Xbmc network

Almost all of the videos that I watch on XBMC are streaming over the network from a central computer. While the idea sounds great that means that my home network becomes yet another component that can lead to performance issues in XBMC. I’m going to share my experiences so that you can get your system working smoothly with as little effort as possible.

Where’s the Bottleneck?

Do you know where your performance bottleneck is? It could be a wide array of things that could be causing your problems, and you need to take whatever steps you can to pinpoint the bottleneck.

For starters if you’re trying to stream a video over the network and have issues playing it back maybe you should move the video to the local storage on your system to see if you still have problems with playback. This helps determine whether the underlying issue has to do with your network or something on the machine itself. If it appears that the network is your issue then that leads to the question of whether you’re doing this over wireless or not? If you are using wireless and you’re getting a lot of buffering then the problem may be as straightforward as not having enough bandwidth for streaming the videos over your network. If your network is wired (like mine) and you’re sure the performance is good enough you can continue on with the remaining tips in this guide to see if they help.

Video Card Memory:

XBMC tries to take advantage of GPU hardware acceleration wherever it can, and for that reason the video card performance of your system is very important. For my particular setup I don’t have a dedicated video card, and so that means my video card steals its memory from the amount of RAM installed on my system.

In my particular case I have 4GB of RAM available, and by default my motherboard tried to automatically detect the amount of memory that should be shared with the video card. It somehow determined that 256MB was the appropriate amount, but it also didn’t know the purpose of the machine. So I took the liberty of manually doubling this from the 256MB to the maximum value of 512MB. In general this change alone led to much smoother playback.

If you are using the same motherboard as me (ASRock E350M1) you can change this setting in the BIOS/UEFI. While booting up go into your BIOS/UEFI settings, and then navigate to Advanced -> North Bridge Configuration -> Share Memory and set it to the max which should be 512MB.

Increase the XBMC Buffer Cache:

The cachemembuffersize in XBMC is the amount of bytes of memory used for buffering ahead in videos. They do warn, however, that XBMC will consume three times the amount of RAM than what is specified for this setting. So the default 5242880 bytes (= 5MB) is on the low side to ensure they don’t stress out your system too much. Since my system is dedicated solely for XBMC I had no qualms bumping this up to 524288000 bytes (= 500MB) given that I have 4GB of RAM on my machine. Something more conservative, however, might be 52428800 bytes (= 50MB).

How do you update the buffer amount? First close out of XBMC, and then navigate to your profile folder:

  • Mac: ~/Library/Application Support/XBMC/userdata/
  • Windows: %appdata%\XBMC\userdata\

Once in your profile directory find and open up the advancedsettings.xml file, or create the file if it doesn’t already exist. Then you’ll want to add this node to the file:


The cachemembuffersize is set to the default 5MB so you will still need to update that after pasting it in. After you have updated the advancedsettings.xml file and saved the changes you can open up XBMC to see if your video playback has improved at all.

Update Your Drivers:

When streaming videos over the network my XBMC log would frequently throw an error saying:

CDVDMessageQueue(video)::Get – asked for new data packet, with nothing available

As it turns out my biggest performance problem was an issue with drivers. Naturally you’d think that I’m talking about video card drivers (which are important as well), but I’m not. The drivers that were ultimately causing issues with my setup were the LAN drivers. I was using the drivers recommended by ASRock, my motherboard manufacturer, when in reality I should have turned to the manufacturer of the network card… Realtek.

I jumped over to the Realtek site only to see that the network drivers ASRock were dishing out on their site were over a year old. I downloaded the most recent drivers directly from Realtek, and astonishingly all of my stuttering/buffering/choppiness issues went away.

Still Have Issues:

Don’t give up. If you’re still having issues you can try dropping a comment here, and I’ll do my best to help out. The XBMC forums might be a better location to reach out though since many of the developers are also active in the forums.

CyberNet’s XBMC Guides: