September 21, 2009 10:08 PM   Subscribe

Technostupid question filter: How to make unwatchable YouTube files from the Temp Files folder watchable on my computer?

I watch loads of stuff on YouTube daily. Sometimes I download videos directly using KeepVid, but usually I don't bother. It used to be that I could navigate to my Temporary Internet Files folder, and all the videos that I had watched would be there. They'd be listed as something like 'get_video,' and I would drag each to my desktop and add '.flv' to the end of their name to watch them. I never had a problem watching YouTube videos (with VLC) this way.

Now all videos show up as .flvs automatically but none of them play. For instance, I now have 'video[1].flv' to 'video[11].flv' in the folder. Clicking on the files opens VLC, but there's no video or sound. There's just a bar scrolling through the would-be duration of the video (the time does display on the bottom bar of the window). Are these .flv files useless? Are any of them watchable or can they be made to be watchable? Why is it that I could get the files to work on my computer before by manually adding '.flv' but now actual '.flvs' (from YouTube) won't play? Am I making any sense? Is there a free, safe program that will make these videos watchable? I guess I'd prefer a small file converter program than another video application. I don't think VLC's to blame..?

This is on a Win2k computer. I'm still using an old IE to access YT. And I'm on very slow dial-up. *gulp* I LOATHE asking tech questions.. be gentle!
posted by Mael Oui to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)

If you can install Firefox on your Win2K box there are like a zillion plugins that will assist you in downloading a YT Vid is multiple formats.
posted by GilloD at 11:29 PM on September 21, 2009

Best answer: You need a codec for H.264. There's one included in the Combined Community Codec Pack.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:41 PM on September 21, 2009

Files don't carry a special indicator field for what their content is. You get a filename, contents and a few boring attributes. Windows and other systems use the extension to decide the type of file it is, and what program should be associated with it.

It sounds like your computer knows what sort of files they are, and that VLC can play them; the problem is with VLC, or likely the codes that don't come with VLC. I think newer Youtube "high def" videos use a different codec, like h264. This all works for me in Ubuntu so I don't pay close attention to changes in Youtube, but I think the old stuff was Sorenson codec, and perhaps they consolidated everything to h264.

Pickle's CCCP link should work well for you.
posted by pwnguin at 1:47 AM on September 22, 2009

Files don't carry a special indicator field for what their content is.

Not a uniform or standard one. But many file formats have magic numbers that programs reading those formats use to make sure they have the right sort of file. So you can often identify a file by just checking a lot of different magic numbers until you find one that hits.

On unix-like systems (which are all I'm familiar with), the standard utility for doing this is called file. Wikipedia has a link to this utility for Windows, which might help you.
posted by narge at 2:25 AM on September 22, 2009

I use opera not IE but I can open & view the files from the cache in VLC after adding .flv
posted by canoehead at 7:31 AM on September 22, 2009

Best answer: All YouTube videos are H.264. That's the codec supported by Flash in the FLV format. The difference between the low-def and high-def videos is that the high-def ones are often larger (in pixels), and they always use more kilobytes per second. But the codec is the same.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:24 PM on September 22, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks so much for the responses! I actually kind of understand what I'm being told here (first time ever for a tech question!!). Follow-up question, just in case someone actually looks back here: So, would it be best simply to install the recommended codec pack or should I upgrade my VLC player? If I upgraded the VLC player (I haven't upgraded it in a few years, I think), would the codec situation be straightened out?

Otherwise, thank you VERY much for all your responses! I'm going to take a look at some of the links and I'll be back to pick out best answer(s)!
posted by Mael Oui at 8:46 PM on September 22, 2009

It probably wouldn't hurt to upgrade VLC but I doubt it would solve your problem. I'm virtually certain that your problem is a missing codec, and once the codec is installed even your current version of VLC should be able to play those FLCs.

Windows treats codecs like device drivers, sort of; apps aren't supposed to contain codecs. Instead, they're global resources which are registered with the OS. What the CCCP does is installs lots of reliable and free codecs for standards which aren't natively supported by Windows, and then registers them with the OS so that they're available for any and every app (like VLC) to use if need be.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:06 PM on September 22, 2009

Sorry, that should be "...should be able to play those FLVs."
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:08 PM on September 22, 2009

Response by poster: Hmmm.. I've downloaded and installed the CCCP, and there WAS mention of H.264 (which was checked off to install the codec).. but still none of the .flvs that downloaded from YouTube are working in VLC. I can't see what I did wrong, but I'll go back over it again..?
posted by Mael Oui at 9:06 PM on September 24, 2009

Response by poster: Okay, I've got it working in Windows Media Player which is not preferable, but since they at least WORK, I'm relatively happy!
posted by Mael Oui at 9:12 PM on September 24, 2009

If Media Player will run them and VLC will not, then you probably ought to upgrade VLC.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:13 PM on September 24, 2009

By the way, you did reboot your computer after you installed CCCP, didn't you?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:41 PM on September 24, 2009

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