Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Music that starts and stops while streaming indicates some resource is overloaded. We'll check for overloads on both the internet and locally on your computer.

I'm running Windows XP and Explorer 8 but when I go to Pandora to play music, the sound keeps cutting in and out. Do you know possibly what my problem could be? Please advise if you would.

In this excerpt from Answercast #100 I look at a computer that is experiencing a lot of starts and stops while playing online music.

Music starts and stops

It's interesting. Normally we get this kind of a question with respect to video because video requires a fair amount of data. It requires a lot of data to be transferred, from the source to your computer, for the video to be displayed smoothly.

In a case like this, audio, especially with today's connections, typically doesn't take that much bandwidth. It doesn't really require a whole lot of internet speed in order for the audio to play smoothly.

Check your internet connection

So I'll definitely have you check to make sure that the bandwidth that you're using is better than a dial-up modem, for example. But if you're using any form of cable or DSL or whatnot, the internet connection should be fast enough.

Now, what does come into play are things like - who else is using that connection? For example, check and see if you've got another machine that shares that internet connection. See if it's doing a large download or doing some kind of really heavy internet activity.

If you have multiple machines doing internet activity of some sort, the net result is that by sharing a single internet connection, the amount of speed, the amount of bandwidth, the amount of actual data transfer rate that's left over for each computer, ends up being very small. And it's possible that the amount that's leftover is not enough to stream an audio music station, like Pandora, continuously.

Check computer resources

The other thing to look at (and this is probably, actually, the most likely scenario) is that you've got other software running on your machine - and that software is hogging one or more of the resources on your machine.

The resources that I would care about (if not the internet itself and your network connection) are things like the CPU and the hard disk.

Another application that is using the CPU 100%, for example, while you're trying to stream music can absolutely cause that music streaming to be interrupted from time to time.

The same thing, believe it or not, can happen with the hard disk. The music streaming may not actually require the hard disk but it can cause your system to behave in such a way that it still gets impacted by all of this activity.

And finally, even memory can come to play here. It's not as common. If for example your system is so low on memory that it's now swapping a lot to disk - the whole disk thing comes into play again - regardless of whether or not the streaming application is trying to use the disk or not.

So, what I would have you do is look at a couple of articles on my site: "Who's hogging all my CPU?" is one. I've got another article that relates to the same concept with respect to disk activity.

Take a look at those articles and see if there isn't something going on on your machine that is hogging your machine's performance; something that is actually causing the machine to become so slow or so preoccupied doing something else that it doesn't have time leftover to play your music.

(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)

Article C6374 - March 31, 2013 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

1 Comment
A Richter
April 2, 2013 8:48 AM

XP suggests an old computer, which in turn suggests low RAM. Boosting it if possible, might help (1 GB min.).

Comments on this entry are closed.

If you have a question, start by using the search box up at the top of the page - there's a very good chance that your question has already been answered on Ask Leo!.

If you don't find your answer, head out to to ask your question.