Windows Media Player automatically downloads codecs (short for coder-decoder or compressor-decompressor) to play unsupported media files. The codec helps convert the data from one container to another.
The automatic downloading of missing codecs has been around for several versions of the Windows operating system including Windows 7 and Windows 10. Windows Media Player does not natively support a lot of video and audio file formats and containers. That is why this has been a very helpful feature that takes away the hassle of manually searching for codecs and installing them just to play a certain video or audio file on Windows Media Player.
However, some users find it annoying and unnecessarily resource-hogging especially if they seldom play unsupported media files on Windows Media Player. It can take a toll on your bandwidth if you have a limited resource for that. Taking that into account, we have created a guide on how you can disable the feature and prevent Windows Media Player from downloading codecs automatically.
How to Configure and Prevent Automatic Codec Downloading on Windows Media Player
Please note that if you are using Windows Media Player 12, the newest version of the program, Microsoft has already removed the feature by default.
We will be using the Group Policy Editor and Registry Editor to manually set the option to prevent automatic codec downloads on Windows Media Player.
Stop Windows Media Player from Downloading Codecs Automatically using Group Policy Editor
- Open the Run prompt on your Windows 10 computer by hitting the Win+R keyboard keys.
- Enter gpedit.msc and click the OK button or the Enter key on your keyboard.
- Under the Windows Player Player folder on the User Configuration, go to Playback. (Full path: User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows Media Player > Playback)
- Select “Prevent Codec Download”.
- Choose “Enabled” selection to enable the setting.
- Click on the OK button to save your selection.
Use the Registry Editor to Prevent Windows Media Player from Downloading Codecs Automatically
Another method you can use to stop automatic downloading of codecs on Windows Media Player is through the Registry Editor. Make sure to create a System Restore point as a standard precautionary measure when dealing with the Registry files.
- Hit the Win+R keyboard combination on your Windows PC to open the Run dialog box.
- Type regedit and hit the OK button or the Enter key on your keyboard.
- Hit Yes in the resulting UAC popup window.
- Navigate to the following path: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft
- Create a new key on Microsoft > New > Key. You can find these options when you right-click on the Microsoft folder.
- Next, name the new key as “WindowsMediaPlayer”.
- Then, create a new value inside WindowsMediaPlayer > New > DWORD (32-bit) Value.
- Name it as “PreventCodecDownload” and set the Value to 1.
- Hit the OK button to save your setting.
Once done using any of the two methods above, Windows Media Player will stop downloading media codecs automatically. The “Download codecs automatically” option in the WMP settings will also be disabled.
Lastly, you might expect to get codec errors when you try to play media files that Windows Media Player does not support by default. You can always manually download the codecs needed or just use another media player like VLC.