Maintaining a high streaming speed is essential to getting high video and audio quality when streaming Netflix movies or TV episodes on your computer. There are many different factors that can affect your overall streaming speed. Surprisingly, not all of them are on your computer. If you have any other software, computers or devices competing for your bandwidth, it can affect your Netflix streaming speed, causing pixelation and interruptions.
Netflix System Requirements
To play Netflix instant movies and TV shows on your computer, you must have an overall broadband Internet connection of at least 1.5 megabits per second (Mbps) for standard definition and 3 Mbps for high definition. If you're using a Windows computer, you must have at least Windows XP SP2, Vista or 7, Internet Explorer 6.0, Firefox 3 or Chrome 7, a 1.2 gigahertz (GHz) processor and 512 megabytes (MB) of RAM. If you're on a Mac, your computer must be Intel-based and have OS 10.4.11 or higher installed. You must also have Safari 3 or Firefox 3 or later and 1 gigabyte (GB) of RAM.
If your computer or Internet connection don't meet these minimum system requirements, then you will not be able to stream Netflix instant movies and TV episodes at an acceptable level of quality and without interruption.
Run a Speed Test
What your Internet service provider says your download speed is and what it actually is are two different things. In order to find the actual speed at which you're downloading Netflix instant streaming movies and TV, you must test your Internet connection. You can do this quickly and easily online.
One of the best sites to test your Internet speed is Speedtest.net. When you click Begin Test Recommended Server, Speedtest.net automatically chooses a server near you. You can choose Begin Test Your Preferred Server if you have an account with Speedtest.net and are logged in. You can also select a server by clicking on the white dots on the map. This test provides both your download speed and upload speed. It's normal for the upload speed to be significantly slower than the download speed.
Another great Internet speed test is the CNET Bandwidth Meter. You just select your location, then the speed test starts automatically. This site measures your download speed in kilobits per second (Kbps), so you must divide by 1000 to get your speed in Mbps. CNET's website provides only your download speed in its test results.
You must have Adobe Flash Player installed to run these online speed tests. You can run multiple tests on multiple sites to get an average download speed.
Shut Down Competing Software and Devices
If you're having trouble with streaming Netflix movies and TV, and your computer meets their system requirements, you may have other software or devices competing for the same bandwidth resources. You can find out which programs are running on a Windows computer by pressing CTRL+ALT+DELETE simultaneously to pull up Task Manager. (On a Mac, click Applications, Utilities and then Activity Monitor.)
Review the processes listed to determine which ones are using the most bandwidth. Neither Task Manager nor Activity Monitor will tell how much each process is using directly; however, both of these utilities have a Network tab that will tell you how much of your network resources are being used at any given time. Take care when ending processes manually. Ending certain essential processes while they're running can crash your computer. Types of programs that tend to use up bandwidth include online backup, BitTorrent, download managers and automatic update software.
Also check any other computers on your network to see if they're running any bandwidth-intensive programs. Turn off these programs or for even better results, shut down the other computers completely.
Other devices on your network may be using your available bandwidth. These include Internet-connected game consoles, Blu-ray players, HDTVs and digital video players. Turn these off and, if necessary, unplug them. (The Roku digital video player, for example, is an always-on device that must be unplugged to be turned off.)
Resolving IP Address Conflicts
If you have an IP address conflict with another device, your Internet connection can slow down to a crawl. The best way to resolve these is to shut down the competing device. However, if you must leave the other device on, you can solve the problem another way. Open a command window. To do this in Windows XP, click Start, Run, type cmd in the field and press Enter. In Windows Vista and 7, type cmd in the Start Search box, then select cmd.exe from the list of programs. Type ipconfig/release at the command prompt and press Enter. Then type ipconfig/renew and press Enter again. When this step is complete, your computer should have a new IP address, which hopefully will not conflict with other devices.
Test Your Download Speed Again
Running another download speed test will tell you whether your efforts to free up bandwidth were successful. If not, continue troubleshooting your Internet connection until you get an acceptable available download speed (preferably over 1.2 Mbps.)