Beginner's Guide to Streaming Video

Learn more about online TV streaming and streaming movies online

Thanks to major improvements in network data transmission capabilities and the processing speed of computing devices, it's no longer necessary to download media content to your hard drive. Instead, you can stream it from online sources, which allows you to watch in real time without using up valuable storage space. You can watch streaming video directly on your computer, tablet or smartphone, or directly on your television if you have an Internet-connected "smart TV." You can also connect your home theater and PC, which allows you to access online content through your computer and watch it on your TV screen. Finally, streaming video technology is used to let you rent movies online, through services like Netflix.

Common Questions About Streaming Video

Here are the answers to the most common questions beginners ask about online TV streaming and streaming movies online:

  • What type of equipment do I need? If you want to stream content directly off the Internet, all you will need is an Internet-connected device, such as a laptop, tablet or smartphone. However, if you want to stream content which is physically stored on a hard drive to a different device, you will have to create a connection between those two devices. See below for more information on this question.
  • Do I have to configure anything in my computer's operating system? Again, making changes to your operating system's configuration is only necessary if you want to stream content stored on one device on a different device. In that case, you will have to make sure that the original device is "discoverable" by the second device, which may require you to make some minor changes to your operation system's configuration. To do this in Windows, access your Control Panel, choose Network and Internet, then choose Network and Sharing Center, and finally, you will enable the "network discovery" feature.
  • Can I stream video to more than one device? Yes, you can, but you will have to connect the two devices together if the media is physically stored on one of them. For content which is stored on the Internet, all you will need to view streaming video is an Internet connection with sufficient broadband allowances.
  • Are there any compatibility issues to consider? With "plug and play" technology having become the norm, compatibility issues are becoming increasingly uncommon. You shouldn't have to worry too much about devices being compatible with each other, so long as they were purchased in the past few years, after "plug and play" standards hit the marketplace. The only other compatibility issue you may have to worry about involves codecs, which may be an issue if you're using an older version of Windows Media Player to stream video content. In most cases, you can download codec packs or install the latest version of Windows Media Player to overcome these issues.
  • Does streaming media affect my data consumption allowance? If you are using a second device which is connected to an initial device on which the video content is physically stored, then no, you are not consuming any bandwidth. However, if you are viewing content which is stored on the Internet, then yes, you are using bandwidth and you need to be careful about your consumption rates, unless you have unlimited monthly bandwidth usage.
  • My online video frequently pauses to buffer. How can I overcome this problem? Generally speaking, you will need a connection speed of at least 2 megabytes per second if you want to experience interruption-free video streaming that overcomes buffering issues. If you have a slower connection and you don't want to upgrade to a faster one, you'll have to make some sacrifices. One way to get past buffering issues is to pause the video just after beginning to play it, to allow it to load fully. This gives the buffering a sort of "head start," allowing time to load the rest of the video while you watch.
  • Are there any security issues related to streaming video that I should worry about? Generally, no, you will not have to worry much about security issues when it comes to streaming video. Make sure, though, that you are using a secured wireless network to access the Internet.

While streaming online video may sound complicated, it's a very simple process once you've learned the basics. Streaming media is here to stay, so if you haven't yet taken advantage of this convenient technological advancement, now is a great time to get your feet wet.

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