In terms of file compatibility, Windows Media Player 12 is by far the most ecumenical to date. Where Microsoft once tacitly shunned third-party file types - such as Apple’s Quicktime (.MOV) and DivX - it now supports an impressive number of file types out of the box. Still, avid media enthusiasts will occasionally come across a video file type that Windows Media Player 12 can’t handle natively. Luckily, all you’ll need to for the small fraction of video formats that Microsoft chose not to support from the get go, is a handy codec pack. This tutorial will show you how to install the K-Lite Mega Codec Pack, which enables support for virtually every video file type under the sun.
Supported File Types
For your reference, here is a quick list of the video file types that Windows Media Player 12 supports out of the box. If you are having trouble playing one of these file types, you may want to ensure that the file was encoded or downloaded correctly.
- Windows Media files- .wm, .wmv, and .asf;
- AVCHD files (including Dolby Digital audio) - .m2ts and .m2t;
- Apple QuickTime files - .mov and .qt;
- AVI files - .avi;
- Windows Recorded TV Show files - .wtv and .dvr-ms;
- MPEG-4 movie files - .mp4, .mov, and .m4v;
- MPEG-2 movie files -.mpeg, .mpg, .mpe, .m1v, .mp2, .mpv2, .mod, and .vob;
- MPEG-1 movie files- .m1v;
- Motion JPEG files- .avi and .mov.
Unsupported File Types
If you come across a video file type that isn’t supported by Windows Media Player 12, you’ll receive two notifications. First, Windows Media Player 12 will let you know that it doesn’t recognize the file extension and will ask you if you’d like to try to play it anyway.
If you click Yes, Windows Media Player 12 will try to play it anyway. If it is a case where a supported file type was simply renamed incorrectly, it might play. But chances are you’ll get a message stating that "Windows Media Player cannot play the file. The Player might not support the file type or might not support the codec that was used to compress the file". In either case, the solution is to install the right codec. Click Close to dismiss the window and move on to the next step.
Installing K-Lite Codec Pack
Now, you could hunt down the appropriate codec each time this happened and install them one at a time as you go. But that’s completely unnecessary and, frankly, a waste of time. Your best bet is to download an all-in-one codec pack and take care of all the video and audio codecs you might need in the future in one fell swoop.
We prefer the K-Lite Codec Pack. It comes in a variety of editions from Basic to Mega, all of which are free. Originally developed for Kazaa Lite users, the K-Lite Codec Pack lets you play practically every video format you might encounter on the Internet in Windows Media Player 12.
You can grab the latest version of K-Lite Codec Pack at codecguide.com. Get the Mega version.
Once it downloads, close your web browsers and Windows Media Player 12 and run the install file. You’ll be brought to the K-Lite Mega Codec Pack setup wizard. Click Next to begin.
By default, K-Lite Mega Codec Pack loads a plethora of relatively unnecessary items and applications onto your computer, including Media Player Classic. Since we (and we’re assuming you) are dedicated Windows Media Player 12 purists, it’s best to go with the ’Advanced install’. Check it and click Next.
Next, choose the destination folder where you’d like to install the codec pack and click Next.
This next screen is where we can opt out of installing Media Player Classic and other unneeded components. We recommend choosing “Profile 6: Playback essentials (without player)”. Select it from the drop-down menu and click Next.
The next screen will ask you about internal DXVA decoders. Leave all the boxes unchecked and click Next. If you are curious, you can read about DXVA decoders, but these options aren’t necessary for this tutorial.
The next prompt is more important - it will ask you which file associations you’d like to set up. If you chose to install Media Player Classic, you’ll have two options available: Media Player Classic and Windows Media Player. Uncheck Media Player Classic and check Windows Media Player. That way, we can keep Windows Media Player 12 as our default media player. Click Next.
In the next windows, choose which files you’d like to associate with Windows Media Player 12. If Windows Media Player 12 is your default player, go ahead and click ’Select all video’ and ’Select all audio’ or pick and choose as you see fit. Click Next.
The next couple of windows are inconsequential. Go ahead and click Next until the installation is complete. Then, click Finish.
Now, you should be able to play the previously unsupported video files just like your other video files. Check out the screenshot to see what happens when we try the ’.OGG’ file from earlier in the tutorial.
Success! The video loads and plays correctly.
For casual Windows Media Player 12 users, this tutorial is likely not even necessary. Windows Media Player 12 supports a vast number of video and audio types without the need for any third-party codecs. But in the off chance you do find a video format that isn’t supported by Windows Media Player 12, K-Lite Codec Pack is almost guaranteed to provide a solution. Enjoy your videos! And don’t forget to check out some of our related articles:
Windows Media Player 12: What's New and How it Works
Windows Media Player 12 Menus & Views Explained
How to Use Playback Enhancements in Windows Media Player 12
How to Download, Install and Apply Skins in Windows Media Player 12