When you stream videos on your PC, they can stutter, freeze or drop in quality for several reasons. Sometimes the problem relates to available resources on your computer, like CPU cycles or RAM memory. More often, however, the problem lies with your Internet connection and available bandwidth. In most cases, you can improve video performance by making a few changes to your computer settings, viewing habits and the way you connect to the Internet.
Close Unnecessary Apps
Whether you're using an online streaming site or a desktop media player, watching videos ties up your computer's resources. Closing active apps -- especially resource-intensive apps like video- or image-editing suites and games -- can greatly lessen the strain on your computer's resources so the media player or Web browser runs more smoothly.
Apps that require an Internet connection such as instant messaging or cloud storage syncing are a double threat; they eat up your computer's resources and your network's available bandwidth. Close these apps before starting to watch online video.
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Finish or Cancel Active Downloads
Depending on your download speed, file downloads can use up much of your network's available bandwidth. Streaming video may begin to stutter, frequently buffer or stop running entirely until the download finishes and the strain on the bandwidth is lifted. Before you start watching streaming video, finish all downloads. If a download will take too long to finish, cancel it so you can run your video and then re-start it later.
Avoid Network Congestion
Streaming video may run poorly if a lot of people are using your network at the same time -- especially if they're using bandwidth-intensive apps or services like streaming video and online gaming or are downloading large files. To maximize the amount of bandwidth available for your video stream, avoid watching streaming video when other people in your household are using the Internet.
Switch to Lower Resolution Video
Changing the resolution settings for the streaming video can greatly reduce the strain on your bandwidth and speed up the stream. Go for as low a resolution setting as you can tolerate -- standard-definition or 480p typically streams the fastest without sacrificing much picture quality.
Switch to Wired Ethernet
While wireless connections are convenient, they rarely provide optimal connection speeds. Typically, this is because a Wi-Fi signal weakens as it travels through your home, impeded by walls, furniture and interference from electronic equipment. If possible, connect directly to the modem or router using an Ethernet cable.
Turn Off Hardware Acceleration
Hardware acceleration refers to your computer's graphics card interpreting and rending the visual data from a video stream instead of your computer's software. While in most cases hardware acceleration improves performance, sometimes it doesn't work correctly and instead limits performance.
To shut off hardware acceleration on your computer, press Windows-X and select Control Panel on Windows 8 computers, or click Start and select Control Panel on Windows 7. Select Appearance and Personalization, followed by Display and Change Display Settings. Click Advanced Settings, select the Troubleshoot tab and then click the Change Settings button. Drag the slider all the way to the left and then click OK to disable hardware acceleration.
Flash-based players may also use hardware acceleration. To disable it in the player, right-click the video player, select Settings and then uncheck the Enable hardware acceleration check box if it's filled.