Entertainment Windows

How to Play Video Smoothly on Your PC: Here’s What You Need

Gavin Phillips Updated 02-06-2020

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.

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Here’s how to fix it!

What Factors Affect Video Playback Quality?

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 An outdated media player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. A low-performance PC 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.

Two other factors impact playback quality: offline or online video.

Offline Video Playback Quality

Choppy offline video playback concerns playing video from video files or DVDs. This is different from online video playback, due to network connection or other service issues (more on these in a moment).

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There are certain steps you can take to ensure smooth video playback with an offline source.

  1. Update your media player
  2. Install and update video and audio codecs
  3. Check your hardware capabilities
  4. Update your GPU drivers

Let’s take a look at those steps in a little more detail.

1. Update Your Media Player

The first thing to do is to update your media player. There are many excellent free video players for Windows 5 Best Free Media Players for Windows The best media player for you is the one you most enjoy using. Here are the best free media player apps to consider on Windows. Read More . If you use a third-party media player, head to the company’s website and download the latest software version.

2. Install and Update Video and Audio Codecs

Second, ensure that all video and audio codecs are installed properly. Codecs, to put it simply, process audio and video data. Sometimes certain video formats are not playable on your PC. This is because you do not have the appropriate video codec installed.

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Codecs sometimes become damaged or corrupted, which may lead to jarring playback. To fix them, download, and install codec packs.

Microsoft has an official codec pack for these exact purposes. Download the file, then double-click to install, following the on-screen instructions.

Video codecs are a little confusing. If you want to learn more, here’s all you need to know about video codecs All You Need to Know about Video Codecs, Containers, and Compression Explaining the difference between codecs and containers is relatively simple, but hard part is attempting to understand each format. Read More , containers, and compression.

3. Check Your Hardware Is Capable

Ensure that your PC is within the hardware range necessary to playback these videos. Video formats come with different qualities that determine their ease of playback.

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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 difference grows when comparing 1080p video with 4K or UHD video What's the Difference Between 4K and Ultra HD (UHD)? Thinking of buying a new TV or monitor but confused by the differences between 4K vs. UHD? Here's what you need to know. Read More .

The same goes for video rendering. While video playback consumes less performance than video rendering, both involve PC performance. Generally, the more powerful hardware you have, the better the video playback will be. If you have very old hardware, video playback can struggle for a few reasons.

For instance, an old 5400RPM hard drive (or even a 4800RPM) might struggle to process a massive 4K video file quickly enough for stable video playback. You might run into similar issues using a drastically underpowered CPU, or if the system has a seriously small amount of RAM.

There are solutions for these issues. For example, the VLC media player is well known to assist with smooth video playback on older hardware. Or, you might have an older system with a discreet graphics processing unit (GPU). Some media players can use the GPU hardware acceleration to shift some of the video processing load from the CPU, helping video playback.

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There is no exact rule of thumb for minimum hardware required for smooth video playback. If you have a PC built in the last few years, you should not struggle with offline video playback of 4K and other high-resolution video formats.

Hardware and Video Encoding

There are other issues with hardware, such as GPU and video encoding compatibility issues. Even some modern GPUs that can play the latest games on high settings won’t work with certain video encoding types.

If you have a modern GPU and powerful system yet still encounter video playback issues, double-check if your GPU supports the video encoding type you’re trying to use.

vlc media player show codec information

4. Update Your GPU Drivers

Fourth, and finally, ensure you install up-to-date GPU drivers.

The GPU drivers will allow for the 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. At the very least, it can eliminate some video playback stuttering issues.

Find out how to 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? Here's what you need to know and how to go about it. Read More with our handy guide.

Online Video Playback Quality

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

  1. Is your internet fast enough?
  2. Are other programs using your internet?
  3. Disable hardware acceleration in the browser
  4. Update your web browser

1. Is Your Internet Fast Enough?

The first question you must ask for online video playback relates to your internet speed. Streaming Full HD, UHD, and 4K video online is a data-intensive task. The data requirements vary slightly, but in general, you need:

  • 2-4Mbps for standard-definition video playback
  • 5-10Mbps for high definition video playback
  • 25Mbps minimum for 4K video playback

There are variations between online video streaming services, too. Netflix requires at least 3Mbps for standard-definition video playback, whereas Amazon Prime Video requires just 0.9Mbps.

With online video playback, a faster internet connection will always yield better results.

2. Are Other Programs Using Your internet?

Second, ensure you are not clogging your network with data-hungry programs.

You can do this by right-clicking on your Taskbar and selecting Task Manager. 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.

windows task manager show network use

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.

The Windows Task Manager is a versatile tool. Here are some Windows Task Manager tricks you can use 10 Windows Task Manager Tricks You Probably Didn't Know Here are handy Task Manager tricks every Windows user should know, including how to bring up the Task Manager quickly and more! Read More to manage your system better.

3. Disable Hardware Acceleration in Browser

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 to use a specialized hardware component, such as the GPU, to render that model.

That’s because it can do so more quickly and usually has more processing power available to complete the activity. Sometimes this process can lead to playback issues.

Check the Video Player Type

Google Chrome is permanently disabling Flash Player at the end of 2020. The majority of browsers are switching to HTML5, a more secure and stable video playback option. If the video player is attempting to use a Flash Player, your browser may no longer support that option.

As Adobe will stop officially supporting Flash at the end of 2020, the Flash Player will become (even more!) insecure.

4. Update Your Web Browser

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.

How to Smooth Out Choppy Video

To summarize, here’s how you stop your video playback problems:

  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. Is something clogging 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.

VLC Media Player is one of the world’s most popular video players. Here are the best VLC features you’re not using 7 Top Secret Features of the Free VLC Media Player VLC should be your media player of choice. The cross-platform tool has a bag full of secret features you can use right now. Read More —but absolutely should be!

Image Credit: Dmitriy Kozhanov/Shutterstock

Related topics: Media Player, Media Streaming, Online Video, Troubleshooting, Video, VLC Media Player.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Mark Sanders
    November 27, 2018 at 2:55 pm

    I have a new Dell Latitude 7573 with Windows 10 and am using VLC player. I have purchased an external USB DVD/RW. One dvd will not play correctly and is choppy audio with distorted video. The same player and DVD will play fine on another Windows 10 laptop.

    Can someone share settings, etc. that could be adjusted to get this DVD to play?

  2. Marty
    June 28, 2018 at 5:14 am

    Lol this is kind of weird, the part that says a 1080p video needs at least 4GB ram and 2,4ghz dual-core CPU.
    I can play 1080p video on my old netbook which has only 1,6ghz single core and 1GB of RAM and it goes smoothly.

  3. Sangeeta
    September 28, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    Video stops to run after about 15 mins of operation in my pc . I'm using vlc player . I tried a lot to solve it but i couldn't? ?? Please solve my problem

  4. tsk naveen
    April 1, 2017 at 5:30 am

    all bluray videos are not working properly im my laptop.....i am using vlc meadia player....plzz solve my problem

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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

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

    cool

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  11. 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.

  12. 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!