Do you find yourself screaming at the screen when Netflix pauses at the 85 minute mark of a 90 minute horror movie to buffer the ending?
How about watching Making a Murderer and having the video stop while the audio keeps going? Sure, in a few seconds, the video catches up, but deep down, you’ve already forgotten what just happened because the little voice inside your head said, “Shit! Am I gonna have to start this thing all over again?
It’s midnight and I’ve got the dentist at 7am tomorrow morning…”
Well, if you’re one of the unfortunate few left in the country who has dial-up or you’re not forking over enough $$$ to your ISP for a decent bandwidth, you’re pretty much screwed. The best you can do is set your Netflix viewing options to AUTO or LOW and hope for the best.
However, if you’ve got a decent internet connection and you haven’t just completely pissed off the cable or satellite gods, you may be in luck. There are plenty of things you can do to avoid the Buffer Barrier or the High Plains of Pause.
The first thing you’re going to want to do is unplug your modem and your router. Yes, yes, I know. And no, you can’t just turn them off. You’ve got unplug them and leave them unplugged for 15 seconds. When you plug them back in, there’s a specific order you’ve got to follow, too: modem first, router next. Wait for the modem to boot up before you plug in the router. They’re taking tiny electric pulses and turning them into movies on your magic picture box—give them a minute.
In a lot of cases, those little steps will solve your problems. Cable and network engineers can’t tell you why, and scientists are baffled by the phenomenon, but in 75% of the cases, unplugging any device and plugging it back in fixes it.
If you try that and you’re still not happy with the results, here are some things to try:
- Limit the number of walls and large furniture items the signal has to pass through. If your TV is at one end of the house and your router is at the other end, expecting a strong signal once it passes through a bookcase, a bathroom, the kitchen, and a few bedrooms is unrealistic.
- Put your router near the center of the house on the top floor—or even in the attic. Radio waves travel best going down and laterally. If your router is sitting right next to your desktop computer, consider moving it. Power cords and computer wires can interfere with signals.
- Switch to the 5GHz band if you’re using a dual band router. To find out if you’ve got this capability, go to your network settings on your device and check the available networks. If you see one with “-5G” after your network name, select it.
- Invest in a wireless bridge/range extender. For $20 to $30, these little gadgets plug right into the wall and can double the range of your network.
- Aluminum foil I know—I didn’t believe it either. It looks goofy, but it raised my wireless speed by 30Mbps. You’ll need about 12” of foil. Just tear it off, curve it slightly, and stand it up behind the router. You might not want to do this if your router is in a conspicuous place like the center of the dining room table, but if you’ve got it stuck off in a corner like most people, why not, right?
- Hardwire your device to your router. Most routers have at least two Ethernet connectors built in. If your device is close enough to the router (or you’ve got enough cable), you can skip WiFi altogether.
As a last resort, don’t forget to check your network speed in network settings on your desktop, laptop, or tablet. If you’re paying your ISP for 100Mbps but you’re only getting 20Mbps, a phone call is in order…followed by a long wait and lots of recordings.
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Don Gillette is a novelist, poet, and journalist. His latest book, Old Leather, is available in both paperback and ebook.