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Watching choppy video playback is like sailing choppy waters: rough, frightening, and may lead to nausea. While modern hardware can handle most tasks you can throw at it, every so often you’ll encounter an issue. Choppy video playback, whether through a DVD or online, happens. Here’s how to fix it!

The Skinny on Video Playback

Smooth video playback boils down to a few hardware and software choices. These choices affect offline and online video playback differently. Here’s what can negatively affect video playback:

  1. An outdated media player.
  2. low-performance PC Which Upgrades Will Improve Your PC Performance the Most? Which Upgrades Will Improve Your PC Performance the Most? If you need a faster computer but aren't sure which component would be most beneficial to upgrade, then here are the guidelines you should follow. Read More which would stifle high-quality Blu-ray playback.
  3. A souped up PC, but a bad internet connection.

Whatever the case, smooth video playback is within your sights.

Offline Video Playback

Choppy offline video playback concerns playing video from video files or DVDs. This is different from online video playback, due to network connection.

Take certain steps to ensure your playback is smooth. First, update your media player The Top 5 Free Media Players for Windows The Top 5 Free Media Players for Windows Strong media player apps always rise to the top and it's not important which one you use. The best media player for you is the one you most enjoy using. We suggest the following... Read More . It may be VLC or some other popular media player software. Head to the company’s website and download the latest software version.

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Second, ensure that all video and audio codecs are properly installed. Codecs, to put it simply, process audio and video data. Sometimes certain video formats are not playable on your PC. This is because the appropriate video codec is not installed. In conventional PC use, codecs are sometimes damaged or corrupted. This may lead to jarring playback. To fix, download and install codec packs. Microsoft has an official codec pack for these exact purposes.

Third, ensure that your PC is within the hardware range necessary to play back these videos. Different video comes with different qualities, which determine their ease of playback. For example, a 1080p video playing at 30 FPS (frames per second) will require slightly less performance than the same video at 60 FPS. The different grows when comparing 1080p video with 4K or 5K video What's the Difference Between 4K and Ultra HD? What's the Difference Between 4K and Ultra HD? Thinking of buying a new TV or monitor but feeling lost with all of the terminology like 4K and Ultra HD? Here's everything you need to know about it. Read More .

The same goes for video rendering. While video playback consumes less performance than video rendering, both involve PC performance. There is no exact rule of thumb for minimum hardware required for smooth video playback. That said, there are some cutoff points. For 1080p playback at 30 FPS, the following is necessary for playback.

  • Processor: 2.4 Ghz Dual Core Processor.
  • Graphics Card: 256 MB VRAM, 600Mhz Core Clock
  • RAM: 4 GB

For smooth playback, you will need better hardware. It’s safe to assume double our minimum requirements will assure smooth playback. That means, instead of dual core, get a quad core, instead of 256 MB VRAM, try 512 MB VRAM, and so on. Upgrading your hardware How to Build an 8-Core Gaming PC from Cheap Server Parts How to Build an 8-Core Gaming PC from Cheap Server Parts Want a beefed-up gaming or video-editing PC with dual Intel Xeon processors for under $200? The parts are out there, but finding and putting them together could prove difficult. Read More to match these requirements should be fairly inexpensive.

Considering the hardware mentioned is outdated, even low end devices by today’s standards will yield good results. For 4K video and beyond, you will need fairly recent hardware. However, any CPU and GPU released within the past two years (2014-2017) should fit within the requirements.

Fourth, and finally, ensure that recent chipset and GPU drivers are installed. More particularly, update your GPU drivers How to Find & Replace Outdated Windows Drivers How to Find & Replace Outdated Windows Drivers Your drivers might be outdated and need updating, but how are you to know? First, don't fix it if it ain't broke! If drivers do need updating, though, here are your options. Read More . These two drivers will allow for maximum output of your hardware. As the CPU and GPU are often the main indicators of PC performance, updating their drivers will ensure video playback

Online Video Playback

Smooth online video playback often come with the same requirements as offline video playback. Yet, there are a few additional parameters to look out for.

First, ensure that you are not clogging your network with data-hungry programs. You can do this by right-clicking on your Taskbar and selecting Task Manager 10 Windows Task Manager Tricks You Didn't Know 10 Windows Task Manager Tricks You Didn't Know If the only time you open the Task Manager is when an application is frozen and needs to be killed, you're overlooking some of its more powerful features. Read More . You will see the Processes tab of your Task Manager. Click on Network tab (and percentage number indicating network usage) to see which programs — other than your browser — are hogging up data.

That also goes for RAM usage. Remember, smooth online playback requires optimal hardware. Click on the Memory tab to order your selection from most usage to least. Right-click any program not necessary for video playback (that is also not essential to your PC use) and select End task. This will free up some performance power.

Second, download the latest version of Flash Player. Some major websites have made the transition from Flash Player to HTML5 video. Other browser versions still require Flash Player to play video. Download the latest version of Flash and install it on your computer.

Third, disable hardware acceleration. Hardware acceleration allows browsers to hand off certain tasks to certain hardware parts. While your CPU can render, say, 3D models, it’s better that a specialized hardware component — the GPU — render that model because it can do so more quickly. Sometimes this process can lead to playback issues. This is a common issue, and the following official Flash resource explains how to do so.

Fourth, and finally, update your web browser. Current browser versions can handle high-quality video playback, as more video repository sites like YouTube allow for higher quality footage uploads. Old browser versions, or bugged browser versions, may limit video playback.

Don’t Rock the Boat

To sum up, if you have video playback problems, check for the following points:

  1. Are you using the most recent version of your media player?
  2. Do you have the codecs required to watch that video format?
  3. Is your hardware powerful enough?
  4. Do you have the latest drivers installed?
  5. Does something clog up your network or consume your RAM or CPU capacity?
  6. Have you disabled your browser’s hardware acceleration?
  7. Is your web browser up-to-date?

Fortunately, ensuring smooth video playback is a simple and non-invasive procedure.

Do you have smooth playback issues? Have you tried everything, and playback is still choppy? Let us know in the comments below!

Image Credit: Dmitriy Kozhanov via Shutterstock.com

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  1. Roger Owen
    March 17, 2016 at 11:11 am

    I can run youtube videos without a problem, but video on AOL is very bumpy (unless it's a Youtube video). I also have problems with Vimeo videos on websites. If I can run YouTube OK this must point at software issues.

    • Pete
      January 24, 2017 at 5:14 pm

      The way a video plays is different on each website. For example, Netflix uses silver light player whereas something like Xfinity/Comcast Online video uses flash player to play it's videos. Check to see what the website is using for playing videos within your browser since different software to play different types of video formats do not have the same system requirements.

  2. Vanessa
    July 7, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    "Am I used the most recent version of my media player?" that doesn't make sense.. :(

    • Yourmom
      July 18, 2010 at 6:31 am

      I'm sure he meant "Am I using the most... ...". Don't be stupid.

  3. james
    July 7, 2010 at 7:52 am

    i get some wavy lines on my monitor when there's lots of action going on, and yes i have all the latest hardware, 28" monitor with hdmi and all that great stuff. what could it be? i also get it when playing games

  4. kumar
    July 7, 2010 at 6:25 am

    cool

  5. pceasies
    July 6, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    You can do some estimations using WolframAlpha, but that's assuming you're going to get maximum throughput.

    40GB at 54Mbps (Wireless G standard) is 1hr and 38min
    One can assume if the movie is longer than 1hr45m that you'll be able to stream it.

    I've found that not always to be the case though. Wireless network connected at 54Mbps, but a file will only copy at 700KB/s vs 7650KB/s that should be achievable. Seems to depend on the other machine, router, all different kinds of factors. I'd like to see an article mainly about streaming over a network and things that factor in.

  6. Daniel_K
    July 6, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    How about required network speed and format for streaming over a local network?

    Yeah I would be interested to know about the min. required network speed for different formats as well. For instance, can I stream a 40 GB BluRay movie over a home wireless network

    • Pete
      January 24, 2017 at 5:21 pm

      Streaming over a network is much different than streaming form an online source since it depends on the server you are streaming it from. You would need more than B or G wireless if you are streaming HD content though since the speed is high enough to account for the interference from other devices in your house and other computers that may be connected to the same network.

      Streamning from the internet:
      480p SD: 2 MB/s
      720p HD: 4 MB/s
      1080p HD: 8 MB/s
      2160p 4K: 25 MB/s

  7. pceasies
    July 6, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    How about required network speed and format for streaming over a local network? I've run into problems where 54Mbps somewhere is equal to 300KB/s and the video lags horribly and is unplayable.

    • Daniel_K
      July 6, 2010 at 7:50 pm

      How about required network speed and format for streaming over a local network?

      Yeah I would be interested to know about the min. required network speed for different formats as well. For instance, can I stream a 40 GB BluRay movie over a home wireless network

      • pceasies
        July 6, 2010 at 8:28 pm

        You can do some estimations using WolframAlpha, but that's assuming you're going to get maximum throughput.

        40GB at 54Mbps (Wireless G standard) is 1hr and 38min
        One can assume if the movie is longer than 1hr45m that you'll be able to stream it.

        I've found that not always to be the case though. Wireless network connected at 54Mbps, but a file will only copy at 700KB/s vs 7650KB/s that should be achievable. Seems to depend on the other machine, router, all different kinds of factors. I'd like to see an article mainly about streaming over a network and things that factor in.

        • M.S. Smith
          July 8, 2010 at 1:26 am

          That's a very tough question to answer, but a good idea for a future article.

        • Aibek
          July 8, 2010 at 9:21 am

          yeah, it would be nice to see an article on this. I wonder if there is an app out there that can measure the max. speed of the home network.

  8. Silverdog
    July 6, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    go to http://www.systemrequirementsl... & check ur pc compatibility with the game u r gonna install!

  9. Silverdog
    July 6, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    go to http://www.systemrequirementslab.com/cyri & check ur pc compatibility with the game u r gonna install!