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Why do videos skip when I watch them online?

Answer: If you watch videos online and they skip or do not play back smoothly, there are two possible culprits: 1) your computer, or 2) your Internet connection.

1) Your computer – If your computer cannot process a video fast enough, the playback may be choppy. Slow processing may affect both the audio and video, but it usually affects the video first. This may happen if you have an older computer with a slow CPU that cannot render high-resolution video in realtime. Some video formats use advanced compression algorithms that require extra processing, which can be taxing on slow CPUs.

Most modern computers have CPUs (and even GPUs) that can play high-resolution, compressed videos without any problems. However, some tablets and smartphones have slower processors that may not be able to play back certain videos smoothly.

2) Your Internet connection – Choppy video playback is most commonly caused by a slow or inconsistent Internet connection. For example, if you are at a coffee shop and everyone is sharing the same bandwidth from a single router, your data transfer rate may be slow. If this rate is slower than the data per second required for the video, the playback may be choppy or stop completely.

Online videos are typically buffered as they are played back. This means your device downloads a few seconds of video ahead of the current playback location. By buffering the video, the playback will not stall when the Internet connection temporarily slows down. However, if the slowdown lasts long enough, the playback may reach the end of the buffer and the video will stop.

Important: Some web-based video hosting services, such as Twitch and YouTube, can detect your screen size and Internet connection speed. Based on this information, the service sends you the highest quality video that can be played smoothly on your system. However, if you notice the video playback skips or is inconsistent, you can reduce the resolution (for example, from 720 to 480), which may provide smoother playback. This option is typically located in the lower right corner of the video window.

Published: February 19, 2014 — by Per Christensson

Answer from the PC Help Center