Windows 10 Anniversary Update causing webcam problems, Microsoft “dropped the ball” on communicating changes

Kip Kniskern

Even with some seven million Windows Insiders putting the latest builds through their paces, some issues still seem to crop up, and that appears to be the case with some changes Microsoft made to the way the Windows 10 Anniversary Update handles webcams and their video codecs.

As reported by Windows Central, the problem stems from changes Microsoft made to video codecs based on the increased use of webcams by features like Windows Hello, and by the ability of 3rd party apps to access your webcam.

Since Windows Hello, Microsoft HoloLens, and other products expect anytime access to webcams, Microsoft felt that allowing multiple codecs to be in use at the same time could potentially degrade performance. The Anniversary Update introduced a new virtual replicated camera, shuttling all compression into this one layer so that multiple requests for webcam video would not result in multiple instances of coding/decoding, or at least that’s one explanation given in a Microsoft Answers thread.

For some cameras and applications, however, this solution simply doesn’t work. That thread on the Microsoft Answers forum details the changes and the problems customers are facing, and while it’s taken a while, Microsoft is working on a set of solutions.

First, Microsoft is planning to release a system update, hopefully in September, that will address problems with the MJPEG codec problems. The MJPEG will undergo internal testing, and then be released as a system update.

The H.264 issue is quite a bit more complex, and Microsoft is planning to flight those updates, and updates for other video codecs, to the Windows Insider program. It’s difficult if not impossible for the company to replicate all of the various combinations of hardware and software that exist in the wild, something that the Insider program is much better at.

Microsoft admits it “dropped the ball” in communicating the Anniversary Update changes, and it’s been catching some well deserved flack in the Forums and elsewhere from application developers and users who now have unusable webcams sitting on their monitors.

We’ll keep you posted as Microsoft works through the changes. Are you experiencing webcam problems? Let us know in the comments below.