How to Prevent Windows Media Player from Downloading Codecs Automatically

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There are lots of media player program available for Windows devices, VLC, Windows Media Player, PotPlayer, GOM Media Player, DivX Player, to name a few. However, choosing the best one for you is no easy task. With the ever-increasing number of new media player formats, you need to choose one that can support them all. This is where codecs come handy.

What are codecs and what are their roles in media player programs?

What Are Codecs?

Codecs are basically the backbone of the streaming media industry. Without them, there’ll be no streaming media. From videos to media files, codecs are needed and they are vital.

So, what are codecs exactly?

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Codecs are compression technologies that compress and decompress files. They have two primary components: the encoder that compresses the files and the decoder that decompresses the files. For every file type, there is a corresponding codec, and it comes in two kinds: lossless and lossy.

Lossless codecs work by reproducing the same file as the original after decompression. Lossy codecs, on the other hand, generate a facsimile of the original file after decompression.

If you have the right media player, you need not worry about downloading these codecs to play movies and other files. The right media player will allow you to skip all the hassle and headache and gets right down to opening the file. Convenient, right?

Now, if you are running a Windows device, you are in luck because Windows Media Player automatically downloads codecs on your behalf. This means you can just play any media file you want without worrying about compatibility issues. Imagine the convenience that this inbuilt media player brings!

Unfortunately, there are Windows users who prefer Windows Media Player to not download codecs automatically. While some worry about bandwidth problems, others simply do not really fancy the idea of automatic downloads. Obviously, they may have varying reasons for not wanting so, but the good news is that they can stop Windows Media Player from automatically downloading codecs.

Before we teach you how to do it, why do you think Windows Media Player automatically downloads codecs?

Why Does Windows Media Player Automatically Download Codecs?

Because electronic companies and software developers introduce new file types every now and then, Windows Media Player needs to cope. It has to update its database to be able to play every type of file you wish to open. This is why it automatically downloads codecs.

But no matter the convenience, downloading codecs automatically has cons. That is why some prefer to stop Windows Media Player from automatically doing so. In the succeeding section, you’ll know how to stop Windows Media Player from downloading codecs automatically.

How to Stop Windows Media Player from Automatically Downloading Codecs

There are two ways to stop Windows Media Player from automatically downloading codecs: via the Registry Editor and through the Local Group Policy Editor.

Method #1: via the Local Group Policy Editor

To keep Windows Media Player from automatically downloading codecs using the Local Group Policy Editor, do the following:

  1. Press the Windows + R keys to launch the Run dialog box.
  2. Into the text field, type gpedit.msc.
  3. Hit the Enter button to continue.
  4. Navigate to User Configuration and select Playback.
  5. Double-click on the Prevent Codec Download option.
  6. Tick the Enabled option.
  7. Click OK.

Method #2: via the Registry Editor

To prevent Windows Media Player from automatically download codecs using the Registry Editor, here’s what you should do:

  1. Press the Windows + R keys to launch the Run utility.
  2. Input regedit into the text field and hit Enter.
  3. Hit Yes to proceed.
  4. Go to HKCU and select Microsoft by right-clicking on it.
  5. Navigate to New and select Key.
  6. Rename it as WindowsMediaPlayer.
  7. Right-click on it and select New.
  8. Choose DWORD (32-bit) Value.
  9. Rename it as PreventCodecDownload.
  10. Double-click on the newly created key and set its value to 1.
  11. Hit the OK button.

Take note that before you use this method, make sure you have created a System Restore Point. Since you are dealing with Registry files, having a restore point allows you to restore your information as quickly as possible.

How to Download Codecs Automatically in Windows Media Player

If you change your mind and you want to let Windows Media Player download codecs automatically, here’s what you should do:

  1. Launch Windows Media Player.
  2. Click Start and go to All Programs.
  3. Select Windows Media Player.
  4. Press ALT to open the menu and navigate to Tools > Options.
  5. Go to the Player tab and tick the Download codecs automatically option.
  6. Hit Apply and click OK to save the changes.

How to Install a New Codec in Windows Media Player

If you change your mind and prefer to install a new codec in Windows Media Player manually, here’s what you should do:

  1. Double-click on the media file.
  2. Click the Web Help button. This will connect you to a website that understands the missing codec.
  3. Click the WMPlugins link. This will direct you to the site that contains the codec.
  4. Hit I Accept.
  5. Download the codec.
  6. When the download is complete, hit the Run button. If prompted, agree to the dialog boxes that pop up.
  7. Follow the on-screen instructions to continue the codec installation.
  8. Open Windows Media Player and close the codec notice.
  9. Hit the X button to close the Windows Media Player.

Wrapping Up

Codecs are essential in the Windows Media Player platform because various media files need to be translated into data that only the program can understand. Without codecs, it is impossible to open media files. You can choose to set Windows Media Player to download these codecs for you, or you can prevent it from downloading codecs automatically. But of course, at the end of the day, the choice to whether or not allow WMP to automatically download codecs is all up to you.

Do you have questions about this article? Do you have anything to add about codecs and Windows Media Player? Let us know in the comments and we’d love to hear from you.

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