Android: Fix for YouTube "There was a problem while playing. Tap to retry" - Videos Stop Playing After a Few Days

This was an annoying issue plaguing me for the past year or so. I don't know exactly when it started happening or why, but there are numerous posts and issue trackers for it scattered around the internet without a solid fix.

The problem

The official YouTube app suddenly decides to stop working about 2 days after rebooting the phone. There's no real information available (as a user) to figure out what's wrong.

All it says is "There was an error while playing. Touch to Retry".

Oh but not to worry, you're still able to watch YouTube ads before the actual video itself.

For those more technically inclined, here's what the stack trace looks like when YouTube freaks the hell out:

Fixes that I've tried

Over the year, nothing I tried works aside from restarting the phone. That was the only thing that kept YouTube working, other than just watching it via the browser which bypasses the app altogether.

In case you've stumbled upon this guide while running into an entirely different issue, here are a few things that may get YouTube working again:

Clearing cache and data for YouTube didn't work
Uninstalling and reinstalling YouTube didn't work
Downgrading to an older version of YouTube didn't work - I went all the way back from v11 to v6
Removing current WiFi details and adding it back didn't work - some people believe this works
As mentioned above, restarting the phone works for about 2 days. You'll find it frustrating after putting up with an ad and it doesn't work again
Using a web browser to play the video Works consistently, but it's not as good as the app

The Solution!

Only until last week did I manage to find a new suggestion on XDA forums. I tried it out, gave it a few days and surprisingly it still works!

Unfortunately, it requires you to have root access to your Android device. I guess there's only so much you can do before you have to dig deeper to fix these sort of issues.

What you need to do is rename a few system files and restart the phone.

  1. Open up a file explorer capable of browsing system folders. If your phone doesn't have one, I recommend FX File Explorer as it comes with root explorer mode.
  2. Navigate your way to /system/etc/firmware/
  3. Rename the following files to add ".bak":
    tzwidevine.b00 tzwidevine.b00.bak
    tzwidevine.b01 tzwidevine.b01.bak
    tzwidevine.b02 tzwidevine.b02.bak
    tzwidevine.b03 tzwidevine.b03.bak
    tzwidevine.mdt tzwidevine.mdt.bak

  4. Restart your phone.
  5. Make YouTube great again! You shouldn't have any more issues with watching silly videos again after doing this.


Video playback issue - Post #4

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