How to Optimize Windows Media Player Video Streaming

Fix buffering problems in WMP that cause videos to stutter and freeze

If you are getting choppy video playback or constant buffering while streaming video from websites, then your Windows Media Player (WMP) installation might need a bit of tweaking. Before doing this, it's worth checking the state of your Internet connection.

Instructions in this article apply to Windows Media Player 12 on Windows 10, Windows 8.1, and Windows 7.

Perform an Internet Connection Speed Test

For this, you can use a free service such as SpeedTest.net to test just how fast your Internet connection really is. Ideally, you'll want your broadband/cable speed to be:

  • 3 Mbps or higher for standard definition (SD) video streaming.
  • 5 Mbps or higher to stream high-definition (HD) video (720p+).

Once you've done this test, look at the download speed result to see if your connection is fast enough to stream video. If you are getting at least 3 Mbps, hen tweaking Windows Media Player is the next step.

Tweaking Windows Media Player to Optimize Video Streaming Performance

In the following steps, we'll show you which settings in WMP to adjust to improve playback when watching video streams from websites.

  1. Switch to library view mode if not already displayed.

    You can hold down the CTRL key and press 1 to access Library view.

    Windows Media Player in Library view
  2. Select Tools and choose Options.

    If you don't see the main menu bar at the top of WMP's screen, it has probably been disabled. To toggle the menu display, hold down the CTRL key and press M. Alternatively, hold down the ALT key and press T to display the tools menu. You can then press the letter 'O' key to get to the settings menu.

    Tools > Options in WMP
  3. On the options screen, select the Performance tab.

    Performance tab of Options
  4. Look in the Network Buffering section. This is set to default buffering, but this can be changed to enter a custom value. Select the radio button next to Buffer.

    Buffer radio button
  5. The default setting is 5 seconds. Type "10" in the box to increase it.

    Using too much buffer time (step 4) can impact WMP and overall system performance, so it's wise to change the buffer value in small increments until you've got satisfactory video streaming.

    "10" in Buffer seconds of content box
  6. Select the Apply button and then OK to finish.

Other Ways to Improve Video Streaming Playback

If you find that video playback still isn't ideal, then there are further tweaks you can do to try and improve this. These are:

Disable UDP Protocol

Some home routers that use NAT don't forward UDP packets correctly. This can result in buffer looping, freezing, etc. To combat this, you can disable UDP in Windows Media Player. To do this:

  1. Go to WMP's options menu and click the Network tab.

    Network tab of Options window.
  2. In the protocols section, clear the RTSP/UDP setting.

    RTSP/UDP setting
  3. Select Apply and then OK to save.

Tweak WMP's Connection to The Internet

If you are having streaming problems that seem to be related to your Internet connection, then try the following:

  1. Go to WMP's options menu and select the Player tab.

    Player tab of Options window
  2. In the Player Settings section, make sure that the Connect to the Internet (Overrides Other Commands) option is enabled.

    Connect to the Internet (overrides other commands) option enabled
  3. Select Apply and then OK to finish.

Only enable this feature if you're having Internet connection problems. This is because enabling this setting will keep certain WMP services connected to the Internet all the time, rather than just when WMP is used.