Struggling with “This Video Is Unavailable” Errors on YouTube? Here’s How I Finally Fixed It

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Have you ever felt the intense frustration of coming across an intriguing YouTube video, clicking play with excitement, only to be slapped in the face with a vague “This video is unavailable” error message? I definitely have, and let me tell you – it stinks.

As a self-proclaimed YouTube addict, not being able to access videos can totally ruin my day. Over the years, I’ve spent way too many hours trying in vain to get unavailable videos to play, from clearing my browser history to disabling my ad blockers. Sometimes I could get it working, but often that dreaded notice just refused to budge.

If you’ve experienced the same annoyance, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Surveys show that over 60% of YouTube users report running into unavailable videos every single month. With over 2 billion monthly active users on the platform, that means potentially over a billion people are encountering this problem regularly!

The causes of YouTube’s “video unavailable” error are many – geo-restrictions, copyright claims, mature content filters, and more. But the good news is, whether you’re blocked from watching a music video in your country or you’re desperate to see a viral cat video that won’t load, I’ve got your back.

In this guide, I’ll share all the tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years to successfully access virtually any unavailable YouTube video. Stick with me, and soon you’ll have the skills to lift any geographic or access restriction keeping you from watching what you want. Let’s get started!

Why Does the "Video Unavailable" Error Happen?

Before we dive into the solutions, it helps to understand exactly why YouTube may block a video from playing in your region or device. The platform is really providing an automated message that encompasses a wide range of potential issues. Here are the most common reasons you may see the “video unavailable” notice:

Age Restrictions

YouTube will place age restrictions on videos with violent, sexual, or otherwise mature content. If you’re logged into an account that’s under 18, you’ll be prevented from watching age-restricted videos.

Media companies are quick to pounce on copyright violations, filing claims against videos that use their content without permission. This results in immediate blocking until the claim is resolved.

Geographic Limitations

Content owners can choose to limit their videos to only being viewable in certain countries or regions. Trying to watch from an unauthorized area triggers the “unavailable” message.

Platform Malfunctions

Like any piece of technology, YouTube isn’t foolproof. Glitches, failed uploads, and backend errors can all also show the generic “unavailable” notice.

Problematic Browser Extensions

Seemingly harmless extensions like ad blockers and VPNs can sometimes interfere with videos loading correctly on YouTube. Disable them as a quick fix.

Poor Internet Connectivity

YouTube requires a minimum of 5Mbps download speed for smooth 480p streaming. On slower connections, you may not have the bandwidth to load videos.

Device Limitations

In rare cases, videos may only be approved for playback on desktop or mobile. Trying to view a desktop-only video on an iPhone will fail.

As you can see, the “video unavailable” error can stem from a wide array of potential issues. The common thread is that for some reason, YouTube’s servers are blocking that content from playing on your specific device or location.

Now let’s go through each solution one-by-one so you can start accessing those videos!

Use a VPN to Watch Restricted Videos

The single best method I’ve found for bypassing geographic and access restrictions is to use a VPN, or virtual private network. Here’s a quick explanation of how it works:

VPNs allow you to route your internet traffic through servers located in different countries around the world. So even if you’re physically located in Australia, you can connect to a VPN server in the USA and appear to YouTube as if you’re accessing it from there. This allows you to skirt around geographic limitations and view region-locked content.

VPN services offer apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and more, so you can mask your location on any device. I mainly use my VPN to watch blocked YouTube videos, but it also helps protect my privacy and security when accessing public WiFi.

If you decide to try a VPN, I recommend going with a reputable paid provider like ExpressVPN or NordVPN, rather than a free service. Paid VPNs are much faster, more reliable, and protect your data better. Some even have servers specially optimized for streaming video!

Here are some pros and cons of top-rated VPNs for accessing restricted YouTube content:

VPN Pros Cons
ExpressVPN Very fast speeds, great for streaming More expensive at $13/month
NordVPN Affordable, allows 6 device connections Slower speeds
Surfshark Unlimited devices, good value at $2.49/month Smaller server network
CyberGhost User-friendly interface Inconsistent speeds

Steps to Use a VPN for YouTube:

  1. Choose a paid VPN service like ExpressVPN and set up an account.

  2. Download & install the VPN app on your device, like Windows or iOS.

  3. Run the app and connect to a server located in a region where the video is available. This masks your real location.

  4. Go back to YouTube in your browser. The restricted video should now play flawlessly!

Using a VPN is hands-down the most effective solution I’ve found for accessing any YouTube video blocked in my region, taking down that annoying “unavailable” message once and for all.

Adjust Your Browser Settings

In some cases, unavailable videos are caused not by location, but by issues with your browser. Let’s go through some browser settings you can tweak to get those videos playing again:

Clear Your Browser Cache

Over time, corrupt cached data from YouTube can accumulate in your browser and prevent videos from loading correctly. Clearing your cache erases this problematic data.

Chrome: Go to Settings > Privacy & Security > Clear Browsing Data. Select Cached Images/Files and clear.

Firefox: Click the Menu > Options > Privacy & Security > Clear Data. Select Cache and clear.

Safari: Go to Preferences > Privacy > Manage Website Data > Remove All.

Disable Browser Extensions

Extensions like ad blockers, VPNs, and even translation add-ons can sometimes interfere with YouTube videos loading properly. Try disabling all extensions as a quick troubleshooting fix.

Switch Browsers

One browser may fail where another succeeds. If Firefox or Chrome aren’t working, give Microsoft Edge or Opera a shot to see if they can open the restricted video file.

Reset Browser to Default Settings

If your browser settings have gotten really wonky, resetting them to factory default will erase any problematic customizations. In Chrome, go to Settings > Reset Settings to restore defaults.

Update Your Browser

Make sure you’re running the very latest version of your web browser. Updates often patch bugs affecting video playback, so updating may resolve unavailable video issues.

Allow Flash (if absolultely required)

YouTube ended support for Adobe Flash in 2020. Extremely old videos may still require Flash, but allowing it comes with massive security risks. Only do this as an absolute last resort.

Use YouTube‘s Mobile App

One workaround I’ve found helpful is to use the YouTube mobile app when I can’t access a video on desktop. The YouTube mobile experience is built on a different codebase, so sometimes blocked videos will appear fine there.

It’s worth installing the YouTube app for both iOS and Android to give yourself the best chance of playing stubborn “unavailable” videos. The apps also allow you to continue watching videos uninterrupted even if you lose internet connectivity temporarily.

One catch is that a small number of videos are intentionally limited to desktop by their creators, so you may still encounter “unavailable” errors in the mobile apps too. But it’s worth a shot!

Adjust Video Quality Settings

If you’re unable to watch a video due to constant buffering and lag, lowering the video quality may resolve the issue. YouTube needs a minimum of 5Mbps download speed for smooth 480p streaming.

In the YouTube player, click the gear icon to access video quality settings. Try lowering quality from 1080p HD to 720p or even 480p. This reduces bandwidth requirements and may allow the video to load properly.

Keep in mind this is only a good solution if bandwidth is the problem – it won’t help lift geographic restrictions.

Understand the Technical Differences Between YouTube Web and Mobile

It can be maddening when a video is playable in the YouTube app but not the desktop site (or vice versa). To understand why this happens, we need to examine some key architectural differences between the experiences:

  • The YouTube website utilizes a monolithic architecture with one large codebase, while the mobile apps were built from the ground up with a service-oriented architecture.

  • Features are rolled out faster on the mobile apps since new code only needs to be added to specific microservices. New web features require larger code commits.

  • Caching and bandwidth management work differently on mobile, which may allow lower-quality videos to load even with poor connections.

  • Mobile apps use native platform media players for video playback, while YouTube web relies on custom HTML5 and JavaScript logic.

So in summary, the two platforms are powered by different underlying technology stacks. When a video won’t play on one but works on the other, it’s likely due to inconsistencies in how traffic, quality adaptation, DRM, and other technical factors are handled across the two systems.

Workarounds Are Temporary – The Rules Are Always Changing

While the tips in this guide will help you access many unavailable videos today, it’s important to keep in mind that workarounds don’t last forever. YouTube is constantly evolving, and the site regularly develops new restrictions aimed at blocking the tricks that used to work.

For example, in 2021 YouTube began cracking down on the use of VPNs to bypass geographic blocks. So a VPN server that reliably unlocked videos last year may be detected and blocked now.

Copyright holders are also continually sending new takedown requests to YouTube, meaning videos freely available yesterday may suddenly become blocked. And countries like China perpetually update their censorship policies limiting which content can be seen by citizens.

To stay on top of the latest trends around YouTube restrictions, make sure to follow updates from Google and pay attention to relevant discussions on subreddits like r/VPNTorrents and r/youtubetv. The technology arms race continues as users find new ways to access content, and platforms counter with ever-more-advanced blocking.

The good news is services like trustworthy VPN providers are highly motivated to keep one step ahead. Major vendors have teams of engineers dedicated to outsmarting IP blocks and developing new protocols that can evade detection. So even as the landscape shifts, the right tools (and knowledge) will keep providing access.

YouTube Video Unavailable? Don’t Stress, Just Implement My Fixes

Trying to watch a tantalizing video only to encounter the dreaded “This video is unavailable” message can seriously ruin your day as a YouTube lover. With over 1 billion users hitting these restrictions worldwide every month, it’s a hugely common predicament.

Luckily, as you now know, there are a variety of smart workarounds that can help lift these geographic, device and access limitations – at least temporarily. So the next time you run into that frustrating error screen, take a breath, then methodically work your way through the fixes and suggestions outlined above.

With the right combination of VPN trickery, browser tweaking, app experimenting, and quality adjusting, chances are good you’ll regain access to the desired content faster than you think. Persistence and creativity are key!

Of course YouTube restrictions are forever changing, so even experts get stumped from time to time. But I hope this guide provided some fresh tips and gave you new hope in vanquishing those “unavailable” messages for good. Never stop the fight to watch what you want!


Written by Alexis Kestler

A female web designer and programmer - Now is a 36-year IT professional with over 15 years of experience living in NorCal. I enjoy keeping my feet wet in the world of technology through reading, working, and researching topics that pique my interest.