The Windows 10 Anniversary Update is breaking webcams

Broken webcams are no fun. It's even worse when the culprit is your operating system.

Microsoft’s got another Windows 10 Anniversary Update problem to fix following the login freeze issue that came to light in mid-August.

Many users are now complaining that they can no longer use their USB-based webcams since updating to the latest version of Windows 10. The source of the problem is that Microsoft decided to filter out two common video compression formats for connected webcams in the Anniversary Update, as first reported by Thurrott.com.

Microsoft’s reasons for restricting the formats—MJPEG and H.264—were reasonable enough, as explained by Windows Camera Team member Mike M. on Microsoft’s developer forums.

In the Anniversary Update, Microsoft allows multiple apps to access a single webcam at the same time. The problem with MJPEG is that multiple apps could then decode the stream at the same time, which would reduce system performance unnecessarily. Mike M. said H.264’s problem was a little different and could basically result in apps interfering with each other.

It appears Microsoft’s simple solution of disallowing compression formats led to a much bigger problem. Potentially millions of webcams were suddenly broken, since they would freeze after failing to enable the blacklisted formats.

The impact on you at home: If your webcam has had problems after updating to the Anniversary Update, this may very well be the reason. Mike M. says Microsoft hopes to distribute a fix for the MJPEG issue in September, but solving H.264 will take a little longer. Unfortunately, until there’s a fix there’s not much you can do other than wait.

If your webcam is a mission-critical peripheral then you may want to try and rollback to pre-Anniversary Update Windows 10. However, remember you only have 10 days to revert your system after you upgrade—another change bundled with the Anniversary Update. For early adopters, that means it’s already too late.

For those who haven’t updated their systems yet, it might be a good idea to wait until September or later in order to save yourself any webcam hassles.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Windows 10

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Ian Paul

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?