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9 Netflix hacks for better binging

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Netflix; JoJo Whilden/Netflix; Netflix

Think you know how to Netflix? Think again.

You might have the remarkable ability to binge an entire series without stopping to eat or sleep, or an encyclopedic knowledge of every obscure ‘90s comedy available on the site, or a queue that would make the casual viewer tremble in their sweatpants — but are you really a Netflix wizard? There’s always room for improvement, right?

If you’re looking to binge better, you’ve come to the right place! We’ve rounded up nine of the best hacks to maximize your streaming experience. Read on to find out how to conquer Netflix, once and for all.

1. Always watch in HD

Are you sitting down? Because we have bad news: Even if you’re paying for HD on Netflix, if you haven’t specifically selected it in your settings, you’ve been binge-watching in the default low quality this whole time. But this is an easy fix! First, check your subscription settings under Plan Details on your account page; if you can watch in HD, just go to Playback settings, also from the account page, and select as high as you want. If you don’t have Wi-Fi access, though, be careful streaming in HD — that will eat up your data faster than you can plow through a bag of chips while binging the new season of Orange Is the New Black. 

2. Never suffer through buffering again

“I am to wait, though waiting so be hell,” wrote William Shakespeare in his sonnet No. 58. He was truly a man ahead of his time, with a prescient understanding of the torment that is buffering. While you can always just try to binge at strange times of day, when fewer people are streaming and speed is improved, you might not have that option. Lucky for you, Netflix has a “secret menu” that can be accessed on a computer by holding down Ctrl + Shift + Opt/Alt + S, or on a Playstation 3, Xbox 360, or Wii by clicking up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, up, up, up, up. Once on the menu, select a lower video bitrate and then click Override.

3. Yes, I’m still watching

The Netflix engineers probably thought they were being pretty cute when they added that charming “Are you still watching?” feature. Um, yes? Eliminate the mildly judgmental check-ins with Flix Assist, another Chrome extension that removes both the rude question and the countdown to the next episode. So go forth and binge in peace!

4. Search the genre you really want to watch

Sometimes Netflix’s navigable genres just don’t cut it. Sometimes “Independent Movies” is not nearly specific enough, then narrowing it down to “Independent Comedies” is hardly any better. What if you want an independent showbiz comedy? What then? Do you sort through every single title under “Independent Comedies” hoping to find something that happens to be about that business we call show? Absolutely not! Using this incredible list of all 76,000 hyper-specific subgenres on Netflix — which classify the site’s many options by genre, subgenre, sub-subgenre, language, decade, topic, star, director, and/or relevant adjective — not only can you find the independent showbiz comedies of your dreams in a matter of seconds, you can also choose between Quirky Independent Showbiz Comedies and Irreverent Independent Showbiz Comedies, because as we all know, there is nothing worse than a quirky movie when you’re really in the mood for an irreverent one.

5. Or don’t search at all!

You know that horrible waste of time wherein you spend so long perusing and debating in search of the perfect thing to watch that by the time you’ve made your selection, you don’t actually have enough minutes left to watch it anymore? For those of you who do that more often than you care to admit, there’s Flix Roulette! It’s a very easy tool that chooses your entertainment for you. You can narrow down the field by medium, genre, rating, actor, director, and/or keyword, or you can leave it all blank and see where roulette takes you. Trust!

6. Trick out your dashboard

If you’re using Google Chrome, you can download Netflix Enhancer, which will completely change the way you binge. The app’s variety of added functions includes trailers, Rotten Tomatoes ratings, and links to the IMDb profile for every title.

7. Keep track of what’s coming and going

There’s no worse feeling than letting something sit in your queue for weeks only to discover it’s vanished the day you finally sit down to watch it. You can keep track of what’s about to leave Netflix every month — as well as what’s coming soon — by checking back right here at EW.com toward the end of the month. (Curious about July? Here’s everything leaving, here’s everything arriving, and here are EW’s picks among the latter.)

8. Optimize your algorithm by banishing users and curating your history

Do you regret giving your password to your ex, your college roommate, your little sister, etc.? These people are ruining your personalized algorithm with their weirdo viewing habits! Kick their sorry butts off your account by selecting “Sign out of all devices” on your account page, then change your password to something other than your birthday. (For people you really can’t kick off — yet, anyway — just make sure they create their own user profile, which won’t interfere with your preferences.) Also on your account page, select “Viewing activity” to remove any titles you don’t want to influence your recommendations — or that you don’t want anyone else to see.

9. Watch without Wi-Fi

Because you can never truly count on airplane Wi-Fi or pretentious coffee shop Wi-Fi or wilderness Wi-Fi, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Select titles are available for download, only on the Netflix app on iPhone and Android or on computers and tablets running Windows 10. Just remember: You have to have an internet connection when you do the actual downloading, if not the watching.