Many a times we try to play a video file in Window Media Player only to be faced with a message informing us that a codec is missing. Sometimes there is no message but the file refuses to play or just plays audio with no video, or vice-versa.
A codec(code-decode) is nothing more than a set of instructions given to a software media player so it can understand the file it’s reading. If you try and play a file that’s encoded and compressed with a certain algorithm, you need the same algorithm’s decoding capabilities in your computer’s software library. That’s why you need to have codec’s installed on your computer.
The DVD Codec
Many users, despite having DVD-ROM drives, don’t prepare their systems for DVD movies. They don’t install all the software that comes with their drives. Software such as PowerDVD install MPEG-2 codecs, thus enabling your computer to play DVD movies. If the MPEG-2 codec isn’t installed, you will not be able to play movie DVDs but data DVDs will play fine.
In order to make sure that you have an MPEG-2 DVD codec installed, go to Start>Run, type in “DVDUPGRD/DETECT” (without the quotes) and hit [Enter]. If there is no codec you should see something like the image shown alongside. If there is a codec installed, then you should try and play the DVD movie with the program that installed it. If there’s no codec installed, you need to install one.
Other Video Codecs
Just as with DVD movies, AVI files encoded and compressed with a codec need the same codec to be installed on your system. Since there are hundreds of codecs available, just relying on your meda player to figure out which one is needed, really isn’t a good solution. Windows Media Player, for instance, will often just not identify the required codec properly, and will try to connect to the Net and then give you an error message. There are two possible solutions for this problem:
1. You can install codec packs that contain all the popular codecs used to encode the majority of files on the web. These packs, such as Kazaa Lite Mega Codec Pack, should solve almost all the codec problems you may encounter with your system.
However, they also install a lot of unnecessary codec which you may never use. For those who are paranoid about keeping their registry as clean as ever, manually choosing which codecs your want while installing the pack is, perhaps, a good way to go.
2. The other way is to use a third-party tool such as GSpot Codec Information Applicance to find out which codec was used to encode a particular video file. You can download GSpot here. Download and install it.
Now, if a file refuses to play, you can run GSpot, choose to open the file and press ‘Render’. GSpot will attempt to play the file, and simultaneously match the codecs used with its own database of codecs. When a problem occurs, GSpot will tell you exactly what the problem is.
So the next time you have a problem with playing videos on your computer, remember to check out the codecs.