XP Codec Pack 2.5.1

Set of codecs for every major media format

  • Category:

    Codecs

  • Version:

    2.5.1

  • Works under:

    Windows XP

  • Program available in:In English
  • Program license:Free
  • Vote:
    5.8 (164)

The XP Codec Pack is a fairly comprehensive, easy to install collection of audio codecs. ‘Codec’ is a contraction of coder-decoder, a program that compresses and decompresses an audio/video data stream. While the XP Codec Pack occasionally helps with a troublesome video playback it mainly covers audio.

Long time users of Windows XP have likely discovered that the so-called ‘clean’ reinstall is not particularly clean. Windows retains gigabytes worth of previously installed drivers and other files, including codecs. The main advantage to that is obvious. It's much harder to lose things if Windows never deletes them. On the other hand, accumulating files clogs your hard drive and the problem that led to the clean reinstall in the first place may still be on the drive too. Meanwhile, several clean reinstalls later your hard drive may be approaching the critical 50 percent clogged level where XP starts to have trouble with fast access to the drive.

A format and clean install eliminates the junk but, lo and behold, Windows Media Player no longer plays all of your audio files and none of your video files. The last available version of Winamp will not play them either. The most likely culprit is that somewhere along the way playing those files depended on a software application that came with a proprietary codec that might still be available, if that is, it were easy to figure out which one and there were never any licensing issues preventing its distribution.

Enter the XP Codec Pack, a general purpose set of codecs that usually, albeit not always, fills the gap between the player and the encoded digital stream. While you might prefer to use the original proprietary codec, finding it after the fact isn’t always an option. Been there. Done that.

Like all free distributions the XP Codec Pack has advantages and disadvantages. As a novice ease of use was key for me. If I knew more or had more specialized needs I might also have needed more options, but I needed a plain vanilla set of codecs that would install right out of the box as well as work with mainstream players.

On the downside, Microsoft's support website issues the usual scare message about using caution to avoid both creating incompatibilities and making it more difficult for Microsoft to diagnose any resulting problems. On the other hand, since it was the failure of Microsoft's player to work after a format and clean reinstall that led to a search for codecs in the first place, and since everything works now, I’m inclined to discount Microsoft's warning.

In other words, in my experience the advantages far outweighed the disadvantages, none of which occurred in my case. However, your mileage may vary.

PROS

  • User friendly
  • Easy to use
  • Turnkey installation for novices
  • Works with Media Player and Media Center
  • Works with Winamp and other players
  • Clean, bug-free codecs
  • Within reason there’s no need to figure out what you need
  • Pre-configured group of compatible programs
  • Popular formats supported
  • Automatically configures players to recognize the codecs

CONS

  • Updates infrequently
  • Primarily for audio
  • May contain incompatibilities
  • Minimal customer support

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