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Why Does My Laptop Take So Long to Buffer Videos?

Updated July 19, 2017

When the playback speed of a video on the Internet exceeds the speed at which it can be downloaded, "buffering" is employed, making the playback smooth, but delayed. Sometimes buffering can take a long time, due to a combination of several factors.

Internet Bandwidth

Before you can watch a streaming video from the Internet, your computer needs to download a portion of it so your video playback software has enough information to show you something. If your connection is slow, it will take longer to download the information necessary to start playback.

Hardware Bottlenecks

Sometimes it may seem as if your computer is taking a long time to buffer a video stream, when the delay is actually stemming from a bottleneck within the computer itself. Watching a streaming video requires the data to be downloaded to memory, then transferred to a temporary file on the hard disk, then sent back to memory for processing and finally to your video card for display. A failure in any one of the thousands of involved circuits will make the process seem very slow.

Codec Issues

Some streaming video sites will allow your computer to download a stream without checking to make sure you can actually watch it. In this case, your computer might not have the proper software (or hardware) to decode and display the video stream, but it will still download the data, essentially buffering to nowhere.

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About the Author

Tom Storm began his professional writing career in 1999 for Valparaiso University's newspaper, "The Torch." He has expertise in several fields through positions as a laboratory director, a teacher and as a director of information services. He holds a Bachelor of Science in mathematics from Grand Valley State University and another in meteorology from Valparaiso University.