Get tips to manage internet data usage

Learn how devices connected to your wired or wireless network use data—and how you can control their data usage.

Equipment tips to manage data

Try these tips to help control the amount of data your devices use:

  • Learn how new devices, programs, or apps will access and use the internet
  • Identify options to manage usage
  • Adjust settings appropriately
  • Exit and close programs not in use
  • Turn off unused devices
  • Keep anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall software installed and up to date
  • Install parental controls to minimize unknown usage

Device and app data usage


Any time you use a web browser on a computer adds to your internet data usage. Sometimes it happens and you don’t even know it. Ads on some sites include audio and video that increase data use. Some websites play audio or video clips on page load. Even downloading documents and files uses data.

Audio and video streaming

Streaming or downloading videos and music uses a lot of data. Video is the biggest culprit. Select SD playback instead of HD to lessen your data use when streaming. HD might look great on a 65″ HDTV, but if you’re watching on a smaller monitor, it won’t make much of a difference.


Email contributes to overall data usage, but basic messages have little effect. Emails with large attachments, such as photos or videos, have a much larger impact. Graphics affect data usage much more than text.

Game consoles and gaming

Computer games vary on data usage. Some are mostly played on the computer with little internet use except to download updates. Other games have complex video or audio, or both; these use larger amounts of data.

If you have a game console, be sure to review each game’s controls and use them as needed to monitor data use. Some game consoles include web browsers. If yours does, be sure to close the browser and end any active sessions when you aren’t using it. Your console may also support streaming video services, allowing you to watch TV shows, movies, and videos. To manage data usage, set the playback quality to match the content. For example, when you watch cartoons or view content on smaller screens, choose SD playback instead of HD.

Video chat

Video chat services let users see each other when communicating. Video from one device is transmitted to the other device through the internet. To lessen data usage, limit the size and resolution of the video.

Tablets and smartphones using home Wi-Fi

Tablets and smartphones may use Wi-Fi® instead of cellular data service when you use them at home. When connected to your home Wi-Fi network, these devices use the internet in ways similar to computers, including:

  • Operating system updates
  • Downloading and updating apps
  • Surfing the internet
  • Watching video and listening to music
  • Playing games
  • Reading email
  • Using social media
  • Sharing photos, videos, and files
  • Syncing calendars, email, and address books with other devices 

You can control device usage by adjusting settings and making other changes. For example, allow only critical or security updates. Turn off live updates for files, and limit live updates for social media and other apps. Limit sync activities so only necessary information is exchanged as often as needed.

Other devices

Other devices that use the internet may not be as obvious. Smart TVs, media players, security systems, and other smart devices fall into this category. Many TVs include ethernet or Wi-Fi connections to enable you to watch video or play audio. Some even let you play games on the internet.

Keep tabs on internet data usage

Last updated: April 24, 2024

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