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How to Speed up YouTube Video Buffering on a Macbook Pro

written by: •edited by: Michael Dougherty•updated: 11/16/2010

Tired of YouTube videos bringing your MacBook Pro to its knees? A quick change in your YouTube preferences may speed up buffering and performance speed.

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    Why Flash video buffering is slow on a MacBook Pro

    You may have noticed that your brand new MacBook Pro performs really well except when you go to YouTube to watch your favourite videos. You’ll notice your computer slow downs, the fans spin up, and you might even feel your MacBook Pro getting warmer anytime you stumble upon Flash content online. The common denominator in both these situations is Flash content.

    Whether it’s a MacBook, a MacBook Pro, or an iMac, all Mac computers run OS X which has a long history of receiving poor support from Adobe (the creator of Flash) when it comes to Flash content. While the reasons for this are not clear and the relationship between Adobe and Apple isn’t the smoothest, the good news is that there is something you can do.

    This measure is a result of the latest revision of HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language: the language used to design web sites), which added the ability to integrate video content into web sites without using Flash. What this means for MacBook Pro users is that we finally have an alternative to Flash and more importantly, and alternative that is much better supported in OS X.

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    How to speed up video buffering on Youtube

    While the fifth revision of HTML has not been adopted everywhere yet, some of the bigger web sites have already started to implement it. YouTube is one of the bigger names out there to have implemented this Flash alternative, although you wouldn’t know it by visiting their homepage. The good news is that you’re not stuck waiting until YouTube decides it’s ready – you can opt in right now to their HTML 5 trial and reap the benefits of moving away from Flash.

    To opt in, log into your YouTube account and then go to Take a moment to read the notes and then select “Join the HTML5 trial". The change takes effect immediately and you will benefit from faster buffering times, better performance, and better battery life on your MacBook Pro. Additionally, an HTML5 icon will be visible in the video bar when you're watching HTML5 content.

    The HTML5 icon on the video bar will be visible when you're watching HTML5 content. 

    Unfortunately the fact that this is a trial means not all videos are available in HTML5 yet, however whenever you come upon a Flash-only video YouTube will seamlessly show you the video in Flash. You will notice the drawbacks of Flash: slower buffering times, sluggishness, and reduced battery life, but you will not be locked away from content by opting into the HTML5 trial.

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    Will more web sites use HTML?

    As adoption of HTML5 increases, MacBook Pro users will benefit from faster buffering, smoother performance, and increase battery life (if on a laptop).The Flash player used in OS X has always been very slow compared to its Windows counterpart. While this issue has been known to both Adobe and Apple for several years, neither party has done much to solve the problem. Fortunately, the release of HTML5 has brought a new solution which is slowly taking over the web. Adobe itself recently demoed an application that allows Flash developers to convert their work to HTML5. With this last piece of news, adoption of HTML5 is expected to increase exponentially.