Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Video uses a fair amount of processing power on a computer - that load could be overheating your computer.

My computer started crashing about a month ago every time a YouTube video is attempted to be played. Now, even if a web page is open which has on it a YouTube, the computer freezes and then crashes; no blue wall, no explanation, just a black screen and then I have to restart. I've done everything: virus updates; spyware; updated Adobe Flash; uninstalled Firefox; reinstalled. It made no difference if the YouTube is played on IE8 or Firefox.

In this excerpt from Answercast #4, I'll explore several possibilities that might be causing a computer to shut down suddenly when viewing online video.

Two things to look at might be overheating and drivers.

Check for overheating

So a couple of things come to mind here for situations like this. The most common problem is overheating, believe it or not.

Playing video on some computers actually uses a fair amount of either CPU or graphics card processing power, which causes those devices to actually heat up. Sometimes, they can heat up so much that they become unstable internally and cause the computer to crash.

Now normally, a computer is designed not to have that happen. You've got fans running, blowing (hopefully) cool air through the machine, and so on. But sometimes, the fans stop working or the machine has a bunch of dirt in it that prevents the air from flowing through it properly, so that's the first thing I'd check.

Make sure that the machine's properly ventilated and halfway clean on the inside; the fans are turning and that they're not blocked for some reason. The other thing that comes to mind, it's a little bit more of a long shot, since this has been increasing for you over time. That's what makes me think of the heating aspect of this, but the other side of this coin is to look at the video card drivers.

Check video drivers

You've done a lot of the things that I would have done already; checking for spyware, checking for malware, updating Flash, updating your browser, that kind of thing; that's all great. The only piece that's really missing there are your video card drivers.

It's very possible that they have some kind of an issue that's kicking in when you are attempting to play a YouTube video. So, my recommendation there would be to go to your computer manufacturer and see if they have updated drivers for your video card. Or go to the video card manufacturer's website and see if they have updated drivers for that video card. See if updating those helps the problem.

Article C5138 - March 28, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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6 Comments
Phillip
March 30, 2012 8:31 AM

I'm wondering if there could be hardware involved here. If your computer is getting old, it's possible the electrolytic capacitors (condensers) in the power circuits are failing. I had a video card fail with capacitors that vented with a sharp crack! In my case, the computer would work until I started playing a game and then it would just lock up.

Electrolytic capacitors are usually cylinders standing up on the board, wrapped in plastic film with a bare end in which a "K" is stamped. This K is a designed weakness so if excessive pressure builds up, the steam will escape relatively harmlessly instead of the entire capacitor exploding. If the end of any capacitor has split, or is bulging, you have problems. Defective capacitors can be replaced but it's rarely cost effective. I have seen a website which offers capacitor replacement for certain Dell motherboards which are known to have the problem

Guin
March 30, 2012 8:44 AM

I have the same problem as the OP, so I doubt that both our "electrolytic capacitators" are wearing out at the same time. The only thing that fixes the freeze (on firefox) is to restart the whole damn machine. I will check out the video drivers as Leo suggests.

Alex Dow
March 30, 2012 12:01 PM

I have an HP Pavilion Tower as my main PC.

Its position on the desk is such that the ventilation holes on one side can be effecrively blocked, if pushed hard against the wall.

To prevent this, I have attached spacers, 1 inch square section wood, to that side, using hook/loop tape, thus maintaining a gap for air circulation.

Aside from that, the general positioning laterally on the desk gives me easy access to both "front" and "back", for loading DVDs at the front; and accessing the cabling area at the back.

niro
March 30, 2012 12:18 PM

dear Mr.Leo ,
please do a little goggling(search in Google) before posting a answer . I'm still a student in a 3rd world country and when i came across your answer for the above question i felt it's obvious that it has nothing to with hardware or overheating.
it should have something due to shockwave flash plugin which streams the video.newest shockwave flash plugins had some known issues as well.
to solve this please google it.. solution is so simple..!!!
sorry for my English it's not good at all. i hope noone replaces there hardware blindly because there youtube crashes , just because Mr.Leo say so.. :)
Mr.Leo, please try to be responsible for your answers, try to make internet more reliable place. don't mislead people or just say first thing comes to your mind just because you have worked with a punch cards(implies you are familiar with computers from 70's )
regards
niro

p.s - I'm looking forward to see your reaction for my response for your misleading post.. if you still insists that it's due to overheating just send me a mail I'll explain it to you with equations..

i really don't understand how people blindly say statements like " electrolytic capacitors wear out on there computer relating to firefox crashing ".. lol

p.p.s -
really sorry for my bad English.

sVen
March 31, 2012 12:10 AM

Because it's youtube specifically, and not other video, I'm wondering if it's the setting in Google's dashboard which allows more than one google program to be in use. The person may have had gmail or some other google app open.

In google account settings, in the security section, be sure that the 'multiple sign-in' setting is set to 'on'.
https://www.google.com/settings/?hl=en

embee
April 1, 2012 12:08 PM

This can happen when Flash tries to use "hardware acceleration", so try disabling it. The information and instructions are at:

www.macromedia.com/support/documentation/en/flashplayer/help/help01.html

If you don't have this problem outside Youtube, hardware acceleration is the most likely cause. While it does happen with other Flash content, it seems primarily a Youtube issue.

This is a hardware-based problem with additional software dependencies, but not a hardware "defect". Hardware acceleration may work perfectly on one machine while crashing another (seemingly identical) one.

Needless to say, if you find that "Enable hardware acceleration" is not selected in Flash, this issue is NOT the cause.

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