Windows 10 Anniversary Update “broken” millions of webcams. And how to fix yours.
- August 23rd, 2016
- compression format, high definition video, microsoft broken webcams, video stream, windows 10 anniversary update
If your webcam has stopped functioning since the release of the Anniversary update, you are not alone.
High-definition webcams, ussually USB-based, can stream video at 1920x1080p, often include built-in compression so that there’s less data to send down the USB cable in the first place, usually using one of two common lossy compression formats known as MJPEG and H.264.
The same compression digital TV uses. Anyway, until Windows 10 Anniversary Edition (10AE), Windows apps that handled video input could ask the OS for the compressed data straight out of the camera, and process it directly.
There are a few disadvantages to doing this:
- Every app needs to do its own video decoding, instead of letting the OS take care of it centrally. - If two apps want to access streaming video at the same time, they have to be careful not to use different video compression settings, or they’ll interfere with each other. - If multiple apps are processing live video, they’ll all end up decompressing the data at the same time, imposing extra load.
So, Microsoft decided that in Windows 10AE, your app would no longer be able to request video streams in compressed-out-of-the-camera format.
Because of this change, which Microsoft tried to defend but then realized the scale of the impact this change has caused, means that when a webcam tries to use MJPEG or H264, the device will freeze. If you use Skype and your webcam freezes after about a minute, this is the reason.
Millions of customers are stating how Skype is freezing but more concerning are comments such as this: “We have a working product running for years and millions of unhappy users that are unable to use it at all after this update”.
Good news, maybe? There’s a registry hack going round, where you use the registry editor to set the following entry:
Microsoft\Windows Media Foundation\
PlatformEnableFrameServerMode = 0
Probably this is a hidden tweak that turns off the new “you can no longer get data pre-compressed from the camera” option, but please bear in mind that it’s not officially document by Microsoft.
Official update is planning for september.