wi-Fi signal quickly begins to weaken. Thick walls and ceilings also have a supressing effect. If you are streaming at some distance from the Access Point, you should try performing a speed test right next to the router.
If you get (approximately) the data speed promised by your provider, but not at your desired streaming location a few rooms away, the drop in Wi-Fi signal is the root of your problem. At that point only a Wi-Fi amplifier will help.
Use an Ethernet cable
Many end devices, such as smart TVs, laptops and PCs, usually offer an Ethernet connection. For particularly high and stable data rates, connect the router and streaming device using a cable. This can especially help with data-intensive 4K videos and improve overall streaming quality.
Use Wi-Fi amplifiers
Don't want to adapt to the location of your router? Sometimes the streaming location you want is just a room and a wall away from the optimal Wi-Fi signal. In this case, you can use a Repeater that extends the Wi-Fi signal to adjacent rooms.
Powerline technology is even more effective: network adapters from devolo transmit the full power of your Internet connection via power line. In this way, you can enjoy fast Wi-Fi in every room - and you can even use the built-in Ethernet connections for razor-sharp 4K streams without having to place expensive LAN cables in the house. Modern Mesh funktions such as Band Steering, Airtime Fairness and BSS Coloring complete the package.