Many people use their computers to watch videos – I have an older laptop permanently hooked up to my TV so I can watch videos stored on my network drive on a larger screen as well as watching content from YouTube and other streaming sites and services – and almost everyone that does so will have encountered the dreaded problem of codecs.
Playing back videos is not just a simple matter of having a media player installed. Just like image files, videos can be saved in a variety of formats having been encoded with a codec – and you need to ensure you have the right one installed in order to be able to watch a particular video file.
If you don’t have the right codec installed for a particular video, you may find that you can see a picture, but there is no sound – or vice versa – or you may suffer from stuttery playback. It can be hard to discover just which codec is needed to view a video, but this is something that CodecInstaller can help with.
As you’ve probably guessed, this is a program that can be used to analyze video files to quickly determine what codec has been used to encode it. But more than this, the program will also provide you with a download link if it finds that you do not have the necessary codec installed.
CodecInstaller is available free of charge and you can download yourself a copy from the JockerSoft web site. Scroll down the page to the Download section and click the ‘full package’ link and save the file to your hard drive before running through the installation – there’s also an online installer available, but you may as well get all of the downloading out of the way straight away.
There’s a browser toolbar bundled into the installer, so if you don’t want to sully your copy of Internet Explorer or Firefox with the Crawler Toolbar, make sure you deselect it. With the program installed, launch it to start analyzing your video files.
Checking Your Codecs
CodecInstaller is divided into three main components, and the first of which can be used to determine which codecs you already have installed. Click the Installed Codec button and you can then browse through the tabs to see which video, audio and other codecs have been detected on your computer.
While this is useful information, where CodecInstaller really comes into its own is when you encounter a video – or audio file for that matter – that you are not able to playback, or can only play with problems. In this scenario you can use the program to find out exactly what codec you are missing so you can download and install it.
Analyzing Individual Files
When you find that you are not able to play a particular file, fire up CodecInstaller and click the Analyze File button. Click the Browse/… button and select the file you’re having trouble with. Wait for a moment and the Analyze File window will become populated with detailed information about the encoding of the file.
The bulk of the information that is displayed relate to the statistics of the file such as the video resolution, framerate, as well as audio quality and more. Should CodeInstaller determine that you do not have the codec required to play the file properly, a red warning message will be displayed at the bottom of the window.
If it is available, click the ? button to the right of the window – there’s one for the audio codec and one for the video codec – and you will be taken to a different area of the program that can be used to download any codec you are lacking.
The screen that appears when you click the ? button can also be accessed by clicking the Install Codecs button in the main program window. At the bottom of the window the Installed box will be ticked if the selected codec is indeed installed, and by clicking the Download button you will be taken to the web site at which you can download the latest version.
Unfortunately, you are left to manually download and run through the installation of the codec, but the fact that you are directed straight to the file you need is undeniably handy
CodecInstaller is a wonderfully useful tool. It’s not something for everyone, as some people like to be prepared for any eventuality and have every codec under the sun installed in advance just in case it is needed at some point in the future, but for anyone who takes a more measured approach, it provides a quick and easy way to hunt down the codecs you need when you need them.
What is your experience of codecs? Do you download codecs as and when you need them, or do you use one of the various codec packs that are available so you have a raft of codecs installed in readiness? Have you run into any problems with codecs? Let us know in the comments below.