PowerBook G4 – Slow YouTube

Ever wondered why YouTube and other flash video streaming services run slowly and choppy on your beloved PowerBook G4, even when you allow for 100% buffering and run the latest version of Adobe Flash???

Here’s why and how to get around it.

It’s no secret that the PowerBook G4 series are run by the PowerPC CPU. Although not as fast or developed as the Intel Macs, my Tiger PowerBook, with a 1.5GHZ PPC and 1.25GB RAM is a fast little companion.

But YouTube playback was next to impossible!!

Google revealed that I wasn’t the only sufferer, but alot of the suggestions were unworkable.

Go to System Preferences > Energy Saver > (show all) Options and make sure your Processor Performance is set to “Automatic” or “Highest” rather than “Reduced”.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

It appears that “Reduced” is the default, undoubtedly to save on battery life.

‘ have of course tested this fix and implemented it for myself. I set it to highest and played a YT video. Sure enough, the playback was of good standard. I then dropped it back to Reduced and, as expected, the playback suffered. I’ve now set it to Automatic, and the playback is reasonable again.

I didn’t find this little gem on my own though. However, the only person to suggest this idea is buried under many non-working suggestions – and no body has returned to the topic to confirm this works!

Thanks to cm752004 on the Apple Forums. I’m posting the fix here as it’s not well documented – so at least THAT’s a first!


Would anyone like to try the following Open Source Flash Player and report back with results?

JW Player: http://www.longtailvideo.com/players/jw-flv-player/

25 thoughts on “PowerBook G4 – Slow YouTube

  1. Peter

    Mate, you are a champion! This has been pissing me off for quite a while. Mine was set on “Highest” but noticed an improvement by changing it to “Automatic”.

  2. Will

    that definitely helps! i think the old computer isn’t ever going to catch up all the way with these newfangled “inter-net” videos, but your fix makes it bearable to check out hulu and youtube again. Many thanks!

  3. Erika

    You are right, I tried this and it does help to a degree, but I found a WAY better fix if I may share:

    I read somewhere that it is the newer versions of Flash that are too much for the G4. Youtube videos played fine on my Powerbook Ti G4 until I upgraded to the newest Flash 10 version, which made videos impossible to watch. After uninstalling Flash 10 (using the uninstaller which can be downloaded from the Flash site), I downloaded and installed the later version of Flash 8. Youtube now plays perfectly without jumping!!!!!!!!! I guess the older computer needs the slightly older version, which still serves it’s purpose.

  4. ross

    This doesnt work as now you get a message saying that ‘this flash video requires flash 10 to run click to download’ does anyone have any other ideas?

  5. Richard Post author

    If my fix of using “Highest” CPU doesn’t help, then it’s really how Erika explained: The latest versions of Flash require better hardware.
    Unless someone can convince Adobe to offer support for PPC?????

  6. Jonny

    CPU fixed worked for me. OK not 100% perfect but a lot better. I can also watch BBC iPlayer now as well.

    many thanks!


  7. Jonny

    CPU fixed worked for me. OK not 100% perfect but a lot better. I can also watch BBC iPlayer now as well.

    many thanks!

    Powerbook G4 1.67Ghz 1GB RAM


  8. josh

    omg it worked doing botht hose things finally got me to stream youtube videos flawless on my trusty powerbook g5 1.5 512 mb of ram!

    one thing is u cant view full screen youtube vids ohh well i can live without that aslong as i can finally watch


  9. sd

    That worked perfectly! Well done you! Thank you. I’ve been hunting for 2 days after a minor battery problem with my Powerbook G4 I have been on a Windows laptop for a month enjoying youtube videos without any pauses, out of sync etc and to be back on my mac now I was shocked to find out that it wasn’t my internet speed as I thought, it was the setting.

    Theres hundreds of people struggling with this in the forums I checked. Maybe we should direct them to this difinitive cure.

  10. FranciscoNET

    Yea, to all of you who uses the Adobe Flash Player version 8 downgrade to get the Youtube videos working smoothly again (after seeing the videos choppy with the latest version 10). Keep this in mind: your ‘method’ will continue to work AS LONG AS youtube, all of the sudden, does not force you to do a mandatory update to any later version(s) of Adobe Flash to be able to watch videos. I have seen this in the past, so this tells me that relying in version 8 of Adobe Flash will only be a temporary fix until that version doesn’t work any more with Youtube. Mandatory forceful updates sucks (specially when version 8 is the last version to playback YT videos smoothly on older computers). I would suggest to Youtube to make Version 8 work indefinitely for people on slower computers (even if this, some how, means HD videos not working for these people who chooses to remain in version 8, and Standard Definition works since that would be more than fine for people on older computers), otherwise, it would be the end of youtube as you know it on slower computers once Adobe Flash 8 doesn’t work any more.

  11. Greg

    Downgrading to flash 8 does make the videos smooth, but many sites on the internet require flash 10 already and downgrading just to watch youtube videos smoothly is silly!

    It’s obviously not the computer that can’t handle it- it’s incompatibility with the new UB coding. Flash 10 shouldn’t make videos that play smoothly in flash 8 suddenly play choppy.

  12. Nick Welsh

    Quick question. I don’t see the Processor Performance option on my Powerbook G4. I’m running Tiger still. Is that a Leopard only option in System Prefs? Thanks!

  13. John

    Nick Welsh:

    Quick question. I don’t see the Processor Performance option on my Powerbook G4. I’m running Tiger still. Is that a Leopard only option in System Prefs? Thanks!

    I am pretty sure that the option is there in Tiger (so long as your running all updates) as it is no longer a problem in Leopard.

    I am unable to check now as I only run Snow Leopard and Richard has had to retire his MacBook…

  14. Jeff

    I have a powerbook G4 1.67 gig 1.5 gig of ram i have the newest flash play and can watch you vids at normal quity. What you need to do. Turn your hard wear eclarton back on. go into you java setting and check all of the setting so they are all on and walah you have youtube and hulu but sometimes you haft to change the quality on hulu

  15. Daniel

    The best thing to do (well the best way i found) is to set processor performance to ‘automatic’ like peter said…. i had it set to highest for ages thinking it was the best option. I changed it to automatic and BLAM! youtube loads smooth with no problems! … sometimes i have to wait for it to load around 1/4 way but that mabe my internet…

    hope this helped.


    PowerBook G4
    1GB RAM
    80GB HDD

  16. John

    Your welcome Craig… I agree it is a real show stopper for some… glad the article helped… subscribe to our RSS feed to keep up to date!

  17. jm

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU… you just saved me $1000 on buying a new laptop simply b/c I thought I was never going to be able to watch decent vids on this PowerbookG4!!!

  18. John

    Well this is still the most popular article on the website – which can only mean one thing – there are many people who use G4 notebooks still – annoying that companies are dropping support for the hardware.

    Thanks for all your input on the articles so far. Feel free to subscribe to the blog and also comment and get involved.

  19. Steve S

    I found a solution just last night. Install the following Safari extension (requires Leopard and Safari 5): http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=youtube5&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCoQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.verticalforest.com%2Fyoutube5-extension%2F&ei=0y7bUoCbIIO-sQTkmIDAAQ&usg=AFQjCNGDB6t_C6hO3honQvTGh-dok0SO6A&bvm=bv.59568121,d.cWc
    or google Youtube5. This forces youtube videos to play in HTML5, which is FAR less processor intensive. Be sure to go to Safari preferences and under “Extensions” set the player to 360p, it is defaulted to 720 which these machines can’t handle. Alternatively you can download MacTubes (free) and use it as your youtube browser, but I find that a less than satisfactory experience. It plays the vids VERY well, but you have to know what you want to watch and enter the title into a search bar.

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