Why do videos keep freezing on my PC?

Having videos freeze or stutter while watching them on your PC can be incredibly frustrating. There are several potential causes for choppy or frozen video playback, but the good news is that there are also a number of troubleshooting steps you can take to try and fix the problem.

Quick Overview of Common Causes

Before diving into detailed troubleshooting, here is a quick overview of some of the most common culprits for choppy or frozen videos:

  • Insufficient RAM (random access memory)
  • Outdated, incompatible, or buggy video drivers
  • Overheating CPU or GPU
  • Too many resource-intensive programs running simultaneously
  • Malware, viruses, or corrupted system files
  • Poorly optimized video player software
  • Problems with graphics card, sound card, network card, or storage drives
  • Trying to play high definition or 4K videos that computer can’t handle
  • Web browser-related issues like outdated Flash player or bad browser settings

The sections below will explore these potential causes and solutions in more detail.

Check Your Computer’s RAM

One of the most common reasons videos stutter or freeze is insufficient RAM, also known as memory. RAM is used as temporary storage for all the processes running on your computer. When you open programs, files, or multimedia like videos, they take up RAM while in use.

If you open too many programs or try watching high resolution videos without enough RAM, your computer will struggle. It has to constantly swap data between RAM and your hard drive, which causes lag, freezes, and choppiness. Upgrading your RAM is one of the best ways to improve video playback if you are maxing out your current capacity.

As a rule of thumb, you’ll want at least 4GB of RAM for smooth 720p video, 8GB for 1080p, and 16GB or more for 4K. To check your RAM usage, open the Task Manager in Windows 10 by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Esc. In the Performance tab, keep an eye on memory usage as you open and watch videos to see if it spikes up to 100%. If so, adding more RAM should help.

Typical RAM Upgrades

Here are some typical RAM upgrade amounts if your computer is lacking:

  • 4GB to 8GB
  • 8GB to 16GB
  • 16GB to 32GB

Make sure to get DDR4 RAM that is compatible with your motherboard. Installation is simple – you just need to physically insert new RAM modules in the slots on your motherboard. Your computer should automatically detect and utilize the extra capacity.

Update or Reinstall Video Drivers

The drivers that manage your graphics card and video playback are also a common source of problems. Issues like trying to use outdated drivers or having corrupted driver files can manifest as choppy or frozen videos.

Go to your graphics card manufacturer’s website (NVIDIA, AMD, or Intel typically) and download the latest drivers for your model. Uninstall the old drivers, reboot your PC, then do a fresh install of the new drivers.

This process will often fix minor glitches and compatibility issues that can interrupt video playback. Failing to update drivers for many months or years is a common mistake that can degrade performance over time as newer operating systems and video codecs emerge.

Video Driver Troubleshooting Steps

Here are some additional tips for troubleshooting driver issues with video:

  • Use the Driver Verifier in Windows to check for corruption
  • Try rolling back to a previous version of the driver
  • Completely uninstall and reinstall the driver
  • Update your chipset, BIOS, and other motherboard drivers
  • Disable hardware acceleration in your video player and web browser

Check for Overheating Issues

Computers can suffer performance issues like choppy video when the CPU or graphics card overheat. Dust buildup in fans and heatsinks over time can reduce cooling efficiency and cause components to thermal throttle.

Download a system monitoring tool like Speccy or HWMonitor to check your temperatures. Laptops in particular can get hot. Make sure plenty of air circulation space is available and use a laptop cooling pad if needed.

Reapplying high quality thermal paste between the CPU/GPU and heatsink can also help lower temperatures if the original paste has dried out. Just be very careful cleaning and reapplying if you try this yourself.

Cooling and Thermal Throttling Solutions

  • Use compressed air to clear dust from heatsinks and fans
  • Ensure computer case has good airflow
  • Consider an aftermarket CPU cooler or more case fans
  • Check thermal paste between CPU and heatsink
  • Use a laptop cooling pad
  • Undervolt CPU/GPU if possible to reduce power and heat

Reduce Background Processes

Having too many resource-intensive background processes can also sap RAM, CPU time, disk usage, and GPU resources needed for smooth video playback. Antivirus software, web browsers with multiple tabs open, video conferencing apps, and multimedia programs running in the background can all contribute to video lag or freezing.

Use Task Manager to identify any unnecessary processes that can be closed safely to free up computing power for your video. Upgrading to a computer with a faster processor, more cores, and extra RAM can also help ensure there are enough resources available at all times.

Improving Resources with Upgrades

  • Close unnecessary background processes
  • Add more RAM as discussed above
  • Upgrade to a faster CPU
  • Get a GPU with more onboard memory
  • Increase storage space/speed with an SSD upgrade

Check for Malware and Corrupted Files

Malware like computer viruses, spyware, crypto-miners, and other infections can hijack your system resources and greatly degrade computer performance. Corrupted Windows system files can cause similar issues.

Run comprehensive antivirus scans, malware removal tools, and system file checkers to identify and clean up any infections or problems. Reinstalling Windows may be necessary if the issues persist.

Cleaning Malware and Corruption

  • Run antivirus scans with malware removal
  • Use Malwarebytes Anti-Malware and SuperAntiSpyware
  • Check system files in Windows using SFC /scannow
  • Try reinstalling Windows if needed as a last resort

Update Video Players and Web Browsers

Outdated media players like VLC, QuickTime, or Windows Media Player can have compatibility issues playing newer video formats and cause choppy playback. Video streaming sites also evolve over time.

Ensure you are using the latest versions of your video player software so they support current video codecs like H.264, VP9, and HEVC. Also update web browsers and check for outdated plugins like Adobe Flash.

Software to Keep Updated

  • Video player apps (VLC, Windows Media Player, etc.)
  • Web browser and browser plugins/extensions
  • Video card drivers as discussed above
  • Operating system updates can also help in some cases

Check Physical Components

Beyond software, dozens of physical computer components work together to play videos. Loose cables, failing drives, thermal issues, and inadequate power supplies are examples of physical problems that can interrupt video playback.

Visually inspect components like the motherboard, video card, CPU heatsink, SATA/power cables, etc. Reseat cables and expansion cards or swap in working spare parts if you have them available to isolate the issue.

Physical Components to Inspect

  • CPU, GPU, RAM for dust, damage, loose heatsinks
  • SATA cables and drive connectors
  • Power supply cables and voltage
  • Motherboard for bulging/leaking capacitors
  • Network and display cables

Reduce Video Resolution Settings

If all else fails, reducing video resolution demands is an option. For streaming videos, choose 720p instead of 1080p or 4K quality. In your video player or web browser, lower decoded resolutions can ease the burden on your hardware.

For local video files, use a program like Handbrake to transcode videos to lower resolutions and bitrates. Avoid taxing your system with ultra HD, high framerate, or 10-bit color videos if your hardware can’t handle it.

Adjusting Video Playback Settings

  • Lower streaming site quality to 720p or 480p
  • Change video player decoding settings
  • Transcode high resolution files to smaller formats
  • Try disabling HDR, 10-bit color, and other enhancements
  • Cap in-game and 3D animation framerates at 30 FPS


Choppy and frozen videos can be caused by all kinds of software and hardware deficiencies in a computer system. The solutions range from simple driver updates to replacing faulty physical components in complex cases.

Follow the step-by-step troubleshooting guide outlined above to identify and resolve the specific issues causing problems on your PC. With the right upgrades and optimizations, you should be able to reliably stream and play videos without annoying freezes.