What Is This “Buffer" Thing and Why Do I Need It?
Before rolling up our sleeves and tweaking with settings to stop buffering in Windows Media Player (WMP), we have to understand what buffering is, in terms of streaming media.
Buffers are actually a form of temporary storage that computer programs use in memory areas. For example, your computer uses a buffer when sending documents to the printer. When you request streaming media from the Internet, or from any network, first the server that receives your request compresses the data, encodes it (nowadays these two steps are skipped, because the files that are on the server are already encoded), and sends it to your computer in small packets. Then your computer receives the packets, opens and decodes them, and sends them to WMP (or any other media player for that matter). Of course, the packets do not arrive sequentially to your computer such as packet_1, packet_2, packet_3, and so on. At this stage, the buffer accepts the packets, reorders packets if necessary, checks the algorithm, and sends them to the WMP.
Assume that in a 5-second buffer, packets 1, 3, 8, 9, 2, 4, 6, 7, 5 arrive in a WMV streaming media. As you see, packets 6 and 7 are in order, but not at the place that they should be. Similarly, packet 1 is in place at the correct sequence, but not followed with the correct packets. In the buffer, the packets are put in order: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. Then, contents and algorithms are checked (WMV decompression and decoding) and sent to the media player. The packets that arrive next, say 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 19, 17 and 18 are processed the same way and appended to packet number 9. But, again, as you see, the packets are sequential up to number 16 but not afterwards. The buffer reorders once more and sends them to the media player.
If this buffer were not in place, then your media experience - listening and/or watching - would be interrupted, because for every packet that is received, your computer would have to recheck everything in real time and send you the results. Considering available bandwidths and computer processing speeds, this would result in a frequently-interrupted media experience.