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How to Fix YouTube Buffering Problems

We’ve all been there: you’re watching a YouTube video when all of a sudden it pauses and starts buffering, especially right when the video starts getting good. This problem isn’t uncommon and it happens to the best of us.

Sometimes the problem is on YouTube’s end, whether they experience a hiccup or servers go down, but usually it’s on the users end and videos and sputter if the their internet connection is spotty.

Luckily, there are things that you can try in order to make YouTube videos play better on your computer or mobile device before you throw it out the window. We’ll give you a few tips, but first it’s important to know the basics of video streaming and how YouTube videos get your computer.

How YouTube Videos Work

There’s a lot of confusing stuff that goes on behind the scenes of delivering a YouTube video from Google’s servers to your computer, but what you really only need to know is how viewing YouTube videos affects your internet connection. Video files take up storage space; you probably know this because after you’ve recorded so many videos on your smartphone, it starts to fill up and you eventually need to free up storage space.

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YouTube videos are no different, and while they are stored on YouTube’s servers, they still use up your internet bandwidth so that they can be delivered to your computer from YouTube’s servers. This essentially means that while you’re watching a YouTube video, YouTube will slowly send you the data needed to play the video (that way you don’t need to download it all first, and then watch it. This is called streaming).

If your internet connection can’t keep up with that, then the video that you’re watching tends to sputter and start to buffer, causing annoyances as you bang your hand against the side of your monitor in order to get it to magically work again.

What You Can Do to Fix Buffering Problems

There are a few things you can try in order to alleviate most YouTube buffering problems, most of which are really easy to do and some may take a little extra effort on your part.

Check to see if anything else is hogging up bandwidth – If YouTube videos are sputtering, check to see if there’s anything else on your home network that might be hogging up bandwidth. You may not know it, but it’s possible that your kids or a roommate is already watching YouTube videos of their own, and many internet connections can only handle so much bandwidth.

If this is the case, politely ask them to stop so that you can watch your YouTube videos real quick, or you can be real evil and block their IP address from accessing the internet, although that takes a bit of networking finesse.

Plug into an ethernet connection if you’re on a laptop – A hard-wired connection is always faster and more reliable than a wireless connection, so if you’re having problems with YouTube videos playing nicely, plug your laptop into ethernet to get the best possible connection.

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Sit closer to the router – If you can’t connect to ethernet because you’re on a mobile device, like a smartphone or tablet, the next best thing to do is sit closer to the router. The farther you are away from the router, the weaker your internet connection gets, especially if there are walls between you and the router.

Sitting closer to the router will improve your internet connection and could be the difference between buffering, sputtering videos and smooth-playing HD content.

Update your software – Usually we wouldn’t necessarily suggest users update their software in order to fix a buffering YouTube video, but it can work sometimes. Updating your web browser and other pieces of software that deal with video (such as Adobe Flash) could possibly fix issues that you’re having with unstable video, but more often than not, it’s usually just an internet connection problem.

When all else fails, restart everything – If none of the above seem to be working, simply restarting your router and/or your computer or mobile device can give everything a fresh start. Restarting a router is good to do every few weeks anyway, because it clears out any leftover internet crud that’s been building up (there’s obviously a more technical term for it).

When you restart a router, it’s recommended that you do it the thorough way, which is to shut it off and unplug it from its power source for at least 30 seconds. Then plug it back in and turn it on. You’ll want to give it a couple of minutes to completely start back up, but once it’s up and running again, you should be greeted with a fresh internet connection where you don’t have to deal with sputtering YouTube videos anymore.

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24 Comments

  1. Larry

    06/01/2014 at 9:11 am

    It’s the cellular network or the app??? I’ve read many topics on this, or the phone itself?? My suspicion is the app and cellular networks both combined I’ve had the issue on iPhone and android I use iOS and OS and seen this on all networks, it’s voodoo lol lol

    Reply

  2. cyberlunacy

    06/01/2014 at 10:39 am

    no offense but had you had the buffering problems that so many people are complaining about you would know that this does NOTHING to fix it.
    the issue is 2 fold. The ISP’s and Youtube. and frankly most of it comes from youtube.

    the worst buffering is the B.O.D. (Buffering Of Death) in which buffering never ends, or rather youtube, be it the website or mobile app, says its buffering but checking your data stream shows little to no activity.

    restarting it usually results in it dieing at the same spot as i believe it is simply pulling form the cache files on your device. forwarding or rewinding of the video does nothing as it will not buffer (forward) and will just stop at the same spot again (rewind)

    this is why i believe the issue lies solely on youtubes.

    all this sit closer to your router stuff is baby talk and is side stepping the true issue that so many of us are dealing with.

    Youtube is broke, and watching videos on Youtube, mainly in the evenings (be it cellular or home internet) is troublesome to impossible.

    and there is nothing wrong with the ISP at the time because i can switch over and stream Netflix or Amazon prime video, at the highest bitrate, without a single issue.

    so maybe point the finger at the cause, instead of pulling the typical stuff by laying blame on the user.

    With articles like this that have no purpose but to blame the user, i suspect you moonlight for Google/Youtube

    Reply

  3. Punk21

    06/02/2014 at 1:33 am

    well said Cyberlunacy…

    Reply

  4. Larry

    06/02/2014 at 5:51 pm

    Ya ya I’m right you tube sucks

    Reply

  5. Larry

    06/02/2014 at 6:46 pm

    To punk 21 you don’t know your d.ck from your thumb or your ass from a hole in the ground as for cyberlunacy you have a good point but it’s the app .. My opinion

    Reply

    • Penfold

      08/29/2015 at 2:37 am

      Cyberlunacy and Larry – I think you’re both right – youtube is pants and they’re app isn’t much better. I’m sat about 12 inches from my router now and the video has buffered every 10 seconds – it was restarted yesterday along with the phone. A restart sometimes fixes or ccleaner but most of the time it just sucks for no apparent reason – even at 3am (insomniac!).

      Reply

  6. Dark Poet INC

    06/07/2014 at 1:17 pm

    I can’t seem to get anything through Century Link or Verizon the last 24 hrs. I went to a “Bright House” hotspot and was fine. I wonder if this has something to do with the whole “Net Neutrality” debate in Washington right now. Verizon and ComCast have been known to throttle the bandwith to NetFlix in the past and since YouTube joined up with NetFlix they might be getting treated the same.

    Welcome to the dirty tactics by the cable companies in order to get more money.

    Reply

  7. Tony Bonanno

    11/27/2014 at 7:53 am

    Screw this, think I’ll just buy the SOB and really fixit

    Reply

  8. Donnella

    07/16/2015 at 1:39 pm

    Has anyone else experienced this – I will be watching a YT video – and a blue ad will pop up under the video – and it says – ‘experiencing problems?’ click here to find out why – I always shut it off because I don’t trust pop up ads. It may be a stupid question, but is this thing causing the buffering? I mean, how does it know I am experiencing anything? If anyone else knows what this is, please tell me! Thanks –

    Reply

  9. StreamTest net

    08/26/2015 at 1:02 pm

    If your having problems with youtube buffering, one good way to figure out what’s wrong is to run a full diagnostic using the StreamTest tool.
    For example, to test this video you would enter this URL https://www.streamtest.net/newtest?streamurl=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoXjlotPFWQ

    Reply

  10. jamie fairlie

    08/29/2015 at 8:20 am

    I am having a problem at the moment you tube used to work fine with me and a few days ago it seemed to stop working I would go to look at something on youtube and search for it I click on something I wish to watch and its black and it doesn’t play it doesn’t do anything I try to refresh the page clear cache but the problem is still there what might it be if anyone who may know could you let me know and how to fix it if possible from my end or its from you tubes end

    Reply

  11. jeff

    12/13/2015 at 4:15 pm

    cyberlunacy nailed it. it’s youtube becuz i can stream everything but youtube. simple. stupid article. it’s like calling your ISP about your Internet connection and the first thing they tell you to do is to unplug everything. Yea. You unplug everything.

    Reply

  12. David standish

    12/27/2015 at 11:47 am

    Well after reading all of these answers in still buffering l Im going to bring it to my provider and tell what does unlimited data means I only use you tube at 539 am it shouldn’t buffer so I blame the provider simbody didnt look to see unlimited data and changed my plan without me knowing I never had this problem

    Reply

  13. Sub par

    01/15/2016 at 7:31 am

    I began experiencing buffering issues with youtube videos in particular… have tmo unlimited on a fully updated iphone 6+, and was not experiencing these problems until recently. In fact, hulu and netflix work just fine, apart from the first minute of playback which isnt up to resolution, but that is minor compared to the constant jittering of youtube videos, regardless of the specific source/link. I submit this post here to actually help anyone else that might find this page through a web search, as I did.

    In short, it is absolutely the new tmo program of binge on that is screwing w the youtube uploads. I called them and had the ‘service’ turned off, rebooted my phone, and what would you know? Youtube plays perfectly once again. That simple, though the customer service rep was unfamiliar w the process of shutting the program off, so it took a couple of minutes, but worked.

    Here’s the deal… Binge on downgrades the vid quality so it doesnt use as much data. Youtube doesnt subscribe to the new protocols and the tmo program causes the buffering stutters. It is not a problem with the phone, connection or youtube… It is the binge on program by tmo. With this disabled, youtube will play back at whatever your other normal limiting factor might be.

    Also, the binge on is auto forced to your account, so you will need to specifically request they shut it off. This applies to unlimited plans just the same, as the rep even commented, ‘oh, you have unlimited data, so dont really need the binge on…?’. I get why they are doing this, but just so every one out there can find a solution to the problems forced upon us. Best regards.

    Reply

  14. Marika Cartwright

    04/09/2016 at 11:51 pm

    THESE ARE NOT THE PROBLEM ANSWERS ,I ONLY HAVE WIFI ON MY MACBOOK PRO & ALL IS UP TO DATE ON SOFTWARE ,I AM SPEAKING TO A TECHNICAL SUPPORT FROM MAC TOMORROW & MY UTUBE VIDEO AS I WAS DOING A COURSE FROZ I COULDN’T DO ANYTHING ONLY BEEN HAPPENING IN THE LAST COUP OF DAYS WILL LET WVERY ONE KNOW WHAT HAPPENS THANK YOU MARIKA

    Reply

  15. Kelsey

    05/07/2016 at 11:44 am

    Seriously? Not helpful

    Reply

  16. John Pham

    06/02/2016 at 8:46 pm

    I think the problem is Youtube streaming protocol has changed (?).
    I can stream video to my PC (PC hook up to TV) just fine in full screen.
    switch to TV and stream the same video, and I keep getting “loading…”
    randomly, voice and video get out of sync. Switch back to PC and everything is dandy.
    this occurs any time of the day, 3am, 8am, 3pm, 7pm

    Reply

  17. Tom Martin

    06/03/2016 at 10:07 am

    I’m having the same problem everyone else seems to be having. It seems to have started on June 1st. I have no problem streaming Netflix or anything else, only Youtube. None of the fixes on Youtube’s very unhelpful “help” pages has helped. I’m of the school that Youtube is broken. What changed?

    Reply

  18. Jj

    06/18/2016 at 11:07 pm

    I’m sorry but none of this is useful

    Reply

  19. Lisa

    07/15/2016 at 1:32 pm

    Comments helpful except useless name calling. Really? So immature!

    Reply

  20. Maria M Fadli

    08/17/2016 at 6:33 pm

    Hola angels, I am having the same annoying buffering on youtube on my smartphone which I never had before – I take notice of the comment of the problems starting on June 1st, and it helped me a lot for I was going to uninstall youtube, google and crackle apps and reinstall, get a new phone tomorrow, get an IT&T Hotspot instead of the OpenMobil, and/or go back to ethernet, but I am trying some of your tips first, I feel much better and confident that I may fix this, haja, I am 70 years young, with glaucoma but after reading you all, specially cyberlunacy, I am going forward- thanks a lot. Will lyk if I fix it. -Gracias- Asilocreo

    Reply

  21. BrentTheGeek02

    09/09/2016 at 8:42 pm

    The blue pop up ads u can trust, actually its not really an ad, its just your device telling u that there’s a problem, that’s how it can tell, if you click find out why, it will troubleshoot and find out why and what your problem is, its a message from your device company

    Reply

  22. Arpit

    12/19/2016 at 10:22 pm

    YouTube video streaming problems android phone.There are various video streaming problems such as YouTube buffering problems, error occurred, server connection lost. I hope you can solve this problem using below article.

    http://www.bestusefultips.com/youtube-video-streaming-problems-android-fix/

    Reply

  23. Darlington

    04/01/2017 at 12:34 pm

    The buffering is going to be caused by an internet connection problem.

    Reply

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