How to Fix Videos Not Playing on Mac Error: A Step-by-Step Guide

In this guide, we will learn: How to Fix Videos Not Playing on Mac Error: A Step-by-Step Guide – guide 2023

Are the downloaded videos not playing on Mac? Do you observe videos loading but not playing on MacBook? Or Do you notice videos on Mac not playing well, and you see issues like frames stuck, QuickTime video player crashing intermittently, stuttering, and so on?

You’ve come to the right place! I’m going to explain in detail why videos might not play on Mac and how to fix this issue. Keep reading!

Your Apple MacBook or iMac with A-series or M-series chip and Retina Display are the perfect combination to watch high-definition videos. Not only entertainment! You can use the device for professional-level post-processing or editing of videos.

However, you might face some issues playing videos on your iMac or MacBook, and here are the possible causes:

Videos Not Playing on MacBook or iMac: The Reasons

If you’re thinking, “Why are videos on my mac not playing?” then the most obvious issue could be a corrupted video file. I’ll talk about this in a bit.

Another cause of Mac won’t play videos is likely a virus or malware. Sometimes, hackers and bad actors program the virus to link it with an installed app on your MacBook or iMac, for instance, the QuickTime video player.

When you’re attempting to play a video using the QuickTime app, the MacBook or iMac security features prevent it from running. It’s the standard practice for the macOS to stop the virus from infecting the device further and corrupting the macOS software.

Occasionally, your iMac or MacBook may not contain some appropriate video codecs or video players to play less-used or special-purpose video file formats. If that’s the case, you may instruct the QuickTime player to play certain file types, but it won’t show anything on the MacBook or iMac screen.

For the above reasons, the most obvious way to play all kinds of video files is by using an all-purpose video player for Mac, like the Video Lan Media Player or in short VLC app. It’s a free video player for Mac. I’ll explain more about this app in the troubleshooting section below.

Videos Not Playing on Mac: The Symptoms and Root Causes

If the MacBook’s macOS can’t play one or many videos offline, then understanding the signs of videos not playing on Mac is crucial. It’ll guide you to use the appropriate troubleshooting methods without wasting time.

1. macOS Showing Error Messages

You may get any of the following error messages when trying to play a video using the Photos or QuickTime player on MacBook or iMac:

  • “Cannot Play Video. Photos cannot play this video.”
  • “Can’t open the media file.”

The error message will differ from case to case. If the error is due to a specific codec that isn’t available on the system, it’ll show that too.

2. It Takes Longer to Play the Video for MacBook or iMac

Another common sign of videos on Mac not playing is the long wait time before the QuickTime player could open the thumbnail of the video. It could happen when you try to run video formats like .avccam, .mp4, .dvcam, .hevc, .mov, etc.

Once the video file starts playing, the video player may show errors intermittently, and you need to act on that to let the video play. It could be annoying too.

3. No Response From macOS

For severely corrupted or virus-infected video files, you may not get any response from the macOS like opening the QuickTime player or VLC media player.

At that point, you may open the Activity Monitor app from Dock or Launchpad. You won’t see any signs of any video players running, implying macOS ignored your command.

4. Missing Video Data Bits

For edited, downloaded, recorded, and compressed videos, it’s a common sign of problems for videos not playing on Mac.

Often, you’re in the middle of a TV show, and without any warning, the Video gets stuck. Now, you can drag the video playback timeline icon to fast-forward a bit or the content may resume itself after a few seconds or minutes.

It indicates the video file is missing frames or bits, and videos and audio not playing on a laptop. Therefore, the video player software on Mac skips the inaccessible or corrupted segment.

5. Distorted or Unpleasant Audio

Other indicators of videos not playing on Mac could possibly be audio not syncing with the video frames, Mac not playing sound on videos at all, and audio distortion.

In a nutshell, the root cause for video not playing appropriately or not playing on Mac could be anything. But the following are the prevalent ones:

  • Incomplete and corrupted video header
  • The video editing tool you used to process a video could have corrupted the file
  • Oftentimes, amateur editing and faulty compressing of a video also cause video file format errors
  • The iMac or MacBook lost power when downloading the video from the internet or a flash drive hence corrupting the content
  • Truly slow and intermittent internet connectivity can also be the root cause of video file corruption

How to Fix Videos Not Playing on Mac

1. Use the VLC Media Player to Watch Videos on Mac

The QuickTime player is only compatible with the most prevalent video files like .mp4, .3gp, .mpeg, etc. Contrarily, VLC media player is a powerful and free video player for Mac with codecs for numerous video files, like .mkv, .mov, .mp4, .avi, .flv, .swf, .gif, .wmv, and son.

Follow these instructions to fix videos not playing on Mac issue on the VLC media player:

  • Firstly, get a new copy of the video file. If you downloaded it earlier from a web page, go to the same site and re-download the file. Alternatively, if you got it from a USB mass storage device, copy the video file again to your MacBook or iMac.
  • Download or copy the video file in a new folder, and don’t mix it with the existing video file that wasn’t playing right on Mac before.
  • Now, go to the VLC media player web portal and download this free Mac video player to watch videos on MacBook or iMac.
Downloading and installing VLC
  • Install the VLC player on your Mac by double-clicking the .dmg file.
  • Make the VLC media player the default media player in macOS. To do that right-click the video file on Mac and select Get Info.
  • You should see the Open with tab. Click the Open with tab and extend the drop-down menu.
Make VLC default
Make VLC default to remove videos not playing on Mac
  • Select VLC media player from the drop-down menu.
  • Now, choose Change All to save the changes you just made.

That’s it! You should now successfully play most video files including edited ones using the VLC player.

2. Pump Up the Computing Resources on iMac or MacBook

Some UHD, 2K, 4K, 8K, etc., videos may get stuck because there aren’t enough resources to handle the processes. Follow these instructions to enhance the processing capabilities of your Mac:

  • Go to the Activity Monitor app available in the Launchpad > utility app group or the Other group.
Quit unnecessary apps to free up resources on Activity Monitor
Quit unnecessary apps to free up resources on Activity Monitor to resolve videos not playing on Mac
  • Scroll down the list and see if you can notice any unnecessary processes and close those to free CPU, GPU, and RAM capacities.
  • Now, close Activity Monitor and re-attempt playing videos on Mac.

3. Scan macOS for Malware and Viruses

Your MacBook or iMac comes with built-in security systems like Malware Removal Tool (MRT) and XProtect. However, resilient and persistent malware can still infect the device.

You must use any prevalent antivirus software to detect and eliminate viruses from your Mac.

There are many malware protection tools in the market. You can get any of these: Norton, Bitdefender, Avast One, Quick Heal, etc.

4. Reset NVRAM on Your iMac or MacBook

If you’re on an Intel chip-based Mac device, follow these steps to refresh the NVRAM, and that might help in playing UHD or better videos on Mac:

How to reset NVRAM (Photo Courtesy of Apple)
How to reset NVRAM (Photo: Courtesy of Apple)
  • Hit the power on button on the device and immediately press and hold Option, Command, P, and R simultaneously for 20 seconds or so.
  • Release the keys, and you might see some activities on the screen, like the Apple logo appearing and disappearing. You may also hear the startup sound more than once.
  • Attempt playing the videos again that were showing errors earlier once the Mac restarts completely.

How to Fix Safari Is Not Playing Videos on Mac

Sometimes, you may face videos not playing on Mac issues when playing multimedia online, for instance, on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and so on. Here’s how you can attempt troubleshooting to resolve such issues:

1. Try to Use Safari Private Window

  • Right-click the Safari app icon on the Dock and click New Private Window.
Open Private Window in Safari
Open Private Window in Safari to fix Safari Is Not Playing Videos on Mac
  • Now, copy and paste the link of the video onto the Private Window and see if the video plays or not.

2. Remove Third-Party Extensions

  • When the Safari app is up and running, click the Safari App Menu icon beside the Apple icon on the top menu bar of the Mac.
  • Now choose Preferences.
  • On the new window that opens, click the Extensions tab.
How to Remove Third-Party Extensions.jpg
How to Remove Third-Party Extensions to fix Safari Is Not Playing Videos on Mac.jpg
  • Now, select a third-party extension and click Uninstall to remove it.
  • Repeat the steps for all third-party extensions.

3. Enable JavaScript and Adobe Flash

  • Go to the Preferences window of the Safari web browser.
  • Now, select the Security tab.
  • Checkmark the Enable JavaScript feature if it wasn’t active before.
  • Close Safari and restart it and try playing videos again.

4. Clear Cache on Safari

When Safari is not playing videos on Mac, you may also try clearing the cache by following these effortless steps:

  • Access Preferences in Safari App Menu and then tap Advanced.
  • Now, you must activate Show Develop menu in the menu bar option.
  • Again go to the Safari menu bar on the top of the screen and click Develop.
Activate developer menu on Safari
Activate developer menu on Safari
  • Press and hold the Option + Command + E buttons on the keyboard and then select Empty Caches.
Empty caches in Safari
Empty caches in Safari
  • Close and re-open the Safari app to test if videos are playing or not.

5. Use a VPN

Sometimes, you may try opening a video hosting site using any of the best cheapest VPN services. For geo-locked content not playing on Safari, VPN is the only option.

  • Click the Safari App Menu and select Safari Extensions.
  • The App Store will open.
  • Type VPN in the Search field.
  • Install any free VPN from the list that populates.
  • Activate the VPN extension from Safari App Menu > Preferences > Extensions.

Now, you can re-attempt playing any geolocation-locked videos on Safari.


These are some of the methods to troubleshoot the videos not playing on Mac issue. You’ve also learned the specific root causes and the linked troubleshooting. Give the above methods a try when you face video playback issues on Mac.

Comment below if I missed any method that you think is worth covering.

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is Senior Writer DZ-TECH, where he covers the world of technology, hacking, cybersecurity, surveillance and privacy.

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