Optimizing Streaming Media Playback In Microsoft Windows XP

Streaming media servers allow Web users to enjoy lengthy audio or video clips without having to first download a large file. After establishing a connection to the server, Windows Media Player downloads the beginning of the clip and stores it in a buffer, which is then used for playback while the Player continues downloading the remainder of the media file.

If all goes well, this buffer supplies a steady stream to the Player, masking any momentary glitches in the connection. If the connection should falter long enough that the buffer runs out of content, however, playback stalls as the Player tries to re-establish the connection and fill up the buffer once again.

In general, Windows Media Player does a fine job of automatically sensing the speed of the connection and setting playback parameters for optimal performance. In some cases, you may need to tweak these settings. This is especially true if your connection speed is erratic.

If you find that streaming media playback is frequently interrupted, you may want to increase the size of the buffer slightly. To do so, choose Tools, Options. On the Performance tab, click Buffer nn Seconds of Content. Try increasing the buffer size in 5-second increments until streaming clips play back reliably.