Ultimate Guide To Codecs For Windows 7 Media Center

I’m a big user of Windows 7 Media Center, and I have 3 machines now dedicated to running Windows 7 Media Center that support playing h.264, mkv and flac files.  They are not high-powered machines; one’s an old laptop and the others are running old dual-core AMD processors.

Windows 7 Media Center Details

Getting all my files and codecs setup and playing nicely in Windows 7 was a bit harder than with Windows Vista, but now all of my machines are now happy playing 1080p content as well as outputting the digital audio correctly via SPDIF and coaxial.

If you’re getting choppy video playback thanks to the (poor) Microsoft DTV-DVD decoder, then by following the steps below you will be able to avoid the hours I spent trying to get everything working.  The alternative is to install a Windows 7 Codec pack, but most of these contain a lot of bloat that you really don’t need.

Stage I – Uninstall Old Codecs

If you’re starting from a fresh Windows 7 installation, then there’s nothing to do here.  If you’ve tried installing a few codecs before following this guide then goo into control panel/add&remove programs and uninstall all your old codecs.

Stage II – Install FFDShow

FFDShow is a free codec for decoding/encoding just about every video format out there. I use it for everything apart from h.264 and mkv, for which I use CoreAVC.  CoreAVC is the fastest H.264/AVC codec and is the best way for low-powered machines to play these files.  For H.264 and mkv files there is no difference in quality, and at $14.95 it’s good value.

32 bit Windows 7 users:

  • Download the latest latest version of ffdshow tryouts.  During installation choose the following options:
  • Untick ‘H.264‘ in the video codecs section if you have purchased CoreAVC
  • Tick ‘MPEG2
  • If you have your PC audio connected to your speakers or amp via SPDIF or coaxial then scroll down to the audio section and check enable AC3 and DTS passthrough
  • Once finished, go into the fdshow video decoder configuration window and go to MPEG2 in Codecs.  Make sure libavcodec is enabled and that ‘DVD decoding’ is checked

64 bit Windows 7 users:

  • In addition to the 32bit steps above, you also have to install the 64bit version of ffdshow.
  • During installation follow the other steps as above, but don’t untick ‘H.264’ in the video codecs section as CoreAVC doesn’t currently support 64bit media players (e.g. W7MC) but this is coming soon

Stage III – MKV and H.264 files

My recommedation here is to install CoreAVC (32bit only though)

32 bit Windows 7 users:

  • Option 1: Install CoreAVC & Haali Media Splitter (done automatically) to to add MKV/H.264 support
  • Option 2: If you didn’t untick H.264 support for Ffdshow then just install Haali Media Splitter

64 bit Windows 7 users:

  • Follow your chosen 32bit Stage III option above
  • Also, install Gabest’s Matroska X64 Splitter (Haali Media Splitter doesn’t support 64 bit codecs).  Extract the files to the root of your C: drive and right-click ‘gabest_splitter_enable‘ and choose run as an administrator.  You will get two confirmations and the process will be over.  Do not delete the files after finishing!  To remove just repeat, but click on ‘gabest_splitter_remove‘.

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24 Responses to Ultimate Guide To Codecs For Windows 7 Media Center

  1. g1lmour July 22, 2009 at 11:53 am #

    i have problems adding my music to W7MC, i have a 2TB drive on another computer and my music is strewn across that drive, that drive is mapped to the computer with W7MC on and when i search the drive for music, it will get about 30% and then freeze, its rather annoying because it takes an hour or so to get to 30%, btw i have around 300gb of music in total, so is it that it just cant handle such large volumes or am i missing something :/

    • Everton July 22, 2009 at 3:02 pm #

      hmm I’ve been having the same problem, but just assumed it was me. I scan about 1/4 of my music and then it stops. With VMC at least I could go to WMP and re-scan the folders, but there isn’t a similar option in W7.

      If you find a solution let me know and I’ll do likewise.
      .-= Everton´s last blog ..Windows 7 *finally* goes to RTM =-.

      • g1lmour July 22, 2009 at 3:38 pm #

        yeah thanks, im gonna upgrade to 7600.16385 and try again, might just be an RC bug, ill update you sometime tomorrow

      • g1lmour July 22, 2009 at 3:39 pm #

        so, wait, youre using which build? and is the music on the local machine? if it is, it rules out the fact its a faulty home network

        • Everton July 23, 2009 at 12:54 am #

          my music (30k tracks) is all on a network drive and I’m running a fairly recent build….

          The speed at which the library updates was always a pain in the ass with Vista, but I’m convinced now there is a freezing bug. I’m going to experiment today to see I can confirm – one for Windows 7 SP1 I guess!
          .-= Everton´s last blog ..Microsoft close Windows 7 technical beta programme =-.

        • g1lmour July 23, 2009 at 8:20 am #

          yeah i was kind hoping i wouldnt have to wait till SP1 to listen to music the way i want, but the RTM has the same bug, so im sticking with the RC just now, because i cant activate the RTM anyways

  2. Dan G July 22, 2009 at 4:15 pm #

    …or K-Lite Mega Codec Pack works just as good!
    Just install “Lots of Stuff (Without Player)” and off you go!

  3. Matt July 23, 2009 at 5:21 pm #

    Alternatively install the shark007 codec packs (there are packs for 64bit and 32bit)


    Worked well on my 64bit W7 media center pc.

  4. Anonymous July 24, 2009 at 1:42 pm #

    Or you could just download and install Community Codec Pack =P

    • Everton July 24, 2009 at 3:38 pm #

      why would you want to install stuff you don’t need, which will still leave you unable to play Full HD conntent on an average machine? You still will have to make the changes above if you want to get full W7MC support

  5. Jay July 25, 2009 at 11:18 pm #

    Sharkys does this all for you and some had a great config tool.


  6. Kenny July 30, 2009 at 3:17 pm #

    Excellent guide. Worked perfectly!

  7. JA July 30, 2009 at 10:41 pm #

    W7MC works great for me, except that whenever a video is playing (movies and Live TV), whenever I bring the menu or tv guide up, it gets really slow. Really choppy. But then it’s fine when when the video is off. The video itself plays fine as long as the guide overlay isn’t up. And the guide/menus work great as long as a video isn’t playing.

    I just upgraded to Windows 7 64-bit from Vista 32-bit (on the same machine). The Vista software worked perfectly. I do have a 64-bit processor, but could that be the issue? I could just install the 32 bit version. Would that fix the choppiness problem?

    Thanks for the help.

    • Everton July 31, 2009 at 12:51 am #

      fixing the choppy video problem is the reason this guide was created JA!

  8. JB August 12, 2009 at 12:25 am #

    Thanks for your guide. Did you manage to decode live HD tv with an alternative codec in Windows 7?

    • Everton August 12, 2009 at 6:35 am #

      haven’t tried that as I don’t have a TV card connected (long story). If you want to replace the Microsoft DTV-DVD decoder for Live TV as well, check out this post

  9. Sean Marshall August 14, 2009 at 9:46 am #

    nice article everton, i will give it a try!

  10. Chakky November 23, 2009 at 5:48 am #

    Hey ya. Thx you for the awsome and very useful guide. But when i play .avi files he sounds was very low. ( I can get it higer because i use laptop.) But i didnt have any problems when i played .mvk because i can use ffoshow to increase the volume. But i cant on .avi. If ya knows anythings plz help me.

    • Everton Blair November 23, 2009 at 6:27 am #

      I’ve never come across that problem before – try posting in the forum http://www.windows7news.com/forum

      • Chakky November 23, 2009 at 6:45 am #

        Thx you But my point is that possible to make ffdshow support .avi like it does with .mvk. So i can increse the volume when i play the .avi files like i did with .mvk

  11. Chakky November 23, 2009 at 6:16 am #

    Hey ya. Thx you for the awsome and very useful guide. But when i play .avi files he sounds was very low. ( I can get it higer because i use laptop.) But i didnt have any problems when i played .mvk because i can use ffoshow to increase the volume. But i cant on .avi. If ya knows anythings plz help me.

  12. Mitchell June 15, 2010 at 8:13 pm #

    I still can’t play a blue-ray disc?????…

  13. Me November 7, 2010 at 3:06 am #

    Thanks very much for this guide…works like a charm!

  14. Sdlkfj January 24, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

    great guide, mkv playback in wmp even works with very old coreAVC version 1.8.5 from 2008 in windows 7. Only thing I can not get is I instlaled coreavc, then run reg edit and had to run coreavc installation one more time go get mkv playing in wmp.

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