Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

Why might my computer crash half way through playing a YouTube video?

My Windows 7 computer works great in every way except within the last week,
whenever I play a YouTube video, half to three quarters of the way through the
video, my monitor goes black. No video and no monitor. I have to restart my
computer, it opens again normally. This does not occur when I play videos,
which are archived, on my hard drive. Thanks for your assistance.

In this excerpt from
Answercast #70
, I look at a case where a computer suddenly shuts down while
watching online video.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

Monitor goes black

So, by your “monitor going black,” I have to assume that, since you have to
restart your computer, that it’s not just your monitor going black.
It’s your computer actually crashing.

In other words, your computer’s no longer operating.

Is it just the monitor?

If you could, while the monitor was black, actually be able to do things
like type the keyboard sequence to shut down your computer (Ctrl, Escape, U, and
then Enter, I think would be the appropriate thing.)

Give that a look the next time you’re looking with the screen up. If you can
use the keyboard sequence to shut down your computer, then the computer is
still running. It’s not just the monitor.

Check video driver

So, in a case like this, a couple of different things come to mind.

Since you’re streaming YouTube videos, the very first thing that I think of
are video drivers.

When you’ve got video on your hard drive versus video that you’re streaming
over the internet, it’s not just where it’s coming from that’s
different. It’s very possible that the video format that’s being used
in those two different instances is in fact different. The reason that’s
important is that it is possible that a video driver can have problems or can
be susceptible to issues with one format that it’s not susceptible to the
others.

So for example, it’s possible that the video driver could randomly crash
when playing YouTube videos regardless of where they’re coming from versus
playing some other video that happens to be stored on your hard drive.

So the very first thing I would do is check for updated video drivers for
your video card to make sure that isn’t a problem.

Check for heat

The other thing that comes to mind right away is overheating.

Normally, you would assume that playing a video from your local hard drive
might not be as process intensive or as heat generating. I actually would
assume that as well.

However, like I said, these are different video formats that are typically
involved between the two. It is possible that the video driver (or whatever
software is actually involved in displaying the video) requires more CPU
horsepower – therefore, the CPU itself is heating up more.

It is possible that your computer is very simply overheating.

So, in a case like that, make sure:

  • That all of the ventilation is good;

  • That you’ve cleared out all of the dust from inside the machine;

  • Keep an eye on the fact that your machine may simply be sensitive to heat
    and take the appropriate steps to make sure that it has the opportunity to get
    cool air and to run with air flowing through it unobstructed.

Screensaver?

And finally, this one seems really odd. It’s really off the wall but I have
to include it for completeness… and that is: I’m going to assume you have
already determined that this is not just your screensaver kicking in!

Many screen savers, or many monitors, will turn themselves off into a power
saving mode after certain amount time of inactivity.

Depending on what “inactivity” looks like to the monitor, it could be that
since you haven’t touched the keyboard for awhile or you haven’t wiggled the
mouse for awhile, gosh… “Maybe I should turn off the monitor because he’s not
actually here.”

That’s unlikely, but it’s such an easy one to test. The next time it
happens, wiggle the mouse, type the Shift key on your keyboard, do something to
prove to the computer that you’re still in front of it.

If that suddenly makes they screen come back without having to reboot your
computer, then you know that you need to look into things like the screen saver
settings in your computer and potentially the power management settings for
your display device.

So those are three things that come to mind: video drivers, overheating, and
power saving or screen saving type settings.

Subscribe to Confident Computing! Tech problem solving & safety tips & a weekly confidence boost in your inbox every week.

I'll see you there!

10 Reasons Your Computer is Slow

Slow Computer?

Speed up with my special report: 10 Reasons Your Computer is Slow, now updated for Windows 10.

NOW: name your own price! You decide how much to pay -- and yes, that means you can get this report completely free if you so choose. Get your copy now!

4 comments on “Why might my computer crash half way through playing a YouTube video?”

  1. Quoted:
    to shut down your computer (Ctrl, Escape, U and then Enter)

    Take note that this key sequence is for Windows XP and other similar OS (98, CE, et cetera). Windows Vista until Windows 8 have the sequence: Ctrl + Esc, Left Arrow Key, then Enter; in order to shut the system down. Just noticed that the user is using Windows 7.

    Reply
  2. I have experienced some cases of ‘code’ embedded in video files. Most of these attempts are malicious – attempts to open compromised web pages or download other code while the user is ‘busy’ watching the video. I don’t know if all of these vunerabilities have been plugged yet.
    That said, the screen saver could well be what is crashing, as I have seen some of the more complicated (or interactive) screensavers crash if another graphics-intensive process is running when they start up.

    Reply
  3. (1) Try another browser eg. Chrome, Opera or Firefox
    (2) Download the latest Adobe Flash player {free}
    (3) Any Heat issues can be monitored with FanSpeed program {free}

    Jp

    Reply

Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.