What Is Buffering? A Simple Buffering Definition

You’ve probably seen the terms “buffering” and “buffer” thrown around quite a bit in the technology world, but it can harder to find a buffering definition that is easy to understand. In short, just know that whatever the form of buffering — and there are different kinds — it generally speeds up what you trying to do on a computer. Buffering can prevent lag when you’re streaming video or prevent slow performance when you’re playing a graphics-intensive video game on your desktop computer.

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Buffering involves pre-loading data into a certain area of memory known as a “buffer,” so the data can be accessed more quickly when one of the computer’s processing units — such as a GPU for video games or other forms of graphics, or a CPU for general computer processing — needs the data.

Too Much Internet Buffering Could Mean a Slow Network Connection

One common form of buffering occurs when your broadband connection is too slow to stream a video in real time. So your computer will buffer the video data — starting playback when there is enough to prevent video lag. If you see this happen often, it might be time to upgrade your broadband speed, or maybe reset your router, if the download rate is lower than advertised by your Internet provider.

Buffer Overflow Can Be a Problem

Sometimes too much data gets loaded into a buffer, causing a buffer overflow, which is a technique used by hackers to take control of a computer or infect it with a virus. Recent advancements in the ways that programming languages handle memory lessens the chance of a buffer overflow happening, but some older programs are still at risk.

While buffering in general helps you to enjoy better computing performance, it can also mean that your Internet connection isn’t quite up to snuff (remember: check your performance regularly with a bandwidth speed test from BandwidthPlace.com). Whatever the reason your computer or video game system is using its buffer, you’re better off now that you have a buffering definition.