November 12, 2021

How to Solve Videos not Playing on Your Computer

10 min

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What to do if your computer won't play videos?

You have this funny video you have downloaded from the internet successfully. You push everything aside, take a deep breath, and hit "Play". Almost instantly, an error message pops up and glares back at you from the media player. You switch from VLC to the traditional Windows Media Player on your Windows PC; still, nothing works. All the video files are in MP4 format, and a few have 4K resolution. Perhaps your video plays on a phone but not a computer, although you still want to enjoy it on a bigger screen.

Your mind is in a blur: why are videos not playing on my laptop?

You can also check out Movavi Video Suite – an all-in-one video maker for computers on Windows 10 and macOS. It includes a video editor, video converter, screen recorder, and more.

Errors you may encounter

  • Playback error: your player doesn’t support the type of file you’re trying to open because it doesn’t include the codec used to compress it.
  • Freezing: the video file is corrupted because there was an interruption while it was being downloaded.
  • Codec issue: sometimes videos are not playing on a PC because the required codec is not installed.
  • Distorted sound: there might be some codec problems.
  • Black screen: most likely, your file is corrupted.

What to do if your computer won't play videos

Your new MacBook Air laptop can't play videos, and you're wondering how to fix this problem since you can't ditch those videos altogether. They could be in a format not supported by your PC. Some movies may not play anymore after Windows 10 upgrade or from an SD card or your camera. Whatever the case, you can solve this problem of videos not playing on your laptop through the following ways.

Convert the videos to supported formats

The problem of your videos not playing on Mac could be a result of incompatibility issues. Your laptop may not have all the necessary infrastructure to play all video formats. For instance, your computer may not have the ability to play super HD videos or 4K formats; neither may it be in a position to play h-265 videos. Your modern PC may also not play old movie clips with very low resolution.

In some cases, the videos may be loading but can't run, or you get only sound. Some may even load and run but not play smoothly. You can solve this problem by converting the problematic videos to supported formats so you can watch them on your machine. You will find a host of video converters online, but you can consider using Movavi Video Converter to change your video clips to the format your computer can understand.

Install new plugins

Movies may not play on your machine because you are using the wrong program or your computer lacks the necessary software to play them. Standard media players such as Windows Media Player, Apple iTunes, and VLC process and play particular video formats using tools known as plugins. To add plugins to Windows Media Player 11:

  1. Display the menu bar by right-clicking on the top left corner of the media player.
  2. Click Tools, then Plugins, and go to Options.
  3. Choose the category of the plugins you want on the left of Options. The plugins in that category will display on the right side of the window.
  4. Click on the name of your desired plugin to select it.
  5. Click the checkbox to activate the plugin and click Apply.

If you create movies using the Windows Movie Maker program, be sure to choose the correct format when saving it. Making flash videos requires that you have a flash player on your system.

Ensure stable internet connection

So, your computer won't play videos on YouTube? Being a popular video streaming site, you most probably access online videos using it. But you hit a snag when your video doesn't play at all. Instead, you see an error screaming on a dark background stating that you are not allowed to view the video in your country or region. Sometimes you see a message telling you that the video is no longer available or that it has been made private.

If you can't view a video on YouTube because it is geo-restricted, you could try installing a VPN to hide your IP address. You may not need to purchase a premium version because it can be so expensive. Trial versions may do the job, especially if you won't need the VPN all the time.

But if your YouTube videos load but don't play well, you may need to check your internet connection. Weak signals may cause the video to stall or display in poor resolution. You can move closer to the router to get a stronger signal.

Install supported media player

Media players play specific video formats depending on their internal algorithms. You may find a few that can handle almost every popular format, but some won't play all formats. Older versions of Windows Media Player, for instance, don't support DVD playback. You won't be able to perform any magic to get this media player to play your DVD videos.

You have to consider alternative media players, such as VLC, which can play almost anything. But before you install any third-party media player, make sure you get it from a reputable site to limit the chances of getting malware. Some malicious individuals disguise viruses and trojans as legitimate software to compromise the security of your computer.

You want to play footage from an iOS device on your Windows PC, but you run into compatibility issues. Worry not because you can download individual plugins from the Apple store but be sure you select those plugins meant for Windows.

Replace the optical drive

In some cases, your videos aren't stored locally on your computer hard disk, and neither are they online. You have them on an optical disk which may either be a VCD or DVD but can't play on your machine. Before you can give up on the disk altogether, make sure its surface is clean and has no scratches. You may also want to test it on other laptops to see if it plays. If the disk doesn't play on different computers, then the problem may not be the optical drive on your computer.

What if the disk plays smoothly on other computers with similar software and architectures as yours? The problem could be your optical drive. Consequently, you have to replace it. Be sure to consult the manual or manufacturer of your laptop before setting out to purchase a new optical drive.

Update drivers

Some videos and music may not play on your Windows or Mac device due to the outdated drivers on the system. Old drivers can cause hardware failure on your computer, and it can make it impossible to play content from an SD card or optical drive. The best way to update Windows drivers is through Windows Update. Follow these steps to use Windows Update:

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Click on Update and Security.
  3. Click Windows Update.
  4. Click the Check for Updates button.

Wait as the system searches, downloads, and installs new drivers automatically.

To update your Mac, click on the Apple icon and select App Store. The next step is to click on Update and choose whether to install a specific update or update and install all available updates. However, as a point of caution, be careful not to click on Upgrade because this option will install the most recent version of macOS instead of updating your drivers. If the upgrade is successful, the new version may require new drivers for audio and MIDI.

Sometimes even a brand new Dell laptop won't play videos. This is a common problem, so you need to learn how to fix it. Check that you have the right software, and if you don't, use an efficient video converter, such as Movavi Video Converter, to change the format so the video files can play correctly.

Ben Jacklin

Ben is a writer from the UK with qualifications in Media and Music Technology, he specialises in software reviews and tutorials. Ben has been blogging about media and tech subjects since he was a teenager from his base in the East of England.

Frequently asked questions

Why are videos not playing?

Here are some of the reasons why your computer won't play videos or sound:

  • The software you are using doesn’t include the codec you need.
  • The file you’re trying to open is corrupted.
  • There are bad sectors on your hard drive.
  • There is a virus on your computer.

Why is my computer not playing videos?

If you can’t open video files on your computer, you might need additional software or new codecs.

If streaming videos, like the ones you watch on YouTube, are buffering and not playing as they should, the problem must be browser settings or poor Internet connection.

If you’re having trouble with playing a DVD or Blu-ray disc, this might mean that there is a problem with your hardware.

How do I fix an MP4 file that won't play?

To fix a corrupted MP4 file, try opening it with VLC. This player includes repair features that can help you restore the video.

  1. First, rename the file: change the file extension to “.avi”.
  2. Then launch VLC and import the .avi file to the program.
  3. Open the Tools menu and select Preferences.
  4. Then open the Input / Codecs tab. In the window that appears, select Always fix in the Damaged or incomplete AVI file drop-down list, and click Save.
  5. Now your video should play, just try opening it with VLC.