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Streaming vs Downloading Bandwidth

There are several differences between streaming and downloading a video. Lets check out, streaming vs downloading bandwidth. 

Streaming – Benefits and Drawbacks 

Streaming refers to shared media, where media saved on a remote server is played on some other client device using a network media player without copying or moving the file to the client device. For example, videos watched in YouTube, NetFlix, NBC or Hulu gets streamed from remote video servers and do not get copied to a client machine. Streaming takes place in real time and file gets delivered to client at run-time.

Generally websites which stream video will have a buffer memory and video will get streamed to this buffer continuously in order to ensure continuous playback when there is interruption of net connectivity. In order to ensure quality playback without any pauses, you should have very fast internet connection with bandwidth higher than 256 kbps. If you want to watch HD videos, then you should have at least 2 mbps bandwidth. You can have a router installed in your home network to stream seamless video to your media player.  Websites like YouTube will automatically detect your bandwidth and adjust the video quality streamed to your device.

Streaming makes use of different set of protocols for delivering streams like RTMP (Real time messaging protocol), MMS (Microsoft media services) and RTSP (Real time streaming protocol). They do not make use of HTTP or FTP which are used for progressive download of videos. Also, they are focused towards delivery of video content rather than accuracy. There is socket connection open between the streaming server and client, where the server keeps transferring video continuously and waits for control messages from client for various user actions like play, stop, seek and pause.

Benefits Streaming Vs Downloading Video

  1. You can start video playback during any point of video and skip through unwanted portions. It’s very convenient for users.
  2. Need not save file on your hard disk and this can help you save lot of storage memory.
  3. You can watch video instantly without waiting for it to get downloaded.


  1. Requires very high bandwidth to watch high quality videos without any pause or break. For instance, if you have 256 kbps connection and want to watch HD videos in streaming it won’t be possible.
  2. Every time you need to watch the same movie again, you should go to website and stream it. But in downloading you can save the video and watch it offline at any time.

Downloading – Benefits and Drawbacks

Instead of streaming the media, you can also download the video file from a computer. When media is downloaded from remote server, it gets saved on hard disk of local computer and it could be played faster. Your device connects to the source of the file, then copies and saves it to your hard drive. Generally services like Vudu and iTunes permits you watch movie after sometime while download is still in progress. With downloading you can copy the file to any other hard drive or system as long as it does not have any copyright issues. You can also stream the video to other devices after saving it in your machine.

During download HTTP (Hypertext transfer protocol) or FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is used to copy the file from remote server to your local machine as small chunks of data known as packets. These protocols operate on top of TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) which ensure guaranteed and error-free delivery as well as accuracy of the content. When you buy videos from VOD (Video of Demand) websites you will actually download them to your machine so that you can watch it anytime.


  1. You can watch the downloaded video anytime even without connecting to internet.
  2. Can stream and transfer videos to other devices as well.


  1. Requires more storage space to save all videos on local computer.
  2. Unlike streaming, you cannot watch the video while downloading is in progress.


Both downloading and streaming have their own drawbacks and benefits. If you have low bandwidth and high storage space then you can opt for downloading. But if you have very high internet bandwidth and there is lack of storage space in your machine, then you can opt for live streaming. So, depending on the purpose of the user, they can opt either for streaming or downloading as they wish.


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