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How to Reduce Netflix Bandwidth Usage to Avoid ISP Data Caps

Posted by Jim Tanous on April 16, 2015
netflix bandwidth data usage

The Internet has fundamentally changed productivity and is in the process of forcing big changes in the television industry, with millions of users now watching the bulk of their TV and movie hours via services like Netflix. But many consumers are also still stuck with data caps, limiting the amount of content they can download each month via their Internet service provider. Online video, particularly HD video, can quickly eat up your bandwidth, resulting in slower speeds from your ISP or costly overage charges. Instead of giving up on Netflix halfway through the month, however, you can force the service to use a lower quality video stream that lets you still enjoy your movies and shows while significantly reducing bandwidth usage.
netflix bandwidth data usage
To set your Netflix data usage, log in to your Netflix account, click your account name at the top-right portion of the browser window, and select Your Account.
netflix bandwidth data usage
On the Account page, scroll down until you see Playback Settings listed in the “My Profile” section. Click it to view data usage and episode playback settings.
netflix bandwidth data usage
There are four quality settings that will affect both picture quality and data usage:

Auto: attempts to provide the highest quality for the current connection speed and signal strength

Low: reduced standard definition video quality that will use up to 300MB per hour of streaming

Medium: standard DVD-quality video at up to 700MB per hour

High: HD-quality video (on supported content) that can use up to 3GB (3000MB) per hour. For Netflix’s “Ultra HD” content, expect up to 7GB (7000MB) of usage

For the bandwidth-conscious on very limited data caps, sticking with the “Low” setting will ensure that you can still enjoy Netflix content with minimal impact on data usage. Even moving to the “Medium” setting will provide decent quality without a significant bandwidth hit. Just make sure to monitor your data usage via your ISP or a third party utility and adjust your Netflix settings accordingly.
Any changes you make to your Netflix data usage settings will take immediate effect in your Web browser, but note that you must reload (or sign out and then sign back in again) on any Netflix-enabled devices (Xbox One, PS4, Roku, Apple TV, etc.) for the change to be applied.
In addition to avoiding ISP data caps, reducing your Netflix quality can also help ensure smooth playback. The “Auto” setting does a pretty good job in general, but if you’re seeing buffering and playback issues on a slower Internet connection, manually setting the quality to “Medium” or “Low” may help provide uninterrupted playback. Reducing Netflix data usage can also keep your own network bandwidth free for other important tasks such as video chatting, VoIP calls, or large file transfers.
Due to the variety of each users’ Internet speeds, data caps, and network configuration, there’s no universally applicable recommended setting for Netflix bandwidth. Therefore, take some time to experiment with the different settings to determine which works best for your needs, but remember to reload any Netflix apps on your media devices each time you make a change.

3 thoughts on “How to Reduce Netflix Bandwidth Usage to Avoid ISP Data Caps”

Brent says:
What I need to know is how to change streaming quality for only 1 user profile
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Gonzo Angrymonkey says:
Is there a similar fix for HBO now? (Streaming on Xbox one in my case). I’m hogging all the bandwidth through our router when I stream hd, ruins others’ online gaming experience.
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LokiCoyote says:
does this lower the quality on my xbox one netflix too?… I just changed it from high to low on my computer, but the image quality still looks exactly the same on the xbox, so I’m not sure if it worked..
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TekRevue says:
Did you log out and then back in again within the Xbox Netflix app? From the article:

Any changes you make to your Netflix data usage settings will take immediate effect in your Web browser, but note that you must reload (or sign out and then sign back in again) on any Netflix-enabled devices (Xbox One, PS4, Roku, Apple TV, etc.) for the change to be applied.

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