What is buffering? Why that annoying message at the start of online videos is a necessary evil

All you need to know about that irritating delay at the start of online videos.

We use the internet so much nowadays it’s hard to remember a time before it. So when it doesn’t work properly, it’s mightily annoying.

In this article we’ll explain what buffering is, what causes it and how you can remedy it. Because we should all be able to watch cat videos without delay.

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What is buffering?

Buffering is a way of watching video online without having to download the whole video first. Rather, when you click Play, the first few seconds of the video are downloaded and stored in a memory cache on your computer. Hence you might see a slight delay in the start of the video playback. You may also see the word ‘buffering’ at this point.

Why does buffering occur?

By downloading the first few seconds of the video first, you should have a decent chunk of the video ready to go before you start watching. That way, the rest of the video will run smoothly, unless your connection drops. If we didn’t have buffering, the video would only play as a new bit of it was downloaded, which would mean a very jerky viewing experience.

How can you avoid buffering?

Simple: press Pause. We know we’re all used to instant gratification and we want to watch a video right away, but trust us. Pause the video as soon as it starts playing and wait a few seconds for more of it to download. Admittedly it does mean delaying watching the video by a few seconds, but at least once it starts you can be assured that it’ll play smoothly throughout.

You could also upgrade your broadband, as a slow connection will mean longer buffering times. Or if you’re out and about, try somewhere which has speedier wi-fi.

[Read more: What is the difference between a megabit and a megabyte?]

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