How to Troubleshoot Netflix Errors

Netflix running too slow? Try these tips

Netflix on a tablet

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While many people love Netflix, the video watching experience isn't always as enjoyable as it could be. Sometimes, networking issues are to blame.

The instructions in this article apply generally to the Netflix streaming service. Many kinds of network devices support Netflix, including personal computers, tablets, smartphones, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Sony PlayStation, Microsoft Xbox, various Roku boxes, some Nintendo devices, and some BluRay disc players. Check with the manufacturer of your device for additional tips on using Netflix.

Check Your Network Speed

If you're having trouble running Netflix, your network speed could be to blame. Netflix requires a minimum connection speed of 0.5 Mbps (500 Kbps) to support video streaming, and recommends at least 1.5 Mbps to sustain reliable playback of low-resolution videos and higher speeds for streaming better quality video:

  • At least 3 Mbps for standard definition (SD) quality
  • At least 5 Mbps for high definition (HD) quality
  • At least 25 Mbps for Ultra HD quality

Network latency can also affect the quality of Netflix video streams. If the service level you have from your internet service provider (ISP) doesn't consistently offer the performance needed to run Netflix, try some do-it-yourself fixes, or contact your provider to discuss upgrading your service.

Run a Speed Test

Standard internet speed tests can help measure your network's overall performance, and additional tools can help you specifically monitor your Netflix connection:

  • A test clip on the Netflix service called Example Short.23.976 displays the real-time video resolution and frame rate of your stream.
  • The Netflix ISP Speed Index reports statistics on average customer streaming speeds, categorized by service provider, during prime-time viewing hours.

Beware the Buffer

Buffering video data on a network stream involves processing and sending individual video frames to the receiving device a few seconds ahead of when they need to be shown on screen. The device saves those data frames in its temporary storage (called a "buffer") until it's time to display them. Netflix uses buffering to prevent video playback stalling when a network connection can't stream data fast enough.

Unfortunately, video buffering doesn't always prevent playback stalls. If the network connection is too slow for a long period, eventually the buffer empties out. One way to resolve this issue is to change your video quality settings to a lower resolution. This action lessens the amount of data the network must process, meaning it can work better at the same speed. Another option is to schedule your video watching during off-peak hours when fewer people are accessing Netflix and your ISP.