Whenever I'm at my parent's house and use my mom's computer, I noticed that video playback on the system is everything but a great experience.
On YouTube, videos are choppy, play and pause every other second or so which is quite the frustrating experience.
YouTube is not the only video website where this happens. I have set up Firefox Stable as the main browser on the system and make sure that everything is always up to date.
Some days ago, I sat down and started to play around with settings and programs to fix the issue. I'd like to share what I tried and did on the system to provide you with tips on how to tackle your video playback issues on YouTube.
Fixing choppy videos on YouTube
The first thing that I need to get out of the way is that the issue can be hardware related. If you run a Pentium 90 with 128 Megabytes of RAM, then you probably won't be able to play streaming video in realtime.
You do not need a high end system either, but if your system is older than ten years or so and has not been upgraded with more RAM or a better processor, then this is likely the cause for the video playback issues you are experiencing.
A slow Internet connection may cause the issue as well. If you only have ISDN speed or very slow speeds, it may not be enough to buffer the video in realtime while you are watching it.
Analyze the issue
Lets sit back for a moment and analyze the issue. Is it happening only on a single website, on multiple sites or all sites that stream video to your computer system? To find out, try to load videos from the following sites:
If available, check different video quality settings. Try 1080p, 720p, 480p and 320p if available just to see if this fixes the issue. If lower quality video plays fine, it is likely a hardware issue that you are facing.
Download video test samples from this website in addition to this to find out if they play fine on your computer, or if they are choppy as well. If they are, it is likely a hardware issue and not related to streaming in general. I suggest you download a 1080p, 720p and 480p test file to your system to test them out.
Choppy video solutions
Here is a list of possible solutions for the issue:
1. Switch the web browser
2. Make sure Adobe Flash is up to date
The majority of video streaming portals use Adobe Flash to stream the videos. Google Chrome and Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 8 ship with a built-in Flash Player. All other browsers need the Flash plugin which you can download from the Adobe website.
On Chrome, try switching between the built-in Flash and Adobe Flash just to see if it makes a difference. Make sure only one Flash player version is enabled at all times in the browser. To do so, type chrome://plugins in the browser's address bar and click on Details on the top right.
Locate Adobe Flash Player there. If you have Flash installed, you will notice that Chrome references two different plugin versions. One in the Chrome program directory, the other in another location on the system.
3. Switch to HTML5 video
Some video hosting sites offer HTML5 video playback in addition to Flash. On YouTube, you need to visit the http://www.youtube.com/html5 page and join the HTML5 test to use the feature.
Most up to date browsers support HTML5 and it may resolve issues that you are facing, especially if they are Flash related.
If you are already in the HTML5 beta, try leaving it instead.
4. Wait until videos have buffered completely before you play them
YouTube recently changed the way videos are buffered. You may have noticed that videos do not buffer completely anymore, but stop to buffer when you hit the pause button.
To get the old buffering technique back, that buffered the whole video even if you hit the pause button, install the YouTube Center userscript in your web browser.
Once done disable Dash as explained in the linked article and you should notice that videos buffer again fully once you hit the pause button.
5. Try local media players
Some media players, like the ones mentioned above, support YouTube video playback. SMPlayer ships with its own YouTube module that you can load with a tap on F11. Here you can watch popular or recent videos, or load any video that you are interested in either by pasting its web address into the search form, or by entering a search term into it instead.
6. Hardware acceleration
You may want to try and turn hardware acceleration off if that option is available in your web browser of choice. Firefox users can turn of hardware acceleration in the following way:
- Tap on the Alt-key and select Tools > Options from the menu that opens up.
- Select the Advanced tab and there General.
- Uncheck "Use hardware acceleration when available".
- Restart Firefox
7. Firefox sessions
Another Firefox tip. The browser saves session information every 15 seconds or so by default. This may cause videos to stutter or sound to skip while you are streaming videos.
Try and increase the session save interval. Do the following in the browser:
- Type about:config in the address bar and hit enter.
- Confirm that you will be careful if this is your first time here.
- Filter for browser.sessionstore.interval
- Double-click on the preference and change its value to 60000 instead, or 100000. The time is in milliseconds, the first value is 60 seconds, the second 100 seconds.
- Restart Firefox.
8. Drop the quality
YouTube selects a video quality automatically for you. You can click on the settings icon in the player interface and then on quality there to change it. Try to reduce the quality one step at a time to see if it resolves the choppy playback that you are experiencing.