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How to fix iTunes stutter

UPDATE – 13th Sept. 2009: I’m glad this post is still of use, if you do find a different solution, please add it to the comments. Mostly I think that the iTunes stutter is only a manifestation of other issues (drivers out of sync or whatever), but glad that this is helping people fix their issue.

Since updating iTunes to version 7 (.02) I’ve been plagued on and off by this issue. Googling brought some success but I’ve seen a few different suggestions of how to fix this, all from different sources with different setups. I finally managed to cure MY system so thought I’d collate everything I’ve found in the hope that others find it beneficial.

So, if you’ve been experiencing the now infamous “iTunes Stutter”, and like me it hasn’t been happening consistently, how do you fix it?

First up I should point out that this is aimed at Windows users and whilst I too am guilty of cursing Apple for not testing their product properly, I will add the caveats that:

  1. Microsoft has had issues like this in the past as well
  2. the possible number of test combinations (OS version, sound card hardware, sound card driver, other audio software installed) is truly staggering.

However, I still think the amount of noise this issue has generated means that Apple have gotten something wrong somewhere… but hey, they’ve issued two quick updates and I’d expect a further one soon (I’d also guess they’re waiting until after Xmas when the ‘new users’ come online having been given their first iPods).

How do you fix it?!
Sorry, I’ll stop waffling. From what I’ve read there are four areas to consider. Three are centred around the audio settings of Quicktime, the last in iTunes itself. YOUR fix might be a combination of any of these, and from what I’ve read over the past month everyone has a different fix. So try one, two or all of these and see what happens. YMMV!

Note: Quicktime is the engine that iTunes uses. This confused me for a while, but then I’m just a simpleton from the sticks..

Fix 1: Change the Quicktime audio output format.
This fix seems, from what Google tells me, to work for the majority of people. I guess it’s lowering the drain iTunes puts on your system.

To stop the stutter:

  1. Make sure iTunes isn’t running.
  2. Open the Control Panel by selecting Start > Control Panel.
  3. Double-click the Quicktime icon to open the Quicktime Preferences.
  4. Select the Audio tab.
  5. In the Sound Out section, change the output format Size to 16 bit.
  6. Click OK to close the Quicktime Preferences dialog.
  7. Start iTunes and try playing a track.

No joy? Try Fix 2.

Fix 2: Check that Quicktime is using the correct audio device.
The most common example of this fault is if you have installed Total Recorder, which sets itself as the default audio device on your system (for valid reasons, nothing sinister). To stop the stutter you need to make sure that Quicktime is using the default system soundcard. It’s worth checking these settings anyway, just to be sure.

To stop the stutter:

  1. Make sure iTunes isn’t running.
  2. Open the Control Panel by selecting Start > Control Panel.
  3. Double-click the Quicktime icon to open the Quicktime Preferences.
  4. Select the Audio tab.
  5. In the Devices section, at the top of the dialog, click the Select Audio Playback and Recording Devices button.
  6. In the Sounds and Audio Devices Properties dialog that opens make sure the default device for Sound playback is set to your soundcard (Creative, SigmaTel, whatever you have).
  7. Click OK to close the dialog.
  8. Click OK to close the Quicktime Preferences dialog.
  9. Start iTunes and try playing a track.

No joy? Try Fix 3.

Fix 3: Make Quicktime use safe mode (or don’t).
For some reason some people already have this option selected, others don’t. I’ve not been able to figure out any rhyme nor reason for it (other than that some people have forgotten that they’ve already changed this setting, or simply that people lie).

To stop the stutter:

  1. Make sure iTunes isn’t running.
  2. Open the Control Panel by selecting Start > Control Panel.
  3. Double-click the Quicktime icon to open the Quicktime Preferences.
  4. Select the Audio tab.
  5. In the Devices section, at the top of the dialog, check (or un-check) Safe mode (waveOut only).
  6. Click OK to close the Quicktime Preferences dialog.
  7. Start iTunes and try playing a track.

No joy? Try Fix 4.

Fix 4: Stop crossfading tracks in iTunes.
This is the one that finally fixed it for me. It MAY have been because I completed all the fixes above, or it may have been the only thing required. Fact is my iTunes now plays without stuttering (unless the PC is under a really heavy load of course, but that’s just symptoms of an old PC and not enough RAM).

To stop the stutter:

  1. Start iTunes
  2. Select Edit > Preferences.
  3. Select the Playback tab.
  4. Uncheck Crossfade playback.
  5. Click OK.
  6. Start iTunes and try playing a track.

STILL No joy? Well after this you’ll need to head off into uninstall land, remove all other media software, remove iTunes plugins, update sound card drivers, and possibly double check your cables, speakers, MP3 files and your hearing. Sorry.

Last, but not least, you could always roll back to a previous version of iTunes.

If I’ve missed anything let me know. I’ll keep this post up-to-date with further suggestions and ideas.

# ~ General 40 Comments


Comments (40)

Graham WFebruary 9th, 2007 at 11:29 am

Selecting the “Safe mode” seemed to work a treat for me.
Cheers, Graham.

Tom DMarch 22nd, 2008 at 2:07 pm

Thanks so much this has been a big help – i already had my sound out size at 16 bit but after changing my device to my soundcard it sounds great now… i couldn’t listen to my music for 3 months!! thank again :-)

travisMarch 27th, 2008 at 4:48 am

thanks man!

JurreMay 12th, 2008 at 5:51 pm

I’ve had this problem for ages. I recently found out that there is a connection between the stutter and logitech’s setpoint drivers as well. Changing setpoint.exe priority to low fixed the problem for me.

JoshMay 23rd, 2008 at 9:51 pm

@Jurre: I have previously tried all the suggestions this article recommends and previously the safe mode fix worked for me, but in the latest versions of iTunes the stutter came back and that setting had no effect. So thanks for the suggestion of setting some processes to low priority; I did so on iSproggler which is an iTunes plugin that uploads usage stats to Last.fm, and that seems to have relieved the problem.

patrickJune 4th, 2008 at 10:21 pm

Wow…..I’ve been looking for weeks to get rid of the stuttering. I tried everything…and it was the “crossfade playback” fix that finally worked for me! Thanks very much!!!!

Patrick

DanJune 14th, 2008 at 8:30 pm

Thanks so much. Number 3 did it for me. Enabled safe mode.

NeelJune 16th, 2008 at 4:08 pm

Hi guys!
I think mine is just out.
I started iTunes and half of my songs stopped playing completely (as if they didn’t respond) or others stuttered.
I uninstalled itunes… reinstalled… made a full virus and spyware scan… tried everything you wrote above and everything I came across on the net… Yet NO LUCK!
When I reinstalled iTunes and re added my songs… Only half of my song library was added. The other half plays well on Media Player Classic while on all the other players (itunes, winamp, wmp), still no response, stuttering or no file added at all.
Is there a problem with my songs/itunes/quicktime/windows/other softwares/ or ????
Anyone can help out?
Thx guys!
Neel!

SiechenAugust 24th, 2008 at 2:58 am

Thanks so much!. A combo of #s 2 and 3 did the job for me (so far). #s 1 & 4 were already set the way you suggested. REALLY appreciate the tips.

TomSeptember 15th, 2008 at 12:10 am

Worked really well, the safe mode fix did it for me!

RachelOctober 8th, 2008 at 2:20 am

Wow! Works for me! Thank you!

RossOctober 25th, 2008 at 11:29 pm

This is a great article… selecting “safe mode” worked for me. At last I can listen to music without this frustration. All other settings were set as suggested.

Im running Itunes 8 with Vista Business.

AdamNovember 3rd, 2008 at 5:57 pm

Hey thanks for the tips For those who have a Sigmatel audio driver there are a few more options you can check. Go onto Control panel > Sounds and Audio Devices > Audio Tab > Advanced. first of all check that your speaker set up is correct. Then check the performance tab, try reducing the hardware acceleration a notch. This helped me along with enabling safe mode.

thanks again for your tips. iTunes is lame! You shouldnt need to do this crap!

[...] have a consistent stutter when I play music now. I tried the suggestions of many others in the net (http://www.onemanblogs.co.uk/index.php/archives/2006/12/06/how-to-fix-itunes-stutter) but to no avail. I also tried downgrading to the last 7 release but no luck. This just stinks. [...]

EllieNovember 9th, 2008 at 3:11 pm

Thank you so much for this help. It was the crossfade playback that cured the problem for me! Very kind and considerate of you to take the time to compile this article.

KenNovember 26th, 2008 at 3:33 am

Great page! Thanks for the info!
Changing the soundcard did the trick for me!

EstebanDecember 2nd, 2008 at 6:02 am

Dude! Thanks so much!
I’ve had to deal with the stuttering for over a year! (Pathetic, I know… :p)
Number 3 and 4 did it for me.
Thanks again. :)

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dfFebruary 28th, 2009 at 4:03 pm

I read a closed discussion on here about people suffering with iTunes stuttering like crazy.
I had tried every suggestion I could find on google apart from re-installing Windows XP, until I found a solution that works.
I created an account on here just so I could tell you I fixed it on my computer. I’ve got Windows XP Service Pack 3, 2 gigs of ram and it was stuttering badly.

To fix this all I had to do was go to Task Manager by pressing ctrl-alt-del, right click on iTunes.exe under the Processes tab and set priority to above normal.

You will have to do this every time you use it unless you create a .bat file to make it happen automatically.

This is how you I did it. You will need to change the bit after “abovenormal” to wherever you have saved iTunes. Mine is saved on my P drive in the itunes folder, but yours will be saved somewhere else.

I opened Notepad and typed the following:

start /abovenormal p:/itunes/itunes.exe

Then Save As itunesloader.bat

Now all you have to do is double-click on that bat file to open iTunes in above normal priority mode every time.

Hope this helps some frustrated people out there.

Damien x

sachaApril 26th, 2009 at 3:09 pm

the solution for me was changing the frequency from 44,1 kHz to 32 kHz in the quicktime preferences/audio… all the rest has been useless!

thanx!

BobMay 17th, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Can’t thank you enough. (it was Fix #2 if you’re keeping score at home!)

Peter DickAugust 7th, 2009 at 9:32 am

Thanks for all the info. I think I solved my stutter by removing Quicktime and then re-installing it. Note: I left iTunes alone.

On the other hand, it may have been a combination of things as per your list!

SeanAugust 27th, 2009 at 6:06 am

I finally got mine to stop stuttering just now. The final fix was changing Quicktime’s sound out rate to 32kHz.

It might have been a combination, however, as I tried everything in the list and comments before tweaking the sound out rate.

Exhausting…

BigBSeptember 13th, 2009 at 9:26 pm

THANKS. Fix 4 above (unchecking Crossfade Playback) worked for me. I got major stuttering after downloading itunes 9.0. Uninstalling and reinstalling iTunes-Quicktime did nothing. Fix 4 above was the winner.

This really helped me. Great blog. Many, many thanks.

ErikSeptember 18th, 2009 at 10:22 pm

great, the safe-mode did the trick for me! Thnx!

MegOctober 27th, 2009 at 5:41 pm

Thank you! Fix 3 did the trick. I stay at home with a small kid, and some days, podcasts are all that keep me from eating my foot – your article totally saved me.

EstherNovember 10th, 2009 at 3:49 am

Jurre, you are amazing! I set setpoint.exe to low priority like you said and no more stuttering! Thank you!

RhondaNovember 14th, 2009 at 12:40 pm

Safe mode worked! Brilliant! :)

MischaNovember 20th, 2009 at 10:59 am

Thank u so much, the crossfading worked for my itunes issue! and all the other ways of fixing it i had also found somewhere else but this one only on your blog (and it is the one thats working)! thank u so much, i can finally enjoy my music library again!

DickDecember 13th, 2009 at 2:41 pm

Noticed the stutter today… & thanks to you fixed it today!! Excellent – Thanks very much! (for me it was the Quicktime Safe Mode)

EwoudDecember 26th, 2009 at 10:55 am

Thank you very much! I’v been searching for a solution for a few weeks. For me fix 2 worked!

RBJanuary 5th, 2010 at 3:34 am

This has been a very frustrating problem, but it seems that fix 4 has solved it!! Thanks!!

RobFebruary 1st, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Awesome!! Thanks for your advice. Step 3 worked for me though I was already in Safe Mode and switched to Direct Sound and I can now multi task again. Thanks again.

TomFebruary 11th, 2010 at 9:20 am

Thanks for this! I got the stuttering with my headphones connected to the computer using a USB adapter. Tweaking the default Quicktime audio settings lessened the problem, but no total cure for me. However, plugging my headphones directly into the computer audio jacks (no USB adapter in between) and problem goes away. There must be some latency or driver issue with the adapter in the mix.

simonApril 3rd, 2010 at 12:01 am

Thanks tried all to no avail.

Turned out to be the latency setting on my hammerfall soundcard set above 512

thanks

ScottApril 11th, 2010 at 4:35 pm

I seemed to be late to the party on this one. The stuttering had only recently arrived (ver. 9.0). It was driving me crazy. So thanks for keeping the solution up to date.

EdSeptember 11th, 2010 at 11:26 pm

Went thru Fix #1, 2, & 3; no change, but Fix # 4 appears to be working for me; thank you very much.

Like one of the comments above; I just stopped using iTunes because the stuttering was so annoying; every song; it was driving me crazy.

Thank you for being here,

MattskaSeptember 17th, 2010 at 8:27 pm

I cannot thank you enough for this great article. After months of frustration, changing soundcard ports, software updates etc. this simple article saved my music. THANK YOU SO MUCH.

Number 1 was the winner for me – so easy.

Uncle DuckJuly 4th, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Many thanks for that. They key seemed to be making sure the quicktime output settings matched the output settings for the sound card. Obvious really , but 20:20 hindsight is great. Cheers!

RickOctober 2nd, 2011 at 11:43 pm

Step # 3 seems to have worked for me. I placed it in safe mode, then started iTunes, then opened and closed many different applications and the stutter stopped. In the past, any time iTunes was running and I did anything else on my computer, it would stutter and drive me crazy. Thanks for leaving this posted on the site. It was very helpful to me. FYI… my op-sys is windows xp, with all current iTunes updated.

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