Thanks to the pandemic we've all been using FaceTime and other video calling apps more than ever before. In these difficult times, when we have either been forbidden from seeing family and friends, or we decide that a video call is much less risky than seeing them in person, the frustration that comes when our FaceTime video call lags or suffer connection issues is significant. In this article we will discuss how to avoid FaceTime lag and fix connection issues.
We hope that the new changes coming to FaceTime in macOS Monterey this autumn will improve the issues we are experiencing with Apple's video calling software, but it seems likely that these new features are going to be even greater bandwidth hog, which could just exacerbate the issue.
If you are experiencing lagging FaceTime calls, frozen video, poor or blurry video quality, and or poor connection error messages what can be done? We investigate.
"The video will resume automatically when the connection improves"
"Poor Connection. The video will resume automatically when the connection improves."
This message greets me every few minutes during my Sunday FaceTime calls with my aunt. I've even had to contend with the dreaded "Connection Lost" error and wait for the call to resume - or more likely close FaceTime and call back.
When the "Poor Connection" message appears the video usually disappears and all I can hear is the audio - although some times it's even worse and I can't even hear the audio.
Why is this happening? Is it his broadband connection or my connection? Or is it my Mac that's the problem? In order to address the issue I followed the steps below and I recommend you do the same.
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1: Check FaceTime status
Before we start making changes to your Mac and internet set up it's a good idea to check that there isn't a problem with FaceTime. Apple's services have been known to go down in the past. To find out if FaceTime is down visit Apple's System Status site - more information here: Is Apple FaceTime down?
2: Close any apps running in the background
If you are having trouble with FaceTime check what else is running on your Mac. Perhaps YouTube is also running and gobbling up that much needed bandwidth.
You should close your other apps, or at least pause any downloads that are happening in the background to free up your bandwidth.
You can see which apps are running by looking at the Dock at the bottom of your screen. Any apps that are running will have a dot underneath them. To close them quickly right click with your mouse (or control-click) and choose Quit.
3: Plug in your MacBook
If the problem is with a Mac laptop then it might help to plug it in. There is a new Low Power Mode coming in Monterey and we'll be watching out to see if this affects FaceTime performance. If it does it may be worth plugging your Mac in if it's on battery power.
4: Restart the Mac
Obviously you might not want to end the call straight away, but when you do, it might be a good idea to restart your Mac. It may be that the reason why the call was lagging is that you have memory issues or an issue with an app running in the background. Restarting your Mac can fix many issues.
For example, shutting down your Mac can free up RAM. Alternatively, there are apps that make it easy to address problems when too much RAM is being used up. For example, CleanMyMac X and Parallels ToolBox both offer a simple way to free memory.
It may be helpful to turn FaceTime off before you shut down you Mac. You can easily do this by pressing Command K (alternatively click on FaceTime in the FaceTime menu and choose Turn FaceTime off. This is different to closing the app.
When you restart your Mac you will need to log into FaceTime again, so click on Turn On and log in to your account.
5: Check your Broadband connection
If you are seeing poor connection warnings chances are your Wi-Fi is to blame, so checking your internet connection is key. Because it streams both video and audio FaceTime uses a lot of bandwidth and requires a fast Wi-Fi connection. So clearly the quality of your broadband connection will be significant.
You may find that moving closer to your router helps - this means that the WiFi doesn't have to travel through any thick walls for example.
Check to see if there are other devices competing for bandwidth - are the kids streaming videos? Is internet radio playing in the kitchen? Is the microwave on? (That's the biggest reason why the internet goes down in our house!)
With the above options ruled out, restart your router. Turn it off, wait for about a minute and then turn it back on again.
It's also worth running a speed test on your broadband to find out if you are getting what your supplier is promising you. We use Speedtest. If you are below what you think you should be getting then contact your supplier and ask them to check your line - you might want to do this anyway.
6: Check your software is up to date
It's possible your issue is being caused by either the FaceTime software or the version of macOS you are running. Apple frequently issues software updates to fix bugs and other issues and it may be that this is something it has addressed - so make sure your software is up to date. Here's how to update the software on your Mac.
- Click on System Preferences and Software Update.
- If there is an update available click on Update Now.
7: Make some space
Another possibility is that your Mac is running out of space. Generally speaking if you have less than 10% of your hard drive space free you will encounter issues, so we advise you to delete or archive some stuff if you are close to capacity.
Click on the Apple logo and choose About This Mac > Storage to see how much space you have free. If you need to delete some stuff read this for advice: How to save space on Mac.
If you are struggling to find anything to delete try CleanMyMac X, or MacCleaner Pro which can usually find a few GB or files, cache and other unneeded items to remove. We look at a number of Mac cleaner apps separately.
8: Fix your DNS
If you have done all the above and you are still having problems if could be related to your network. One slightly complicated way to attempt to rectify this is to change your DNS settings.
The Domain Name System (DNS) is a bit like a phonebook for the Internet, it's usually operated by your ISP. If your ISP's DNS isn't the best you can actually switch to another one, for example Google's DNS service.
To do this follow these instructions:
- Open System Preferences.
- Click on Network.
- Select WiFi.
- Click on Advanced.
- Click on the DNS tab.
- Click on the + button to add Google's DNS and type in 18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124.
- Now click OK.
- And Apply.
Another option is to flush the DNS cache, which can fix network and connectivity problems.
To make this process easier you could try CleanMyMac X's Maintenance feature which can Flush DNS cache for you:
- Open CleanMyMac X.
- Click on Maintenance.
- Choose Flush DNS cache.
- Click Run.
You may also find How to improve video call quality on a Mac helpful.