Here’s how much data Netflix uses, and how to limit it

Netflix can drain your data in a hurry. Here's how to turn it down a notch

Ever wondered how much data you need to stream a show (or movie) on Netflix? You aren’t alone. The rough answer is from 1GB per hour to 7GB per hour depending on the video quality you choose. But there’s a little more to it than that.

How much data does Netflix use?

Here’s a quick look at how much data Netflix uses to serve up piping hot bowls of your favorite content.

SD Full HD 4K Ultra HD
Up to 1GB per hour of video Up to 3GB per hour of video Up to 7GB per hour of video

Netflix states that those are worst-case scenario figures, however. In actuality, the content you’re streaming could use a lot less data. It all comes down to how long the material is, the average frame rate, and the color depth.

Downloading the show won’t save on data usage, either. It takes around the same amount of bandwidth to retrieve all the resources required to save the video locally, plus you’ll need to have the space to store it.

Netflix buffering loading

How to limit Netflix data usage

Those of us on a strict data plan can’t afford to be shelling out 7GB per hour of 4K Ultra HD video. Moreover, you’re unlikely to need resolution that high on smaller devices. Netflix is aware of that, though, so it’s built some neat features into both its Android and iOS applications that let you limit how much data they use. (Note: If you want to know more about resolution adjustment across other devices, our guide to Netflix resolution quality can help with that too.)

Rather frustratingly, you can’t tell it how much data you wish to offload. Instead, it presents you with four basic options: Automatic, Maximum Data, Save Data, and Wi-Fi Only. They’re all pretty self-explanatory, but here’s an overview just in case:

  • Automatic: This mode balances frugal data usage with good video quality to squeeze about four hours worth of video per GB (results may vary).
  • Maximum Data: This mode will stream at the highest possible quality for your device and the content you’re viewing, which in most cases is 4K Ultra HD.
  • Save Data: As the name implies, this mode reduces quality to scale data usage to the absolute bare minimum, delivering around six hours of video per GB.
  • Wi-Fi Only: You will only be able to stream on the device while connected to Wi-Fi here. Downloaded content can still be consumed when Wi-Fi is disabled.

Like the sound of one of those options? Here’s how to adjust your mobile data usage:

  • Open up the Netflix application.
  • Select the Menu icon that’s present in either the upper-left or upper-right corner, depending on the device you’re using.
  • Tap Cellular Data Usage.
  • Select either Automatic, Maximum Data, Save Data, or Wi-Fi Only.

You also have the option to set data caps for each profile on your Netflix account, so if you watch across multiple devices, or have a child on a cellular plan that’s skimping on the data front, you can ensure it consumes minimal data at all times.

Once again, you aren’t given the option to specify exactly how much data you’d like to use per hour. Rather, Netflix has four choices: Automatic, Low, Medium, and High. This time, however, they’re a lot more specific on how much data is used.

Here’s the lowdown:

  • Automatic: This adjusts automatically to deliver the highest possible quality, based on your current internet connection speed.
  • Low: Low allows 0.3GB per hour per device.
  • Medium: This allows 0.7 GB per hour per device at an SD resolution.
  • High: This option allows up to 3GB per hour per device for HD; 7GB per hour per device for 4K Ultra HD.

To set a profile-specific usage setting:

  • Head over to Netflix.com on a computer and sign in.
  • Select the profile you’d like to change the data usage settings for.
  • Tap Account.
  • Under My Profile, tap Playback Settings.
  • Choose your preferred data consumption option.
Mobile

Need a do-over? Here's how to factory reset an iPhone, from XS on down

Resetting an iPhone can alleviate all sorts of software woes, and wipe away personal data should you sell your device or give it to someone else. Here's how to factory reset an iPhone from within iOS or iTunes.
Social Media

Here's how to link your Instagram, Facebook accounts for social syncing

Instagram and Facebook go hand in hand. Here's how you can make the most of the superior integration offered by the two social media behemoths, which should help your pics gain more exposure in the long run.
Home Theater

Got a long plane ride? Here's how to download movies from Netflix

If you want to watch your favorite Netflix films and TV shows but don't have a data connection, you need to download them to view offline. Here, we show you how to download movies and TV series from Netflix in iOS, Android, or Windows 10.
Home Theater

Why you’re not getting Netflix in HD or 4K, and how to fix it

Are you having trouble watching your favorite movies or TV shows on Netflix in HD or 4K? We explain why loading takes so long, why the picture quality fluctuates, and what you can do about it.
Movies & TV

Prime-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite TV series currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Deals

Experience 4K on the cheap with this great deal on a 55-inch Samsung 4K Smart TV

Retailers are stumbling over each other to encourage you to buy a 4K TV. Walmart is the latest retailer to take a sledgehammer to its prices, knocking $100 off the 55-inch Samsung UN55NU6900 4K TV — a deal that's not to be missed.
Home Theater

Comcast lets people with physical disabilities control a TV with just a glance

Comcast is now making it a little easier for people with physical disabilities to watch TV by giving them a way to connect their existing assistive devices like eye-glance systems with their Comcast cable boxes.
Movies & TV

GLOW season 3 trailer sends everyone to Vegas, brings on Geena Davis

Netflix released the first trailer season 3 of GLOW, its hit series about a group of female professional wrestlers in the 1980s, inspired by the real-world show Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. The season premieres August 9.
Deals

Looking for a new smart TV? Don’t miss this fantastic deal on a 60-inch Vizio 4K TV

This 60-inch Vizio D-Series has a sticker price of $700, a significant amount less than the $1,500-plus price tag that would have once been attached to it, but it's now on sale for just $480 — down $220.
Movies & TV

These are the best comedies on Netflix right now, and that's no joke

Looking for a laugh? Lucky for you, Netflix offers an assortment of comedies, each designed to elicit laughs in one way or another. Here are our current favorites, from Pineapple Express to The Emperor's New Groove.
Home Theater

What is Dolby Atmos Music, and how can you experience it?

Dolby Atmos is a surround sound format that creates immersive, 3D soundtracks to make movies come alive. But the same technology is also being adopted for music creation, and it's a game-changer. Here's everything you need to know.
Home Theater

WarnerMedia just bought a $500 million weapon to fight Netflix: J.J. Abrams

By signing a $500 million deal with J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot production company, WarnerMedia proves that it's doing everything it can to compete with Netflix, Hulu, and Disney Plus for a share of your streaming budget.
Deals

This gorgeous 65-inch LG 4K TV gets a steep $200 price cut at Walmart

There's no doubt about it: Now is the best time to purchase a 4K TV. Networks all around the world are churning out 4K content at warp speed and prices of 4K TVs are on the decline, like this 65-inch LG.
Home Theater

Picture-in-picture reportedly headed to Apple TV in tvOS 13

When tvOS 13 is released to a general audience this fall, it could be sporting a previously undisclosed feature: Picture-in-picture mode. It was spotted in an early developer release and it reportedly only works in the TV App.