Common Zoom Problems

This page gives some quick tips on improving Zoom performance.

It's actually fairly rare for Zoom issues to be caused by a home internet connection that's "too slow" - there's a more detailed explanation for this further down, but here are a few easy ways to improve Zoom performance, most of which will be applicable to other video tools as well:

  • Use an ethernet cable between your computer and your wireless base station instead of using wifi. Sometimes neighboring wifi networks can interfere, especially with latency-sensitive applications like Zoom. This is the single most important thing you can do to improve Zoom performance. There is info on some options for computers that don't have built-in ethernet here.

  • Turn off video for remote participants, and mute people who don't currently need to be heard. This can reduce the bandwidth requirements.

  • If you're using a laptop, plug in the power adapter. Many laptops significantly slow their processors when running on battery, which can impact Zoom performance.

  • If your family is sharing your internet connection, go into the account settings for streaming apps and reduce the quality to standard definition. (The sacrifices your children must make for educational continuity!)

  • Close applications / browser windows that are not needed. This will free resources on the machine.

  • On some systems, you can turn off HD mode. Click the camera menu at the bottom of the Zoom window and see what settings are available. Disabling HD will improve performance at the expense of video sharpness.

  • Turn off the feature that replaces the room behind you with a background picture. This feature is very resource-intensive and can be problematic on slower machines.

  • Make sure the subject is well-lit from the front. This is especially important if using your laptop's built-in camera since these often do not perform well in low light.

  • Use a quality USB camera instead of your laptop's built-in camera, if you can get one. We'll have a list of cameras we've tested available shortly, but in the meantime if you can get a Logitech C920, C920S, or C615 these should work well.

  • If all else fails, try running the Zoom app on your phone. Either on wifi or on your data plan if you have sufficient capacity. The mobile Zoom app is better-optimized for lower bandwidth connections.

Zoom and home network bandwidth:

The total bandwidth required by Zoom is actually not that high, so most home connections should be able to support it.

Your home connection has a rated maximum speed in megabits. There's a "down" speed for the data that's coming from the outside world into your house (like streaming video that you're watching) and an "up" speed that's the data to the outside world from your house to (like the images from your camera).

Because home internet connections are heavily used for things like streaming video, they usually have much better "down" speed than "up" speed.

My fairly typical home internet connection ("Cox Preferred") can do 150 megabits down but only 10 megabits up. So it's usually the "up" that you'll end up having trouble with since that runs out first.

As a rule of thumb, for each person in your house using Zoom or a similar product at the same time you should have 1.5 megabits of available "up" speed and 1.5 megabits of available "down" speed. This means that my connection should be able to support about six people using Zoom at the same time.

Nearly all (urban/suburban) home internet connections are quite a bit faster than 1.5 megabits. This means if you're the only person using a video chat program at home it's often not a bandwidth issue that's causing freezes, etc. It's more often an issue with the connection between your computer and your base station, or possibly a problem on the computer itself. Before paying to upgrade your home connection, have a look at the tips above and see if they help.