Chromebooks are great little machines with a wide range of features. However they are still struggling more than Mac, Windows or Linux computers when it comes to flawlessly playing every video file you throw at them.
Sometimes, the video plays but there is no sound, or the video playback is patchy and shows artefacts that don’t appear in video player apps on other computers.
Sometimes, subtitles that should be there don’t get displayed or the video doesn’t play at all.
Why some videos won’t play on Chromebooks
There are a number of possible reasons for these problems and they include:
- Chrome OS (the operating system on Chromebooks) lacks support for the video codec and/or audio codec inside your video file – see here for currently supported media file types and codecs
- Interlaced video is not supported on some Chromebook models
- Subtitle streams inside your video file are of an unrecognised format
- An update to Chrome or Chrome OS introduced a bug that causes video playback issues (best remedy here is to report the issue in the Chromebook Support forums, see this discussion as an example)
Fixes that Chromebook owners can try
Until Chrome OS supports more video file types and video/audio codecs, there are some things you can try to get your videos to work. Some work best if you’ve got internet access 24×7, others also work if you’re frequently offline. A more complex solution not suited for everyone would be to complement Chrome OS with another Linux distribution. Short of doing that, here are some suggestions:
1. Upload your video files to Google Drive, Dropbox or another file storage service that includes video playback capabilities, then stream your videos from there
- Works if you have internet access so your files can be streamed and if you don’t mind uploading your videos first, which can take quite some time depending on file size (see here for tips of how to speed up that process)
2. Install a video player app from the Chrome Store that is able to play more video/audio codecs (and subtitles) than the Chromebook’s native player
- Works for some videos and video container formats, though not for all. For instance this player works well with MKV files that contain H.265 video and supports a number of audio codecs.
- A good player that supports and even automatically loads subtitles is Subtitle Videoplayer – note that you might have to extract the subtitle stream from your movie file with another app and convert them to the right format (.srt) first
3. Make sure Flash is enabled
- Chromebooks come with the Flash plugin enabled by default and this helps to get more video file types to work. If you think this plugin might be disabled for one reason or another, check that you have Flash enabled
4. Convert your video files to a format that Chromebooks understand
- If none of the above suggestions provide relief, try converting your videos to a format that plays on Chromebooks
- This will allow you to play your movie files even without internet access directly from your computer or a connected external USB drive or SD card
- It will also reduce your video file’s size without noticeable quality difference (and save disk space in the process)
- Please note that converting will work for most video files but might not work in some circumstances. It’s definitely worth a try and might do the trick for you.
Convert videos with clipchamp
If you’re keen to find out if converting your videos will help, the quickest way to do so on Chromebooks is clipchamp. It’s a free video converter app that processes your files directly on your machine and converts your videos without uploading them to any online server first.
The app is available in the Chrome Store.
A quick tutorial
To make things easy, here is a step-by-step guide of how to make use of clipchamp.
The screenshots below are from the classic Clipchamp, we recently updated the app’s design and made it more robust behind the scenes. The new version is available on clipchamp.com.
First, go to clipchamp.com or install it from the Chrome Store
Once you’re in the app, select your input video
Keep the output type at “Convert Full Video”
Select one of the output presets
Choose either 480p, 720p or 1080p, depending on the resolution of your source video and on the resolution you want in your output video. Make sure to pick a Mobile or Desktop/Web preset to create a video for Chromebooks.
Select an output quality on the slider (or leave the preselected one)
Higher quality (the right side of the slider) means longer conversion processing and larger output file sizes, lower quality (the left side of the slider) means faster processing and smaller output file sizes.
Hit the Convert video! button
As a last step, check & save the output video
After the conversion is finished, you can save the file to your computer or Google Drive. You can also test it right away by clicking the “Play button” or upload it to Facebook or YouTube.
Hopefully, this works for you and one of the recommended solutions helps you get your video to play on your Chromebook.
If you have any questions, comments or alternative solutions you’d like to share, feel free to use the Comments section below.