The last thing you want is for your Fire TV Stick to start buffering while you enjoy your favorite movie or series. Imagine starting to watch the Mandalorian on Disney+ only for your TV to start buffering after every 5 minutes. That’s just unbearable. Luckily, there are several ways of fixing buffering issues and improving the streaming quality on the Fire Stick.
Now troubleshooting slow internet speeds on your Fire TV is a game of elimination. You will have to find the issue by testing and verifying a combination of possible causes. One or two of them might be actual cause of buffering on your Fire TV. So we shall go through a number of possibilities.
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Keep in mind that if you are watching a 1080p Full HD movie or series, you need at least 5Mbps internet speeds and a 4K movie will require at least 25Mbps. So you have to know the internet plan that you are subscribed to from your Internet Service Provider(ISP) if it’s an unlimited internet package. If you are using Mobile internet from your Smartphone/Tablet or MiFi, then you’ll need to do a speed test from either fast.com or speedtest.net to find out how fast your Network Provider’s 4G LTE network is.
You can use the analiti app from the Amazon app store to perform a speed test directly from your Fire TV. Alternatively, you can visit speedtest.net directly from the Silk browser pre-installed on the Fire TV to perform a speed test. So here are some possible reasons why your Fire TV Stick is buffering.
Internet Service Provider(ISP) Throttling
Even though your ISP promises certain speeds according to your plan, they sometimes can throttle your connection when they detect too much streaming activity. You want to read the fine print(read: Terms & Conditions) of your subscription plan to rule that possibilities that your ISP throttles or slows down your internet speeds after detecting certain browsing activities. ISPs tend to slow you down if you torrent or stream a lot. This is usually mentioned in their so-called Fair Usage Policy(FUP) which aims to avail equal network resource sharing among subscribers. A quick way to verify this is to simply perform a quick internet speed test with any of the internet speed testing services if you suspect throttling from your ISP. Compare the results of your speed tests against your subscription plan. If there’s a mismatch, give them a call.
Check on your WiFi signal or router settings
Another suspect of slow internet connections on your Fire TV could be your WiFi router or MiFi. The location of your WiFi router in relation to your Fire TV Stick is very important. If the router is a bit distant or the two are separated by thick walls or floors, then the WiFi signals and ultimately your internet connection speeds are going to be affected. Make sure your WiFi router is at the very least in the same room as your Fire TV. You can check the WiFi signal strength from your Fire TV by going to Settings > Network. Select WiFi network you’re connected to and check on signal strength.
Also check on your router model and verify if it supports 2.4Ghz band or both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz. Most Fire TV devices support dual-band WiFi on both 2.4 and 5GHz bands through the WiFi 5(802.11ac) standard. The 2.4Ghz band is capable of penetrating through walls better than the 5Ghz counterpart, but is slow and is more susceptible to interference. So if you own a WiFi 5 router, then you can connect your Fire TV through the much faster, less busier 5Ghz band for better streaming experience. You can get the TP-Link AC1750 (Archer A7) Dual-Band Gigabit Wireless Internet WiFi Router for just $54 on Amazon.
Use an Ethernet wired connection
While WiFi is much more convenient and flexible, it’s still prune to interference from thick walls and busy wireless neighborhoods. But connecting your Fire TV to a wired network guarantees absolutely stable fast connection to your router. Unfortunately, the Fire TV stick doesn’t have an Ethernet port. So you need an Ethernet adapter which essentially provides an Ethernet interface to your Fire TV. Luckily, they are quite inexpensive. You can get the $14 Amazon Ethernet Adapter for Amazon Fire TV Devices for this purpose. It works with Fire TV Stick Lite, Fire TV Stick, Fire TV Stick (2nd Gen), Fire TV Stick 4K, Fire TV Stick 4K Max, Fire TV Cube, and Amazon Fire TV (3rd Gen).
Turn off or check your VPN Speeds
A VPN(Virtual Private Network) keeps your data private and secure as you connect to the internet. Most people using Fire TV Sticks also use VPNs to get around Geo-restrictions and blocks. However, using a VPN cuts down on your internet speeds regardless of which provider you use. The fastest VPNs such as ExpressVPN will slash your speeds by just 10% which is okay. However, others such as Windscribe VPN will slow your speeds by upto half !
So to know if your VPN is the culprit, test your internet speeds with the VPN turned on and then when it’s off, then compare the results. If your current VPN severely affects your internet speeds, consider subscribing to a fast one. ExpressVPN, NordVPN, Internet Private Access, IPVanish and Proton VPN have great ratings online. Stay a way from Free VPNs as they can seriously slow down your internet speeds.
Manage storage, Clear cache and background apps
This is a very unlikely reason for buffering on your Fire TV. However, if your device is generally slow, then it’s time to check on your storage usage or any background apps that could be running. If your device storage is almost used up, then streaming Apps won’t have enough space to cache data which often improves on the streaming quality. So either clear cache of most apps or expand on your storage space with an external USB flash disk or portable hard drive.
Read more: How to manage storage space on Fire TV and fix critically low on storage message
You can also reclaim some RAM by closing on background apps. The Fire TV Stick comes with just 1GB of RAM for the base models. If you have opened several streaming apps and don’t close them, they’ll stay running in the background using up your device’s system memory. If you’ve a lot of them running in the background, then will slow down on the device and ultimately cause it to buffer.
What else can you do to improve on your internet connectivity and streaming quality on fire TV?
- Update your Fire TV to the latest version.
- Select a lower video resolution such as 720p, 480p if your streaming app supports this feature.
- Keep your Fire TV Stick from overheating
- Restart or Factory reset your Fire TV Stick.