New installations of Microsoft's most recent version of Windows 10, the Fall Creators Update version or version 1709, come without support for the HEVC codec.
Users who install the system anew or for the first time may notice that the codec is missing, and may install the HEVC Video Extension from the Microsoft Store to restore the functionality.
Microsoft removed support for the HEVC codec from Windows 10 Fall Creators Update for new installations. Systems that are upgraded to the Fall Creators Update version are not affected, as the codec is carried over in that scenario.
Users who try to play videos that require the codec will get a black screen or an error message instead depending on the app or program they use to access the content. This is true even for Microsoft's own programs such as official Movies & TV application.
Microsoft released the HEVC codec as an application that users may install to add support for HEVC videos to the system again. The HEVC Video Extension is available for free at the time of writing.
The app enables system-wide playback of HEVC format content including 4K and Ultra HD video streams. HEVC videos require compatible hardware; Microsoft lists Intel 7th generation core processors and modern graphics processing units in the application's description.
Processor families that are supported are the Kaby Lake, Kaby Lake Refresh and Coffee Lake, and GPUs like AMD's RX 400, RX 500 and RX Vega 56/64, and Nividia's GeForce GTX 1000 and GTX 950 and 960 series.
The HEVC codec is required for playback of some content. Windows 10 users who want to stream 4K content, for instance by using the Netflix application or the Movies & TV application, need the codec to do so.
It is interesting to note that Microsoft released the update KB4041994 for the Fall Creators Update, and that this update seems to have installed the codec on devices already.
It is unclear at this point why Microsoft made the decision to remove the HEVC codec from being distributed with Windows 10 to offer it through the store instead.
While some may suggest sinister motives like getting users to use the store, it seems more likely that licensing fees may have played a role in the decision.
We won't know until Microsoft releases a statement. Considering that the Fall Creators Update is out for almost a month already, it seems rather unlikely that we will get one though.
Microsoft published the Web Media Extensions application to the Store recently that adds system-wide support for the three formats OGG, Vorbis and Theora when installed.
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