Silent Archimedes

Netflix Watch Instantly Silverlight workaround for Windows XP

Posted by silentarchimedes on March 29, 2009

Netflix Watch Instantly Silverlight 2.0 workaround for Windows XP

I might have a pseudo-workaround for this problem… At least it worked for me.

Like many people, I have been having choppy streaming video using Silverlight on Netflix’s Watch Instantly on my Windows XP computer. The problem appears to be that Silverlight does not buffer ahead enough. The next problem is that Silverlight dynamically determines the play speed (500, 1000, 1500 Kbs) and the accompanying buffer rate (500, 1000, 1500 Kbs) so the user has very little control over it. This is the sequence I noticed every time:

1. Start Netflix player

2. Video is smooth for the first 10 sec or so.

3. Video begins to become choppy (frame dropping) and unwatchable.

And it never recovers.


So SIlverlight comes with a hidden diagnostic menu. On my XP, press Shift-Alt at the same time and click on the video with the left mouse button. A Diagnostic menu shows up under the mouse pointer (Figure 1).

Press Shift-Alt and click on video

Figure 1: Press Shift-Alt and click on video

Click on the A/V menu item. What I noticed was this:

1. Start Netflix player.

2. Press Shift-Alt and click on the video with mouse (Figure 1).

3. Bring up A/V menu item. I noticed the Playing video bitrate was 500, and the Buffering video bitrate was 1500 (Figure 2). Sounds good right? Well…

Figure 2: Initial play/buffer rates when player starts

Figure 2: Initial play rate is 500 and buffer rate is 1500 when player starts

3. After about 10 sec, the play rate started to dynamically increase from 500 to 1000 to 1500. I noticed that the instant the play rate went up to 1000 and then 1500, the video became choppy. I also noticed the buffering bitrate dropped to 1000. Now the play rate was faster than the buffer bitrate! At the bottom of the A/V Stats, the Dropped Frames (/sec) had also increased to 15-20+ (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Video becomes choppy. Play rate:1500, buffer rate:1000

Figure 3: Video becomes choppy. Play rate:1500, buffer rate:1000


So the key here is how to decrease the play rate or increase the buffer rate. This worked for me:

1. Press Shift-Alt and click on the video with mouse.

2. Click on Stream Manager and check the Manual Selection box. Then check the 500 bitrate box (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Open up the Stream Manager Menu

Figure 4: Open up the Stream Manager Menu

3. Now bring up the A/V menu item again. You will notice that the playrate is still 1500, but the buffering rate is now 500.

4. The video will remain choppy until Silverlight recognizes this major discrepancy. For me, the playing bitrate eventually dropped to 500 to coincide with the buffer rate. This could take a few minutes. What worked really well for me was moving the playbar back to the beginning. When they are both even at 500, the video was no longer choppy and was watchable for the rest of the video. When it works, the Dropped Frames (/sec) never goes above 2.

Figure 5: Smooth video. Rates both at 500.

Figure 5: Smooth video. Rates both at 500.

If this didn’t work, look at the important notes below:

Important note 1: I noticed that clicking on the Manual Selection box and 500  doesn’t always update the rates right away. The A/V Stats still showed play rate at 1500 and buffer rate at 500. I would go to the Stream Manager, and although the Manual box is still checked, the bitrate had reverted back to 1500. Try moving the play bar around… maybe to the beginning of the video. For me, this would instantly switch both rates to 500.

Important note 2: If it still doesn’t work, try clicking again on the 500 box. Get out of the menu. Check the A/V Stats, and the play rate should eventually drop to 1000. When it happens go back to the Stream Manager, and the 500 bitrate box should now be checked and set. When it works, the Current at the top should say 500, and the play rate and buffer rate in A/V Stats should both say 500.

If the playrate is not automatically dropping to 500 after a while, try moving the play bar to the beginning of the video. Or restart your browser and try again.

Important note 3: If both rates say 500, but the video remains choppy and then the play rate goes back up to 1000, it is because the video is so far behind, it it is having a hard time catching up. So what I do is either move the play bar ahead or to the beginning.  I usually do that anyways,so I can watch the video from the beginning!

Important note 4: You will have to redo the whole syncing process if you watch another video, so it’s a crude workaround. Also, sometimes I noticed if I watched another video in a sequence (like a sitcom) by clicking on the arrows at the bottom; although both rates were at 500, the dropped frames/sec was still somewhat high (~10). One work around for this is to close and open your browser again. When it works, the Dropped Frames (/sec) should never go above 2 or 3.

This method seems to work for me every time and playing at the 500 bitrate was very watchable. It gets faster too once you get the process down.

The computer I tried this on is a pretty old computer:

Dell Precision Workstation 420 MT, 512RAM, Pentium IIIE, 1000Mhz
Microsoft Windows XP Professional with SP3
Matrox Graphics Millennium G400 MAX AGP
Dell 17″ monitor at 1280×1024

My Internet connection is Fast Ethernet. And it worked with both IE6 and Firefox 3.0.8. It did seem that this method was more reliable for IE than Firefox though.

Let me know if this method worked for you or if it didn’t. If you also have other experiences regarding this method or suggestions, please post a comment so others can learn from it.

Good luck!

60 Responses to “Netflix Watch Instantly Silverlight workaround for Windows XP”

  1. martin said

    Unfortunately the fix didn’t work for me — I wasn’t able to “apply” the manual stream settings. But you seem to have done more work on a fix than netflix has, so thanks for the post!

  2. Jim said

    Was able to adjust bitrate in stream manager so both playback and buffer were at 500, but still had very choppy video, with dropped frame rates consistently over 20 per second. I did all you suggested, and tried it in both Firefox 3.08 and IE 8 – no difference.

  3. Jim2 said

    It seems that if you change the stream manager setting to manual, it will buffer the whole movie.

  4. Paul said

    Hey thanks, that did help me so far. The quality is poor, blurry but not too choppy anymore. It’s workable but no where near as good as the old player. I have a pentium M 1.6GHz with 1.5G ram.

  5. tessa said

    I have an old sony vaio laptop, xp pro sp2, Pentium 4 2.80GHz, 512ram, AT&T/Bellsouth DSL. Until the switch to silverlight I had no experiences with Netflix being choppy, whereas sites like Hulu are unbearable at times. Video quality on Netflix with the old player was low, but never choppy. In fact I always thought Netflix would be perfect if their player (the old one) was combined with Hulu content.

    I tried your solution and it significantly decreased the choppy playback. It occasionally gets hung up still, but I can actually make it through a whole video. Thanks!

  6. Carl said

    worked for me. excellent post. after 14 months, I am able to watch netflix movies online again. Wouldn’t it be great if Silverlight does allow the manual settings to stick so that we don’t have to fuss with it all the time?

  7. Steve G said

    I’ve been messing around or at least paying attention to this over the past few weeks.

    I’ve done a lot of testing from different locations on different computers all of varying CPU power..
    Also tested with other peoples accounts and home computers while visiting.
    Most that I’ve tested were faster than 2.4GHz and multi-core Desktop systems.
    Tested 5 high end laptop systems as well.
    Some were very fast single core gaming systems with VERY clean installs with few as possible services and software running on them including
    no anti-virus/spyware/firewall software including WIndows firewall..
    These are dedicated gaming or media boxes and do not need those types of software running on them.

    Bottom line my opinion is that the Silverlight Video and/or codec simply sucks that’s it.
    In ALL cases I had no dropped frames (per the diagnostics screen/menu)and was testing with excellent Internet connectivity..
    In ALL tests I see what I percieve as jerkyness or to describe it more precisely.. dropped or completely missing frames regardless of
    buffers & frame counts showing no loss at all.
    The frames are simply not there I suspect dropped at netflix in the encoding process because they need to do that to keep it at 1.5Mbps
    In all my tests I’m showing plenty of buffer filled (nearly or at 100%) and zero dropped frames…
    you can really see the dropped frames in the scrolling credits at the end of a show..
    I NEVER had this problem with the old player at all..
    This sucks.. I’m not terribly upset because I don’t watch it that much it was just an added cool thing for us when it was flawless..
    I can’t stand the jerky dropped frame video.. it’s lame.
    I go as far as to say I think anyone and everyone who is not complaining and saying “it’s fine” simply is not that picky.
    It’s fine if you’re used to 20FPS web video.
    If you have a good eye for video and what it should look like it’s not fine at all… across the board I’m convinced of that.
    I’ve even tried CPU affinity to one CPU core and setting it as realtime priority (as well as using a very fast single core CPU and same test)..
    No different same intermittent missing frame look…
    I’ve always got a good 1.5Mbps stream in all of my tests.
    I say it’s bad where it’s being encoded period!
    And a lot of folks are not that picky.


  8. oleesa said

    Thanks! it works for me!!!

  9. Nebsi said

    THANK YOU!! Worked excellently for me.

  10. Mike said

    I want to send you a Christmas card. Your advice to change the buffering worked perfectly for me after spending a day in and out of chat sites listening to morons. Thank you very much.

  11. Scott said

    I tried the above. No go for me. I surfed around and found a site that mentioned a few other things to try. Still no go. Then I tried this and it works. Now when I start Netflix using either my computer or my uncle’s computer, if it’s jumpy, I run a batch file I created to delete 1 little file. Then I close my browser and reopen it and go back to my movie at Netflix and everything runs smoothly. I use windows XP Pro 64bit. My uncle’s computer is Windows XP Media center edition. As I said this works on both of our computers. There’s a file called ‘mspr.hds’ and I think it gets corrupted or something. By simply deleting it it resolves my problems. On my uncle’s system and mine it’s located here:

    C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Microsoft\PlayReady\mspr.hds

    What I do is right click the desktop and make a new text document. Then inside that document I add this:

    del /q “C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Microsoft\PlayReady\mspr.hds”

    Make sure to include the quotes and all. Then save it and change the extention from .txt to .bat
    In order to do so you may have to change your settings so your windows xp does not hide file extensions. Then simply run the batch file any time your having a jumpy/choppy playback experience, and restart your browser. I hope this helps others. Happy instant viewing to you all.

  12. Rob said

    Thank you, this information has greatly helped! I am sure that as one poster said, some frames may be dropped at the netflix end, but I was definitely able to improve playback with NO dropped frames by slowing down the buffer speed. It seems my computer couldn’t handle the playback rate though my internet connection could. Netflix has gone from unwatchable to very pleasant.

  13. Randy said

    The solutions described here didn’t help me, but the stuttering or choppy effect seems to be caused by a conflict between Silverlight and the PC’s audio drivers. On some forums, I’ve noticed that people have success by turning off certain settings in their audio software or even deleting system files used by the audio driver. I was able to solve the problem by updating my audio driver. Control Panel > System > Hardware > Device Manager. In “Sound, video and game controllers,” I selected my audio driver (SoundMAX Integrated Digital HD Audio), opened Properties, clicked the Driver tab, and clicked Update Driver. I let the driver automatically update to “Microsoft UAA Function Driver for High Definition Audio – Adi 1986” and it worked. No more stuttering! Hope this helps.

  14. Anonymous said

    You are a saint.

  15. Some Dude said

    Tried Netflix to try and go legit. What a waste of time that was. Playback was god awful. Video would pause waiting for buffer to refill all the time. Anyway, quit Netflix and life is good again. Silverlight is pure rubbish; it should be called aluminumlight or tinlight or something like that. Anyway, if I try netflix again I’ll try this Shift+Alt + click on video trick and see if it works. But, honestly, Netflix sucks… it is not a viable alternative to other methods of watching movies over the net as of yet.

    Thanks for the info though.

  16. Tanya said

    dude, this totally helped. I am using Windows XP, 32 bit, SP 3 and it completely stopped the stuttering, thank you! I looked at 30 different articles before I found yours, yours is the only one that even gave me advice on settings, good job.

  17. Michael said

    Thank you so very much for taking the time to make what is an unusable codec into a manageable one and, just as commendably, taking the time to describe your findings in a clear, detailed post for the benefit of Silverlight sufferers everywhere. With your help, I was able to transform a seven-year-old Toshiba Satellite 3005 notebook computer into a small-scale “media center,” giving the old gray machine a new green lease on life. Next up: Coding an AutoHotKey macro to automate the setting of the bitrate whenever a film begins streaming or, at least, whenever I strike a combination of keys. Should something useful come of my efforts, I’ll stop back here and post the code for the macro.

  18. WEll-Duh said

    This issue has to do with how Netflix wrote its videoplayer using SilverLight. For practical purposes the NetFlix player is almost unbuffered. Specifically 1MB represents less than 1/4% of the data in typical movie at just watchable quality.

    Basically Netflix calculates delivery quality and assumes that delivery rate is all but constantly available. For many geographically well placed people that is true.

    However, many other people do not get this level of Internet service for reasons somewhat similar to why not every place has DSL, top speed DSL or cable. The farther you are from major Internet routers the less likely your actually available bandwidth is constant. Plus varied demands of heavy local user loads also tends to ruin that perfect stream. Unfortunately the NetFlix player is written to deplete the buffer before lowering the playback rate or increase the download speed to refill the buffer so it doesn’t mater if you generally have much higher bandwidth available — only that each momentary dip below the NEtflix set rate depletes that buffer more.

    Why does NetFlix do this? Because if fast filling buffers are tiny and data rates must be constant then they can CHEAPLY serve a fairly precise number of users. Allowing big buffers that fill fast initially and allowing surging data rates means Netflix need more far more hardware and bandwidth than the combined user average data rate suggests to meet peak demand (or serve fewer paying customers).

    So its not a Microsoft software issue except maybe in training and clarity to programmer. Its possible that NetFlix programmer were confused by changes in Silverlight 4. Silverlight is NOT a complete video player but rather a language which makes writing a tuned video player easy. Its also possible that NEtflix programmers do not 100% understand the impact of different Internet environments. They may assume that if the player works for them on their network and local city — then the player must work for everyone barring user error.

  19. Don said

    looks good thanks at 1500 all ok also.

  20. athackerart said

    I tried this fix seemed to work for a minute then went choppy again. Then I tried Scotts fix by deleting:

    C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Microsoft\PlayReady\mspr.hds

    This worked the best. I didn’t quite understand about creating the .bat file. But, when I delete the above file it works like a charm. Thank you Scott. If I were a younger lady I would kiss you.

  21. Batshua said

    Window XP Pro Service Pack 3, which I only use for freaking streaming Netflix anyway (it’s a virtual machine on a homebuilt PVR) Recently it has decided to buffer but it WILL NOT PLAY. I could not seem to invoke the dialogue box you’re talking about, the only thing I could invoke was the regular Silverlight settings. If anyone has advice, I’d really appreciate it.

  22. Carl764 said

    Thanks, this fix worked wonders for me! (Although it’s now 560 instead of 500.) Windows XP Service Pack 3, Chrome 12.0)

  23. AngelzLi said

    months ive been searching for a solution (and yes being very cautious and leery of whose advice i took on websites) until i found this site nothing else worked, not even a little. but these steps worked! easy and quick and i have had no problems after i set the new bit rate and it holds. i dont mind doing it, its so quick its rly not much of a bother. of course id prefer to NOT have to do it…but for now if this works…i feel as if im at least getting my moneys worth on netflix lol ty sooooo much for these tips and the step by step instructions with pics, u are too awesome to post this ty!

  24. netflixgirl said

    Thanks! This worked! I was pulling my hair out!

  25. For those wondering about batch files:

    Open “Noptepad” in Programs >Accessories.

    Cut and paste “Scott”‘s line

    del /q “C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Microsoft\PlayReady\mspr.hds”

    into the Note[pad document.

    Select File > Save As

    Type the name “fixflix.bat” in the name field over “*.txt”, choose a location to save it to, then click “Save” (or name it whatever you want, but keep the .bat part)

    What you get is an icon with a gear on it.
    Windows makes this file open in DOS and execute the file deletion command that deletes the troublesome file.

    About to try the manual buffer settings. WHY oh WHY does Microsoft hide that menu?
    They LIKE their users hating their guts?

  26. Karen said

    Finally! Changing the manual buffer settings actually worked. I am amazed it was so simple.

  27. Anonymous said

    Thank you! Amazing fix.

  28. Allan said

    This worked very well for me.
    Using Windows 7 on a Lenovo laptop. The laptop has very fast everything. Lots of RAM.

    Thank you exceedingly.

  29. Anonymous said

    Worked for me too. Thanks!

  30. G said

    You’re a god! This has been driving me nuts for months. This seems to have fixed it for me,

  31. Dr. Kronzeaux said

    Dude, you freakin rock. Although I have to do this every video(Silverlight sucks), thanks a million.

    -Dr. Kronzeaux

  32. Thanks a ton! Three different browsers, all choppy. This fixed it!

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  34. Dan said

    i played around with this and it worked, for a while. I was able to adjust the buffering bitrate, but the playing bitrate always jumped up and screwed me. i’m using a fairly old laptop and just assumed that was the cost, crappy video. i realized however, that netflix was playing in HD, so i unchecked that and problem solved. no more choppy video. should have been the first thing i checked, but hey, we are all dumb every now and then.

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  36. Jazzy said

    I have Vista and it still worked for me! Thanks so much for this!! End of 2010 and beginning of 2011, I got through 2 entire series on instant watch using my home computer. I find myself asking if that really happened or if I dreamed it all because for the past 6+ months, I can’t watch 15 seconds of ANYTHING without it playing like a slide show. What happened??? No matter how much buffering I let it do, playback sucked. Netflix customer service employees are nice, but they are no help at all in technical support. They told me to update Silverlight & reboot my modem & if that didn’t work, it was a problem with my ISP which of course wasn’t true. I tried updating my audio drivers, removing my audio drivers and installing again, and nothing worked. My #1 pastime became cruising forums in hopes of finding a fix for this. I saw a link to this article in another article and boy, am I glad I found it! It’s cumbersome having to adjust on every video you watch but with the alternative I’ve been dealing with for the majority of this year, I’ll deal! 🙂 Thanks again, silentarchimedes!!!!!!!

  37. Chris said

    Sweet! The buffer rate change worked for me beautifully! Dell Inspirion 1521 Vista. Dank u wel!

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  40. Anonymous said

    Windows 7, fast laptop, but was still skipping. This worked for me, as long as I set a low value 1500 or less. High value makes it skip. Watching the movie at first is fast because value stays low, but slowly with time value increases and it starts to skip. Makes no sense!

  41. Anonymous said

    I works thanks! I do have to do it every
    time I start a new video and then start the video over again, but it works great after that! Thanks.

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  43. Nora said

    Thanks so much! This fixed it and it is a MIRACLE! I don’t have cable; College life…now I have SOMETHING to watch lol

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  57. FreeFlyFreak said

    Well this workaround, although it kind of improved things it is quite tedious di do it everytime and didn’t totally fix my problem of the video seizing up after stuttering for a while..

    What did fix my problem was changing the version of the video driver, although silverlight indicates it is not using the video card and the option to have it use the card is greyed out in the silverlight control panel.

    I tried multiple video drivers on my old (2003) toshiba laptop all with no success and had basically given up, before I struck the gold within the 7811 nvidia driver
    The driver I am using is an nvidia laptop video driver from Dell, nVidia GeForce FX Go5200, v., A05

    I had to force install through the Device Manager using the “have disk” option because my laptop is a Toshiba and the Dell .exe will not install on other than a Dell laptop.
    But since installing the 7811 driver I have zero stuttering and my CPU usage has gone down from 90-100% to 30-80% most usually in the mid 30’s

    I would recommend picking up this 7811 nvidia driver from Dell if you have a laptop, and from whatever source you can find if you have a desktop it solved all my seize ups and stuttering.
    The video quality is not quite as good as the seize up drivers but it plays!
    When I say the video quality is not quite as good I notice slight tearing on quick side to side panning, and in vertical panning of the camera it it almost like it skips the odd frame.
    But it never stutters, loses sync of video and voice, and eventually seize up like previously.

    At last!

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