Microsoft Has Broken Millions Of Webcams With Windows 10 Anniversary Update

Posted on August 19, 2016 by Brad Sams in Windows 10 with 0 Comments

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On August 2nd, Microsoft released the Anniversary Update for Windows 10 and when the bits arrived on computers around the globe, it brought with it new features and also broke webcams for millions of consumers. If your webcam has stopped functioning since the release of the Anniversary update, you are not alone but the good news is a fix is coming, hopefully in September.

Microsoft made a significant change with the release of Windows 10 and support for webcams that is causing serious problems for not only consumers but also the enterprise. The problem is that after installing the update, Windows no longer allows USB webcams to use MJPEG or H264 encoded streams and is only allowing YUY2 encoding.

Why did the company remove these options? The short answer is that with the Anniversary update there are new scenarios for applications to be able to access the webcam and the MJPEG or H264 encoding processes could have resulted in duplication of encoding the stream (poor performance) so the company limited the input methods to stop this from happening.

Because of this change, which Microsoft tried to defend but then realized the scale of the impact this change has caused, means that when a webcam tries to use MJPEG or H264, the device will freeze. If you use Skype and your webcam freezes after about a minute, this is the reason.

This issue impacts a wide variety of webcams including the popular Logitech C920 that both Paul and I use for podcasting. Paul has been having this issue for months where every time the camera tries to go into HD on a video call, it would freeze and now I am experiencing this issue as well. When Paul started having these issues a few months ago, we figured it was either a bad driver from Logitech or possibly even the Skylake CPU.

On my desktop, where my webcam is connected, I do not run Insider builds other than in a VM. On August 2nd, when I updated, my webcam began freezing immediately when trying to use Skype to record “What The Tech”.

In the support thread, customers are stating how Skype is freezing but more concerning are comments such as this: “We have a working product running for years and millions of unhappy users that are unable to use it at all after this update” and another user states “We have millions of users and we are in situation now where we have to tell them not to update the Windows anymore or switch to Mac OS.” These are clearly enterprise customers who have customer machines running the Anniversary update that has broken their product who are now scrambling to resolve these issues.

Mike M, an engineer on the Windows Camera team has been commenting in the support thread where the complaints are stacking up and says that a fix is in the pipeline for hopefully a September release. That’s the good news, the bad news is that there is not a temporary fix to hold everyone over until the patch is released and since you now only have 10 days to rollback your update, for most users, they are stuck on the Anniversary build.

[Update] Rafael has figured out a workaround that should hopefully stop the freezing issue; if you are comfortable tweaking the registry, make this change. HKLM\SOFTWARE\WOW6432Node\Microsoft\Windows Media Foundation\Platform, add DWORD “EnableFrameServerMode” and set to 0, you will then need to restart Skype.

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