Dell recommends Windows 8.

Windows 8's Missing Video Codecs

Brien Posey, Freelance Writer and Former CIO | 6/4/2013 | 22 comments

Brien Posey
In spite of all of the innovation that has gone into Windows 8, Microsoft's latest desktop operating system has been widely criticized for a number of different reasons. Although I am certainly not out to add to the "Windows bashing," there are some areas in which I think that Microsoft needed to do some additional work. One of these areas is in the way of video playback.

Windows Media Player has been a standard part of the Windows operating system for quite some time. That being the case, it would be easy to assume that Windows Media Player has matured and should have no trouble playing standard video formats. However, Windows 8 (and Windows RT) are more than a bit lacking in their support for video playback.

At first, this issue is easy to dismiss as something that only affects consumers. However, digital video has evolved to the point that it is used almost as much in business as it is at home. Organizations that invest in Windows 8 might discover that they are unable to play things like training videos, sales presentations, or even technical support videos.

Out of the box, Windows 8 seems to have no trouble playing WMV files or web videos from sites like YouTube. However, you may be shocked to learn that Windows 8 lacks the ability to play DVDs. If you insert a DVD into a computer that is running Windows 8, Windows Media Player will open and will then display an error message stating, "Windows Media Player cannot find the file. If you are trying to play, burn, or sync an item that is in your library, the item might point to a file that has been moved, renamed, or deleted."

If your organization needs to be able to play DVDs through Windows 8, then there are a couple of potential options. One option is to install Windows Media Center. Although Windows Media Center is a native Windows component, there is an additional licensing fee if you choose to enable this feature. Furthermore, Windows Media Center is only available for Windows 8 Professional. Organizations running Windows 8 (Standard Edition) must acquire the Pro Pack before they will be able to install Windows Media Center. There is no option for installing Windows Media Center on Windows 8 Enterprise or on Windows RT.

Organizations that run Windows 8 Enterprise or that do not want to spend extra money just to be able to play DVDs can enable DVD playback in another way. There are several free media players available for download that feature DVD playback capabilities. One such free media player is VLC Media Player.

DVDs are not the only common video type that Windows 8 does not natively play. I have personally had difficulty playing back MPEG 2 files (.MPG files) and MPEG 4 files (.MP4 files). Fortunately, there are some good workarounds for this problem as well.

One of the easiest ways to fix the problem is to install the previously mentioned VLC Media Player. VLC Media Player has no trouble playing these and many other video file formats. If you do choose to fix the problem by installing VLC Media Player, then you will need to associate the various video file extensions with VLC Media Player. Otherwise, every time a user clicks on a video file, Windows will attempt to play the video by using Windows Media Player (which still won't be able to play unsupported video types).

Another option is to install a free Windows 8 app called Multimedia 8, available through the Windows Store. Although Multimedia 8 is not a perfect solution to the problem, it does add a number of video codecs to the Windows operating system. These codecs allow Windows Media Player to play videos that it would not ordinarily be able to play. However, even after installing Multimedia 8, I found that playback of MPEG 2 videos still seemed to be unsupported.

One last option is to download and install one of the freely available packages of codecs. The most comprehensive video codec collections for Windows 8 include:

Keep in mind that none of these codec packs are based on native Microsoft code. Each offers features and capabilities that are uniquely its own. As such, you will need to investigate each codec pack to determine which is most suitable for your own organization.

As strange as it may seem, Windows 8 has very limited native video playback capabilities. However, there are a number of different ways in which the OS can be augmented to remedy this problem.

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
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Susan Fogarty   Windows 8's Missing Video Codecs   6/27/2013 4:59:52 PM
Re: Win 8 video
Toby, I agree. The video standards seem way out of control to me.
Toby   Windows 8's Missing Video Codecs   6/27/2013 2:24:22 PM
Re: Win 8 video
@Susan: Frankly I would rather we had just one or two video standards. It is all the legal mumbo jumbo and EULA stuff that has resulted in a whole mess of the things. It is ok to argue we don't need CDs but there are billions of those little flying saucers out there now and they cannot be ignored.
SaneIT   Windows 8's Missing Video Codecs   6/25/2013 7:39:20 AM
Re: Win 8 video
@DBK, I'm seeing that too but it gets annoying to have accounts with 3 or 4 web apps because none of them talk to each other.   The protocols are there, they work well and there is a whole industry already using them why not build up from there.  Brokering H.323 handshakes isn't any tougher than creating your own protocol to do video calls.
DBK   Windows 8's Missing Video Codecs   6/24/2013 2:56:02 PM
Re: Win 8 video
SaneIT - as much emphasis is being made on the partner ships and integrations of the various video programs you would think this would be fully integrated and baked right in.  And on the H.323 platform if you aren't compliant then it will be difficult to be taken seriously as a video conferencing platform.  But with that said what I see are that more and more of my customers are moving to web conferencing and leaving true video conferencing behind.  Plus the cloud based solutions are reeling taking off.
SaneIT   Windows 8's Missing Video Codecs   6/17/2013 7:56:20 AM
Re: Win 8 video
I know there was talk of making Skype work with Lync but I can't say that I've tried it.  Even then that seems like a small offering when a bigger commitment is required.  The video conferencing systems typically found in a corporate environment will all talk to each other no matter who makes them, that's the beauty of standardized codecs.  Some of the start ups seem to miss this and I'm really surprised that Skype didn't mature to the point that it can talk H.323.
Susan Fogarty   Windows 8's Missing Video Codecs   6/11/2013 12:03:32 PM
Re: Win 8 video
Yes, it's too bad they don't integrate Skype better with other systems, since it's so accessible. It's almost like they bought it just so no one else could do anything big with it. There's a lot of potential there.
SaneIT   Windows 8's Missing Video Codecs   6/11/2013 8:16:10 AM
Re: Win 8 video
Yes the communications codecs are much more flexible but since you mentioned Skype that is one of my frustrations it's a closed system so you can't just dial a Skype user into a standard H.323 call.
Zaius   Windows 8's Missing Video Codecs   6/11/2013 1:27:15 AM
Re: Win 8 video
However, it is not hurting MSFT's business. Consumers / users are also gettign their codecs easily. It is also saving MSFT from lawsuits. I do not remember exactly, but in European Union, there was a lawsuit against MSFT for shipping something (too much) with the OS.
Susan Fogarty   Windows 8's Missing Video Codecs   6/10/2013 11:41:39 AM
Re: Win 8 video
It's also interesting because I know MS has been active about making video via Lync more interoperable, and they also have Skype. Most of the interoperability efforts in the industry have been centered around videoconferencing and UC, rather than basic video playback.
SaneIT   Windows 8's Missing Video Codecs   6/10/2013 7:17:06 AM
Re: Win 8 video
Yes it's a bit of a tangled mess.  There are open source applications out there for audio editing that link you to codec packs to download becasue they can't package the codecs along with the software.  I wouldn't doubt that MS has the same problems.
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