What are codecs?
Codecs are basically programs designed to compress/decompress video and audio files. To save space, compression is needed as it only keeps the data needed to play the files. They compress music and videos, but they also make these files playable.
With codecs, audio and video files are smaller, thus you can download/upload them faster on the Internet, plus they take up less space on your hard drive or storage device. Videos are encoded, meaning some information is discarded, but not too much so quality won’t be significantly affected.
Why do you need them?
The problem is, there’s not just one codec, there are hundreds of different types being used, although you won’t need all of them. Even so, knowing exactly which ones you’ll need is not possible. The best solution is to install a codec pack or use a media player with a built-in codec library.
A codec pack is a collection of codecs, usually, some of the most commonly used. Examples of popular codecs include DivX, Xvid, x264, FFmpeg MPEG-4, QuickTime and WMV. There are many free codec packs available for download on the Internet.
For example, K-Lite Codec Pack comes in different flavors: Basic, Standard, Full and Mega. You can choose one according to whatever file types you want playback support for. Shark007 offers Standard and Advanced codec collections for Windows 7/8 and let’s not forget the XP Codec Pack for those who are still using Windows XP. There is no best Windows codec pack , there are plenty of good, free options to choose from. Choosing a bigger one does not have any advantages except that it will provide support for more audio and video file formats than lighter packs.
Also, you can use a media player with built-in codecs. This kind of media player usually includes all the codecs needed for playback and if you come across a video requiring a codec that’s not included, the player will offer to download it for you. Examples of media players that have their own codec library include Media Player Classic, UMPlayer, BS. Player, UMPlayer, GOM Media Player and SMPlayer.
If you use such a media player you won’t need to download and install a separate codec pack. These players work straight out of the box. They will handle plenty of video and audio formats, at least the ones that are commonly used which is more than enough for most users.
How do you know which solution is best for you? It’s simple, really. Do you like to use multiple media players and / or download lots of video and audio files in various formats? A codec pack is the answer in this case. If you prefer using a single media player, it’s easier to just pick one with a built-in codec library so you don’t have to install anything else.