I admit it. I binge-watched Netflix’s House of Cards and fell down the “just one more episode” rabbit hole. With a slew of new shows and movies hitting the service’s 81 million customers, here are three tips to remember the next time that you decide to take up residence on your couch for the weekend.
1. Check your speed
Nothing takes all the excitement out of streaming quite like buffering. When that happens, pull up Fast.com on your phone, tablet, computer or TV. It’s a new site powered by Netflix that shows you how fast (or slow) your connection is in real-time. Although it won’t stop the buffering from happening, it will help you pinpoint what might be causing it.
For starters, Netflix recommends minimum Internet connection speeds of three megabits per second for standard-definition video quality, five Mbps for HD, and 25 Mbps for Ultra HD content.
Like most things, your mileage may vary. Check your connection speed using Fast.com at various times throughout the day, and especially during the 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. peak hours, to see if the results are consistently low. Slow Internet connection speeds will cause buffering.
A reboot may be all you need to regain speed. But you just can’t start pulling plugs out of the wall. Power down your router first and then, your modem. Wait a full 30 seconds. Then power up the modem first and then, the router. The lights will start blinking on each and in another 60 seconds you should be ready to try another speed test.
Failed again? Time to look at your Internet bill and find the connection speed you are paying for. Compare it to the Fast.com test results. If the numbers vary more than 10 percent, call your Internet service provider and complain. If you want to double-check your Internet connection speed results, head over to Speedtest.net.
2. Avoid data overage charges
Watching Netflix on your phone or tablet can quickly consume your data plan or cause expensive overage charges. Streaming typically uses around 1 GB of data per hour for standard definition, and a whopping 3 GB per hour for HD.
It’s best if you watch using the Netflix app. The app includes specific Cellular Data Usage settings. There are five options: Wi-Fi only, low, medium, high and unlimited.
Using the Wi-Fi only setting will prevent you from streaming when you’re not connected to a Wi-Fi network. The lowest setting lets you stream around four hours per GB of data, the medium setting lets you stream around two hours, and the high setting lets you stream around one hour. The unlimited setting is only recommended for people who have unlimited data available on their cellular plans, since it can use up to one GB of data every 20 minutes.
3. Use hidden categories
When you sit down for a binge session, you probably spend more time than you'd like digging to find your next favorite show. That's why all Netflix users will benefit from this little secret for finding hidden genre categories.
To use this trick, you'll need to be logged into your Netflix account on your PC, rather than your TV, phone or tablet. As you browse, you'll notice the URL at the top of your browser’s window will look something like this: www.netflix.com/browse/genre/1402.
That number at the end is the genre code, and you can pull up a lot of different genres just by changing it. Here is a list of codes for various categories:
10005 - Religious Documentaries
10256 - Slapstick Comedies
11177 - TV Cartoons
1402 - Late Night Comedies
32473 - Classic Foreign Movies
46576 - Classic Action & Adventure
5507 - Animal Tales
6384 - Tearjerkers
67673 - Disney
7018 - Political Documentaries
7700 - Westerns
9584 - Crime Action & Adventure
Netflix is constantly reorganizing its catalog of movies and shows. You might occasionally come across a URL code that doesn't work. But, this is still an easy way to pull up content you wouldn't otherwise find.
Bonus: Improve your viewing choices
If you have several people in the house using one Netflix account, be sure to set each person up with his or her own Netflix profile to avoid conflicts. On the Netflix website, click Manage Profiles in the top right corner to get started.
If you ever change your mind about a rating you’ve given a particular show or movie, you can make adjustments at any time. In your account settings, under My Profile, click My Activity. There, you’ll see a list of everything you’ve rated for the past few months, and you can change it.
Netflix is constantly adding and removing movies and shows from the service. Netflix favorite "Orange is the New Black" is back with its fourth season on June 17, along with a brand new Netflix original, "A Very Secret Service" and a new comedy special from Bo Burnham. On top of the great original content, Netflix is getting some other great stuff to watch too, such as the original “Jurassic Park” trilogy, "Spotlight," "J. Edgar" and "Bob Ross: Beauty is Everywhere."
But just as new titles appear, that means some have to disappear. Click here for a list of what’s coming and going in June on Netflix. Then, make the popcorn!
Copyright 2016, WestStar Multimedia Entertainment. All rights reserved.
Kim Komando hosts the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show as she takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle. Visit Komando.com for free podcasts, videos, product reviews, shows, tips and advice.