Can't Play Online Videos -- Here's What To Do

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Recently I was installing some software at a local business when one of the workers approached me with a problem. She could not play a video on her computer even though co-workers could play it on their computers. The same problem appeared a few days later when I was troubleshooting some computer equipment for a local church and the Pastor could not view a news video on his computer. Since this seems to be happening all over my town, I thought it would make a good topic for a column. So here's the scoop.

Generally, each video you find on the Web will play only using the software that it was formatted for. If you try to play a video and you don't have the proper software, you won't be able to view the video. The area where the video would normally appear will be blank, usually showing either a gray or black square. However, on or near the blank video screen you will see a link that will lead you to the website where you can download the necessary software.

Many of the online news services are now using software called Flash for their videos. To view a Flash video, you need software by Adobe called Flash Player. Just click on the link to get to the proper place on the Adobe website to download the software. If there is no link available, you can access the download  by clicking on the "Get Adobe FlashPlayer" button on the front page of the Adobe website at www.adobe.comwww.adobe.com. It's a free program and it will provide additional functionality to your computer, so don't hesitate to download it.

To get the player, click on the Download or Download Now button. You may have to scroll down the page to see the button, and you may have to agree to their policy. In most cases, the software will download and install automatically.  (If it does not install automatically there will be step-by-step instructions for installation.)

One thing that the website may not tell you is that you may have to restart your computer for the new video software to be fully integrated with the computer. So if the software seems to have downloaded and installed, but you still don't see the video, close all the open windows and programs, and restart the computer.

While many online videos use the Flash software that I just talked about, others may use Windows Media Player, Real Media, or a program called QuickTime. If you are using a Windows computer, you will have Windows Media Player already installed. It comes with the Windows operating system.

The Real Player is a free program that can be found at www.real.com. The QuickTime Player is a free program from Apple that can be downloaded at www.quicktime.comwww.quicktime.com. Even though it is an Apple program, it runs on Windows computers as well as on Macs. Both of these pieces of software are downloaded in a manner similar to that of the FlashPlayer.

Be aware that both RealPlayer and QuickTime will offer you an advanced version that you can purchase for a fee. Although you may want to purchase these programs in the future, it is perfectly alright to start with the free versions. The additional features in the paid versions will give you the ability to handle advanced video functionality, but everything you need to play online videos is included in the free versions.

You can download these video software programs as the need for them arises. Or if you like you can download all of these programs before you need them so you will be able to play almost all of the videos on the Web. These programs do not interfere with each other and will simply stay on your computer until they are needed.

Now you're all set to watch all the videos on the Web. Enjoy!