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Old, but evergreen and popular discussions on CrazyEngineers, presented to you in read-only mode.
@Ankita Katdare • 12 Jun, 2015 • 1 like
A lot many of us are not on unlimited download plans for internet. Now whenever you want to watch a video online, you either go to a video streaming site or simply download it via torrents or direct downloading.
My question is - what consumes more data streaming or downloading? Which process consumes more bandwidth? I browsed for the topic on various sites that google search listed, but none had a satisfactory answer.

Those who want to be inside a certain limit of data consumption, would love to know what is more preferable - streaming or downloading to save precious data?

While some say that streaming consumes more as every time your internet connection has a fault, the streaming happens right from the beginning and thus you end up with more data expenditure. On the other hand, some say that downloading consumers more data as the same video can be watched in a lesser resolution - so any 30 minute video will consumer lesser data on streaming it at lower resolution. (Doesn't that suck, though?)

Waiting to know your opinions on this. What do you prefer and why?
@Satya Swaroop Dash • 13 Jun, 2015 • 2 likes Downloading is always better.

Let’s say you have a YouTube video you want to watch on your browser. You can stream it any quality you want from 3GP to Full HD but what if you wanted to watch it again or show it to someone else at a later time? The solution here would be to download the video in the first place. There are a couple of free websites that allow you to download the video by just pasting the link. This is saves much more data than the browser plug-ins that wait for you to start the video and then download it from the beginning.

Downloading also saves you from the menace of slow internet connection. I am on a 512Kbps BSNL connection that is woeful of watching videos. So instead of have to wait for it to buffer (when it happens during the video its irritating) I just download it in the quality I want and if the video is not worthwhile I simply erase it from my system.
@Kaustubh Katdare • 13 Jun, 2015 • 1 like When it comes to data consumption; I think streaming eats lesser than pure download. I remember reading about it somewhere long time ago. Can't find it now. Can someone confirm? Of course, we aren't talking about repeat viewing; in that case downloading wins hands down.
@rahul69 • 13 Jun, 2015 • 2 likes Streaming, is technically downloading by your browser. Both will consume almost equal data. Only thing is, streaming is for one time, download u can see again.
and again

And as for resolution, you can download video with lower resolution also, it will take less time in downloading.
@Ankita Katdare • 15 Jun, 2015 Interesting points, everyone!

I read somewhere that when you download files, every packet needs to arrive. It means that under error conditions multiple packets may be re-transmitted. When you stream, especially under UDP, you allow packets to be lost.

Does that make any difference?
@Satya Swaroop Dash @rahul69

Also, most internet plans specify a limit of downloading separately. So does streaming come under browsing charges or downloading charges? What should one prefer when there's limited internet plans?
@Ravi154 • 15 Jun, 2015 as of my experience streaming consumes less data than downloading.. moreover it depends on quality of an video ..
@lil_don • 19 Jan, 2016 If you download, You simply download the file itself ordinarily .
But when streaming, you are constantly been connected to an unstoppable ongoing data.
You know what it is when your device's data runs like that of streaming.
@Anoop Kumar • 19 Jan, 2016 • 1 like I don't think anyway downloading consumes more data as compare to streaming. Downloading is direct file transfer from server to your machine. While in streaming you it creates a synchronized link between machine to server till it finishes.
Let suppose there is video of 2 hour of size 1GB. If you download you are just creating a direct link and transfers the date in few minute.
But in streaming, browser downloads a chunk of data renders in browser and then again send information to server and download the next chunk again. This repetitive process definitely going to cost you more. This may also lead to repetitive download of chunks in case of quality change. (I don't have concrete proof how much it differ, but I am sure it would be.).
On other hand benefit of streaming is:
  1. No wait time.
  2. Close the streaming at any time without 'downloading' whole video.
  3. No need to manage files on your HDD. Download, save and delete again.
  4. Most of the time download chokes the bandwidth even if it is 10Mbps connection. (IDM does)
Considering point 1 and 2, streaming wins. Only benefit of download when you want to keep the file to reuse.
If it's video and and of long duration, I prefer to download than stream. You have more features in VLC player than browser embedded player and don't have to worry about broken link in 1-2 hour. Also, you can easily add subtitles 😉

Live streaming vs old data streaming: My experience with Reliance Jio, live streaming consume hell lot of data (around 2x) than old data streaming. I think in live streaming they don't get enough time to compress property. If I watch a TV channel even just 30sec back it consume half of data than live streaming.

Ankita Katdare
Also, most internet plans specify a limit of downloading separately. So does streaming come under browsing charges or downloading charges?
Yes, download+streaming+browsing(viewing webpages), all are same, downloading means all incoming data through your IP. Not just FTP (File transfer protocol).
Some ISP allow unlimited uploading, that means, when you are uploading your Ubuntu torrent or uploading lots of file to google drive, this data will not added in your FUP account.
@Kaustubh Katdare • 06 Sep, 2018 • 2 likes

Okay, in the recent times; with JIO bringing down the prices of Internet data drastically low; I think it's time to revisit this discussion.

There are two aspects to consider - are you going to consume the media content over and over, and second - are you going to consume it right from the start till end. It applies to songs and videos both.

The modern technology allows for progressive streaming - which means when you watch YouTube or any other video online, it's NOT completely streamed to your computer.

Instead, in order to save the bandwidth, the streaming service provider will load a few minutes worth of data on your app or mobile browser. You might have noticed that if you turn off your Internet, the video still plays for a minute or two and then stops. It doesn't download the video entirely.

This is quite important for both the streaming service provider and you. The 'bandwidth' is costly for both you and the companies. That's why it makes sense to offer only some amount of data in advance to smoothen your online media consumption experience (or simply speaking, listening to audio or watching a video).

Now consider that you want to watch the entire video or listen to the song over and over. In that case, it perfectly makes sense to download the video or audio to your mobile app or any local storage so that you don't have to worry about data exhausting quickly.

The only drawback of this approach (downloading) is that the media continues to eat up space on your mobile or desktop as long as it resides there. 

It's not a big problem for laptops and desktops; but on mobile phones, every app is fighting for space; and that means you can't really keep downloading stuff. You'll eventually run out of storage space. 

That's one of the main advantages of having stuff stored on cloud. 

To cut the long story short - whether you should download files or stream online depends upon how you wish to use it.

@Anoop Mathew • 17 Jan, 2020 • 3 likes

Anoop & Biggie have said it all. In 2020, i'd prefer streaming over to downloading any day owing to the fact that i don't prefer to repeat the same movie. I have also shifted from the wants of having a folder of favourite movies/music to just sticking to Amazon Prime/ Netflix/ Gaana/ Spotify. Interesting thing is that if you've a good WiFi connection at home, with a Smart TV, you eventually stick to streaming on the TV from Netflix/ Amazon Prime over to actually downloading the movie and watching on a laptop. 

P.S.: As for the laptop - i now have three with me at all times (one of the client for client work, one of my company for company work and one of my own) - and there're only 24 hours in a day! So no more importance given to a 'personal laptop' or 'favorite movie/music folder' anymore. About 9 years ago i was on CE from my laptop all the time. Now, i always use CE from the phone. How time flies. ? 

@Durgesh Srivastava • 17 Jan, 2020 • 2 likes

The key difference is that a streaming file is simply played as it becomes available, while a download is stored onto memory. Both processes involve the act of downloading, but only one leaves you with a copy left on your device that you can access at any time without having to receive the data again.

@Vinay Mishra • 23 Jan, 2020 • 2 likes

Both have different pros and cons in different conditions.

Both consume the same amount of data. Basically streaming consumes less bandwidth than downloading but the difference is about negligible. The only point is- If you have a high-speed internet connection then streaming is better and if the internet speed is slow then downloading the video is more efficient. It also depends on factors like-

1) If you want to play the file multiple times: In this case, it's better to download it. You download it once and can watch it as many times as you want. Streaming will require more data in this case because you have to buffer multiple times whenever you want to play it.

2) If you just want to check any random file: In this case streaming is a better choice because if it turns out you don't like what's in the file, you can stop it anytime. 

@Ashraf HZ • 25 Jan, 2020 • 4 likes

Technically, if we compare streaming (e.g 1080p file) from Youtube vs directly downloading the same 1080p quality video file, then the Youtube video uses more data. Though both uses TCP (Transmission Control Protocol), Youtube has additional mechanisms that adds to the overhead (bandwidth quality control, buffering, etc). Out of curiosity I did some crude tests and rough got about 20% difference.

However if the steaming service mainly uses UDP (User Datagram Protocol), then overall in theory it will use less data compared to a direct download due to the absence of flow controls that TCP uses. How much of a difference really depends on network quality. Haven't done any testing to check actual difference, if any CEan would like to try you'll need to use a UDP streaming service or stream from a local server using VLC or something similar. 

@Sarathkumar Chandrasekaran • 26 Jan, 2020 • 2 likes

This topic depends on from which site you are downloading also. I had tried downloading the same file from different sites and torrents but some sites eats less data than the other as far as my experience .Have anyone encountered the differences for different sites.It may be a problem with my torrent downloader,but curious to know your views/experience on it

@Kaustubh Katdare • 26 Jan, 2020

Good to see you back on CE, Sarathkumar! ? Long time!

I think the file could have been compressed differently. A simple SQL file when compressed can really shrink in size; and so are the image files when optimized. Are you sure that the files did not have different compressions?

@Ashraf HZ • 28 Jan, 2020 • 2 likes

Hi Sarathkumar, its possible data consumption differs with sites due to network performance of the path between you and the site, such as packet loss. TCP retransmission can occur if the receiver (e.g your device) believes the packet it receives is corrupted due to an error and drops it, and data is re-transmitted by the server due to no acknowledgement (ACK) packet sent back to the server. 

On the same note, packet received is correct and receiver sends back the ACK packet to the server to tell them all is good to send the next batch of data, but gets "lost" along the way, and the server also assumes the previous data was lost/corrupted and re-transmits the old data. This doesn't always happen but it can with poor network performance at any path of the network. So with more retransmissions, the more data is consumed on your end.

If you are curious, you can try installing Wireshark on your PC and observe the retransmission of data based on different sites (for example, see if there are duplicate TCP packets for the 2nd scenario). If you are on Windows, you can also use ping tools like True Ping to perform ping test in millisecond intervals to see network performance to different sites (don't use the default Windows ping utility as internal is 1 sec and hence not that accurate to detect packet loss).

@Abhishek Rawal • 29 Jan, 2020 • 3 likes

Sarathkumar, like Ashraf mentioned the difference might be observed in total consumption, but it should be very marginal. Most servers and clients support SACK, hence even if some sequences are missed, it could be acknowledged in next transmission. In TCP, there is no payload in three way handshaking packets (i.e SYN, SYN/ACK, ACK) - hence only header of 20 bytes will be used, which makes total of 64 bytes of entire ethernet frame with TCP and no payload. It will be 52 bytes if I consider UDP.

Unless there is no continuous re-transmissions, there would be no major difference in data consumption unless different protocols are used.

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