How to Fix a Laptop that Won’t Play Videos

You come home after having a long day at work, probably a stressful one. You pour yourself a glass of juice and lay on the sofa to catch up with one of your favorite drama series – or a funny video or movie you successfully downloaded at work. When you hit play, an error message pops up, or a blank screen stares back at you with kind of a smug face. 

You even switch to the traditional Windows Media player, and still, nothing happens. So, you wonder, why won’t videos play on my laptop? 

There are many reasons why a Windows laptop’s video player may not be working. Here’s why and what to do to fix it.

Why Your Laptop Won’t Play Videos

A laptop failing to play videos is a regular occurrence; it’s not new. When you experience it, it can be frustrating. It is even more irritating if some videos play and some don’t. All video files are susceptible to various issues that make them either corrupt or inaccessible. Your laptop will not play a video whose file format is not supported by the media player or VLC.  Let’s have a look at some of the errors you may encounter when playing a video file.

Suppose you’re streaming a video online; the video won’t play if you have a poor or unstable internet connection. Or the video is restricted in your geographical location. It also could be due to issues with the server connection or settings. The web browser cache can at times cause the video file not to play. So you can try clearing your browser cache. The problem with not playing videos could be that your laptop does not have a video codec installed, a software that encodes and decodes digital data. Maybe you removed or deleted the video file from its source. In this case, you will get an error. 

How then, if you’re wondering, do we solve this problem? Regardless of your case, you can fix the video not playing issue, as explained below.

Note: Do not turn off your laptop if you encounter this problem, hoping it will disappear. At one point, you’ll need to fix it.

Problem Playing Videos Online on Your Laptop

Use VPN to Connect to Geo-blocked content

Many of us prefer using online platforms to play videos and movies – platforms like YouTube and Netflix. Although they are popular online streaming websites, we sometimes have issues playing some videos in certain geographical regions. Solving this is easy. All you need is to install a VPN and to connect to the unrestricted regions to access various geo-blocked content. You can also subscribe to a VPN or download a free VPN if you’re not looking to use it all the time. 

You may also have no access to certain videos because they are restricted at your workplace or school. In this case, you will need to reach out to the IT department to fix the issue.

Is the Video Unavailable

Some online videos, for example, on YouTube, may be unavailable. This is probably because the uploader removed the video, taken down by YouTube due to violations of policies, or made it private. If the video has been made private, you can subscribe to the channel to play the video.

Ensure a Stable Internet Connection

If you have a poor internet connection, you may hit a snag when you try to play videos online on your laptop. If you have an unstable or lost internet connection, you won’t play any video due to poor server connection. So, ensure you have a stable internet connection to play your videos properly You can even move closer to the internet router or purchase a more powerful Wi-Fi router to play your online videos smoothly. 

Problem Loading Video Files

The issue with your laptop not playing video files could be because of an unsupported format, or you’re using the wrong program. Laptops won’t play videos with incompatibility issues unless you convert them to a supported format that can be read by the internal algorithms of the media player. All media player software like VLC or the traditional Windows and Apple Media Player play particular video file formats using plugins, adding to or extending the functionality to your media player.

Checking Video Plug-ins settings

Before considering converting your video file to a supported format, check the video codecs or plug-ins settings. You can do this by launching the media player and then under tools and preferences, check for plug-ins settings and save. This is particularly important if your media player won’t play mp4 file formats. You may need to install new plug-ins or codec files to play certain video files in some cases. 

While checking for codecs settings, you can also check your video settings to see if it is compatible with the video file format.

Install the Latest and Supported Media Player Version

If the video was sent to you, the easiest approach is to ask the sender what version of the media player they’re using to play the file if you’re having trouble playing the video. Otherwise, after launching the media player, you can click the Help button and go to About to check for the currently installed media version of the player you’re using and close the window. 

Note: Older versions of your media player may not play newer video formats. Unfortunately, there’s no magic you can perform to get them to play the videos unless you upgrade or install the latest versions.

Open your preferred web browser and search for the media player for your version of the laptop’s operating system. Then, download and install the latest version of the media player to fix the issue. 

Convert the Video File into Compatible Formats

So you have an odd video file format that you want to convert into a readable file on your laptop. Video files can be annoying. Your laptop can, at times, not play videos you recorded. If you downloaded a video with an unreadable format, you could re-download a supported format. Or, you can request a compatible format be sent to you should you have trouble playing a previously sent video. Anyway, converting a video file to a supported format using installed media players like VLC is easy, with variations across different laptop operating systems.

You can also use a third-party free tool like Format Factory to change your video files into readable formats.

If you successfully downloaded a video and encountered an error saying video unavailable, it is probably because you deleted or removed the video from its source. You can re-download and play it again. Hoping this article was in any way helpful to you, please share your thoughts in the comment section below. If you’re still having a problem playing a video on your laptop, please let us know. We are here to help. With any luck, you’ll be watching your videos soon.

Chris Martin is a professional tech writer. He's been covering tech tutorials, hardware reviews, and more as a professional writer for over seven years now and it doesn't look like he'll be stopping anytime soon! In addition to writing about the latest gadgets on the market, he also covers topics such as how to set up your home network or troubleshoot any computer problems you may have.

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