Guide To The Best Windows Codecs

Until I started having to cope with High def file formats like h.264 and mkv I was perfectly happy installing one of the many codec packs to allow me to play my media files. The problem however with the latest file formats, is that they can be very CPU intensive, so if you don’t have a very modern PC you will struggle to play certain media files unless you have very good codecs installed. I was also having problems outputting digital audio to my amp.

By mainly trial and error I have managed to find the perfect mix of codecs that will allow you to play all media files, even if you have a older CPU. If you also have your PC connected to a digital amp, then this guide will help you output digital audio vai your SPDIF or coaxial cable.

Stage I – Uninstall Old Codecs

Go into control panel/add&remove programs and uninstall all your old codecs

Stage II – Install FFDShow

FFDSHhow is a free codec for decoding/encoding just about every video format out there. I use it for everything apart from h.264 and mkv, which I will come onto later. Once you’ve downloaded the latest version (I tend to go for the latest ffdshow tryout version), install ffdshow and select the following during installation:

  • Untick H.264 as we will be using something else for this codec
  • If you have your PC connected via SPDIF to your amp then during installation when it asks what codecs to install scroll down to AC3 and DTS and select the SPDIF radio button

Stage III – MKV and H.264 files

There are two ways to go about this. If you want to save your hard-earned dollars then install Haali Media Splitter to to add MKV/H.264 support. If you want to further reduce your CPU load then buy CoreAVC which is the fastest MKV decoder in the west. It only costs a few dollars and is well worth it in my opinion.

Optional Stage IV – Vista Media Center Support

If you’re a user of VMC then you need to make some registry changes to make sure that VMC knows which codecs to use. If you purchased CoreAVC then copy and paste the following text (all of it) into Notepad:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.mkv]
@=”CoreMedia.MKV”
“PerceivedType”=”video”

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.ts]
@=”MatroskaVideo”
“PerceivedType”=”video”
“Content Type”=”video/x-matroska”

If you are just using Haali Media Splitter then copy this text into Notepad:

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.mkv]
@=”MatroskaVideo”
“PerceivedType”=”video”
“Content Type”=”video/x-matroska”

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.ts]
@=”MatroskaVideo”
“PerceivedType”=”video”
“Content Type”=”video/x-matroska”

Save the file to your desktop and then doubleclick it to add the necessary entries to the Windows Registry.

Optional Stage V – Check All Is Ok

Everything should be working ok, but it is worth using Graphedit to check that your PC is using the codecs you want i to . Download, install and run Graphedit and select ‘File/Render Media File’ and choose the file you want to check. Graphedit then displays a nice graph of which codecs would be used to play the file. If you see anything in there that wasn’t installed as part of this guide, then go back to Stage I and remove the offending codecs and recheck with Graphedit.

If you complete all of these stages correctly then you should be able to play all the current formats available on any PC built within the last 3-4 years.

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886 Responses to Guide To The Best Windows Codecs

  1. Shalini Nambiar May 7, 2008 at 5:17 pm #

    have been using FFDShow, and MKV codecs, they do work like a charm!

    there are times when you would like to burn CDs of your favourite movies,
    1. download TMPGEnc (if you can get a hold of the old free version, im still using “TMPGEnc-2.524.63.181-Free”)
    2. convert any format to MPEG (using FFDSHOW),
    3. for regular CDs => TMPGenc has an inbuilt MPEG splitter
    4. burn with nero or any other software!

    thats it!
    Shalini

  2. Shalini Nambiar May 7, 2008 at 5:17 pm #

    have been using FFDShow, and MKV codecs, they do work like a charm!

    there are times when you would like to burn CDs of your favourite movies,
    1. download TMPGEnc (if you can get a hold of the old free version, im still using “TMPGEnc-2.524.63.181-Free”)
    2. convert any format to MPEG (using FFDSHOW),
    3. for regular CDs => TMPGenc has an inbuilt MPEG splitter
    4. burn with nero or any other software!

    thats it!
    Shalini

  3. Joe Cole May 14, 2008 at 12:06 am #

    Thanks for this info. I don’t know all about codecs :-D

  4. Joe Cole May 14, 2008 at 12:06 am #

    Thanks for this info. I don’t know all about codecs :-D

  5. infiniti g37 fan May 25, 2010 at 3:11 pm #

    Very helpful tips, particularly about using Graphedit … cleared up some things.

  6. belstaff April 27, 2011 at 5:52 am #

    It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained! I’m sure you had fun writing this article.