Why do videos and audio run slow or freeze on my computer?

Written by brent watkins
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Why do videos and audio run slow or freeze on my computer?
A slow hard drive is one of many factors that affect video playback. (Getty Thinkstock)

Nothing is more frustrating than the inability to watch a video clip or listen to music on your computer. With the Internet becoming a popular way to download music and share video clips, you need to know your video and audio clips are going to play back smoothly when you access them.

Outdated device drivers

You can often trace problems with audio and video playback to an outdated device driver. Device drivers refer to software that controls how your computer accesses hardware components. The key components that impact audio and video playback are the video and sound cards. Manufacturers constantly provide updates to fix bugs or compatibility issues that often cause performance problems for audio and video files. Downloading and installing the latest drivers for your hardware eliminates the driver as the source of the problem.

Storage problems

Data on your hard drive is constantly being recorded and deleted. This can cause gaps between segments of the hard drive that store data, causing a condition known as fragmentation. Fragmentation can slow the hard drive's ability to read data when you access it. A badly fragmented hard drive may cause interruptions in audio or video playback. A hard drive that is nearing capacity also suffers reduced performance. Hard drives require available disk space to write temporary files and perform other operations vital to the computer's performance.

Computer is too slow

The performance of the CPU is critical to decoding audio and video files. The higher resolution the file, the more processing speed is necessary to decode it. High definition video and audio may require more processing speed than your computer delivers. System memory and the hard drive spin rate also play an important role in smooth media playback. Hard drives designed for full resolution video playback spin at 7,200 RPMs. Older hard drives spin at 5,400 RPMs. If the media files are stored on flash drives or media cards, the storage medium may be too slow to move the data to the CPU quickly enough.

Missing codecs

Audio and video files are encoded using a specific format. A "codec" refers to the software used to encode and decode the file to a specific format. If the proper codec is not available on your computer, the files will not play back correctly.

Damaged files

Digital media files are basically a collection of 1s and 0s. Large media files can contain billions of bits of information. If just a few 1s and 0s are missing, the file can freeze during playback. Information recorded in media files can be altered during the download process or due to failure in the storage medium. Data can also become corrupt when converting files from one format to another or when altered by other software.

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