Streaming can sometimes be fraught with technical difficulties. One of the most common reported issues is stream lag. If you notice your stream stuttering or struggling to keep up, it can usually be attributed to an internet or hardware issue.
Don’t worry though, if you’re experiencing issues, then keep reading to find out how to fix your stream lag.
Why Your Internet May Be Causing Lag
We’re all aware that a good internet connection is essential to streaming. It’s possible to stream on lower speeds, but you may still experience lag for several reasons:
- Heavy traffic on your home network. Are your family/friends/housemates using the same network? If they’re uploading/downloading large files whilst you’re trying to stream, this could be bottlenecking your WiFi Connection.
- Slow network speeds. Unfortunately some of us live in areas with generally slow network speeds. If you’re with a popular ISP, you may find that at certain times you get a slower connection (such as around 6-8pm when most people are at home and online).
- Wrong RMTP settings. In OBS, check that you’re streaming to the right server for your region. Streaming to the wrong server can lead to massive upload issues with your stream and cause lag.
- Your ISP is down. Internet outages can happen from time to time. If you’re finding it impossible to get online, try checking to see if your ISP is down in your area.
- Streaming with the wrong bitrate. If your bitrate is too high for your internet to handle, you will experience a lot of dropped frames in OBS. Check out the table in the next section to ensure that you’re outputting the right settings for your internet.
- Signal interference. Is your streaming set up far away from your modem? Are there lots of walls/rooms/metal objects in between? Many different things can interfere with your WiFi signal and cause your internet to be latent and intermittent.
In order to optimize your stream, it’s important to stream with the right settings for your Internet speed.
What Settings Should I Use With My Internet?
Firstly, you need to make sure that your internet is good enough to stream. What your ISP declares as your package may not be what you’re actually getting, so make sure to test your upload and download limit with an online speed test. This should help you get a good idea of the quality of stream you’ll be able to uphold.
Using the table below, you can get an idea of the quality of stream you can achieve on your internet connection.
|Resolution||Frame Rate||Bit Rate||Upload Speed|
|720p||30 fps||2500 – 4000 kbps||3.2 – 5 Mbps|
|720p||60 fps||3500 – 5000 kbps||4.4 – 6.2 Mbps|
|1080p||30 fps||3500 – 5000 kbps||4.4 – 6.2 Mbps|
|1080p||60 fps||4500 – 6000 kbps||5.6 – 7.4 Mbps|
Although the above is recommended by Twitch, we recommend having a 35% – 40% buffer as you will need to maintain the right amount of Mbps constantly. Upload speeds can fluctuate (especially if there’s heavy traffic on your home network).
If you’re certain that you have a stable internet connection then this might not be necessary, but if you plan to use other internet-based resources (such as online games, youtube videos, music, and internet browsing) whilst streaming, then it’s an important consideration.
If you have the above-recommended settings but are still having streaming issues, try using the Twitch Inspector to troubleshoot further.
Wi-fi/Plugging Directly into Modem
When it comes to live streaming, an ethernet cable can offer you less interference and more stability than WiFi. If your WiFi signal isn’t strong or very stable, try running an ethernet cable directly from your Modem to your PC.
(If your PC is too far from your modem to be connected directly, consider investing in power-line ethernet adapters, to allow you fast, multi-room connection).
Internet Speed and Service Providers
Sometimes, we have to use what we have, but if you’re considering upgrading it may be worth investing in a business-level service. This will guarantee you the ISP’s declared upload speed at any time which provides stability to ensure smooth live streams.
If you’re not ready to upgrade to a business ISP, we’ve linked some of the best ISP comparisons to consider:
- Best Internet Service Providers for Streaming in the US
- Best Broadband for gaming & Streaming in the UK
If you decide to look elsewhere, try finding a package that can deliver up to 10 Mbps( or more) upload speed to give you the best experience possible when streaming. Many packages provide a lot more, so be sure to do your research to get the most for your money.
I Can’t Change My Internet, What Can I Do?
If you’re stuck with an internet provider that isn’t the best, there are a few more things you can do to improve your internet speed:
- Remove any excess devices from your network. Other devices can hog your upload speed, so it’s worth disconnecting them (or turning off their WiFi capabilities) while you stream.
- Close any excess programmes or apps on your computer. Your uploads should be dedicated to your encoder, so save space and do what you need to once you’ve finished your stream. If you experience a huge loss in internet performance, check to see if any programmes are updating in the background (such as your OS update, or Steam library).
- If multi-streaming, opt for a cloud-based platform. Multistreaming allows content creators to simultaneously stream live to multiple platforms. Unfortunately, it can be incredibly demanding on your CPU and bandwidth. Try using a cloud-based multistreaming service to take on some of that load.
- Remove any malware. Malware, ads and online traffic can occupy some of your bandwidth. Run a malware check and consider using ad blockers and privacy tools to block these bandwidth-stealing programmes.
- Check that your software and hardware is up-to-date. Old modems can bottleneck your upload, and old drivers can massively slow your computer down. Make sure to keep your software up to date, and replace any hardware that’s not up to the task of streaming.
- Consider the times you stream. If you’re on a popular ISP network and you stream at 6 pm, there may be a lot of people hogging the network in your area (or in your home). If you’re living with others, it may be worth asking them to hold off on large downloads whilst you’re live – as this can greatly impact your stream quality.
Why Your PC May Be Causing Lag
Even with the best internet, sometimes your PC can be the source of the problems.
- Your rig isn’t up to scratch. If you’re trying to stream a big game (like Horizon: Zero Dawn) on a low-spec PC, your computer may be struggling to keep up with the demands of the game, the stream and everything else in between.
- Wrong hardware encoding settings in OBS. If your hardware allows it, OBS should offer you the use of either GPU or CPU encoding. GPU encoding offloads the workload to the graphics card, helping free up CPU resources. CPU encoding provides excellent picture quality (but is very resource intensive). If your stream is choppy or struggling, try experimenting by switching between these settings.
Note: GPU encoding generally looks less polished, but is typically less intensive, as GPU resources are often underutilized in comparison to the CPU.
- Not Enough Memory. If you have less than a few gigabytes of space on your computer, this can affect your computer’s overall performance. Try uninstalling unused apps and games, and backing up images to an external/cloud drive to save space.
- Out of date software/hardware. Incompatibility between these can cause major issues. Make sure to keep drivers up to date, and replace any hardware that isn’t up to scratch.
Minimum PC Required For Streaming
In terms of PCs, you can stream from anything from older laptops to brand-new high-end computers, with varying results. Most people starting out with streaming will be using a PC they already own, which may already have a few years behind it.
When considering the minimum specs needed to stream, we need to look at a few things first, beginning with Twitch’s recommendation:
- Dual Core CPU
- 4GB of Ram
However, the big issue here is that these minimum specs are for Twitch only and don’t account for the game you’re streaming. This means that a streaming PC’s minimum requirements can vary greatly, depending on:
- The quality of the stream you wish to broadcast (the higher the resolution, the better the parts you need).
- The minimum specs of the games you want to stream.
- The amount of peripherals you want to use when live. Cameras, external audio drivers, USB devices and thier accompanying software all accumulate processing power.
- The software you want to use during the stream (including broadcasting software, apps, plugins and more).
Basically, the more you add and the higher quality you wish to achieve, the higher the minimum specification you’ll need to ensure a smooth stream.
To get a real-world idea of the minimum specs for a streaming PC, you should add up the recommended specs of the highest spec game you want to stream, to the minimum specs of Twitch (along with any other vital software you may be running).
If you’re looking for general guidelines, we’ve put our recommendations in the table below. These specs should allow you to stream whilst gaming, along with multiple browser sources, cameras, and additional peripherals (such as the Elgato Streamdeck and external audio card), all at the same time.
|Part||Spec||Example 1||Example 2|
|CPU||6 Core / 12 Thread||AMD Ryzen 5 5600X||Intel Core i5 11600K|
|RAM||16GB (2x8GB kit) at 3600 Mhz||Corsair Vengeance RGB PRO Black 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4||Crucial Ballistix 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4|
|Storage||500GB SSD||Crucial MX500 500GB||Samsung 860 EVO 500 GB|
|GPU||Midrange GPU||AMD Radeon RX 6600 XT||Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060|
If you’re not upgrading any time soon and want to make the most of running your broadcast software on a low-end PC, we have you covered with our OBS and Streamlabs guides.
For OBS, check out The Best OBS Studio Settings For Low-End PCs. If you’re using Streamlabs, then take a look at The Best Streamlabs OBS Settings For Low-End PCs to maximize your stream in no time.
Unfortunately, great games can be demanding on our systems. Newer AAA titles not only take up a lot of memory, but can be heavy on graphics and processing power, especially on an older, or more low-end computer. As not all PCs are the same, you may have to relinquish some graphics settings depending on your PC specs, condition, and age.
Try tweaking with different settings to give you an idea of how the game performs under different conditions, or try some of the following options:
- Lower your graphics settings. Try lowering your general graphics to the low or medium options. Experiment with reducing anisotropic filtering and disabling anti aliasing and Vsync. Try applying low-medium settings on texture quality and shadows. If there’s an option for particle effects, turn this off. You may need to experiment a little, but a good place to start is to set all of your graphics options to medium and tweak it from there.
- Lower your game resolution. Running a game at 720p requires much less work than a full screen 1080p window. Experiment with the resolution settings to see what gives you the best frame rate and overall result.
- Reduce physics settings. Physics engines can be incredibly demanding on processing power. If there is an option to change this, try reducing it.
- Play retro and low-fidelity indie games. Sometimes, it’s just impossible to run the latest AAA game on an older machine but this doesn’t mean that there’s not a lot out there to play. Indie Games like Among Us, Undertale and Stardew Valley are incredibly popular, and run on almost anything. You can also try playing Retro titles, as many of these should work on a low-end PC.
- Try a cloud-based gaming service. If your Internet is good enough, you can try using cloud-gaming services like Shadow, GeForce Now and Vortex to take the load of these resource-heavy games.
- Use a console with a capture card. If you have a console and your PC is struggling with newer games, it could be worth using a capture card to offload the games processing power. This way, your PC will only need to monitor the input in the capture software (and power the capture card). Be sure to check the capture card’s specs before buying and consider picking one up secondhand (if you’re looking for an older model).
Note: in order to run a capture card, you will need a dual monitor setup in order to see both the game and your PC desktop whilst streaming.
Whether you’re on a low or high-end PC, there are a few things you can do to help ensure that your stream runs to the best of its ability:
- Close any apps you don’t need whilst streaming. Many apps, such as audio, photo and video editing software take up a lot of CPU power that can interfere with your stream’s demands.
- If you use Google Chrome whilst streaming, it’s important to note that Chrome can take up a lot of CPU when having multiple tabs open. Try to limit your tabs to what you need, and turn off Chrome’s hardware acceleration to minimise it’s processing demands.
- Keep everything up to date. Update drivers and software regularly to minimise problems.
- Keep an eye out for Windows Update. Not only can this automatic download weigh heavily on your internet, it can also slow your PC down greatly whilst downloading. Make sure to schedule the updates for when you’re not streaming.
- Regularly scan for Malware and Viruses. As mentioned earlier, Malware can reek havoc on your internet speeds, but it can also heavily slow down your computer. Run a virus check when off stream to ensure that none of these pesky programmes are hogging your processing power.
Streaming is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s important to remember that although it’s nice to have the best hardware and quality, what ultimately matters is what we bring to the stream and our communities.
It’s possible to grow your channel on a low-end computer. In fact, many streamers start out with a low-end PC or laptop and then slowly upgrade as time goes on. You just need to optimize what you can, establish your niche (based around what your computer can handle), and remember that people would rather watch a lower-quality stream that’s informative or entertaining, than a 1080p 60 fps stream where the streamer isn’t engaged with the audience.
We hope you found our guide useful. If you’re still looking to brush up your stream and grow on Twitch, then check out some of our great tutorials below.