How to Fix Windows Media Player Cannot Play Error: A codec is required to play this file

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Have you been experiencing issues with Windows Media Player when trying to play video files on your PC? Well, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll take a look at how to fix the “Windows Media Player cannot play error: A codec is required to play this file”.

Windows Media Player, also known as WMP, is an application provided by Microsoft but not limited to use on Windows operating systems only. With Windows Media Player, you can play videos and even audio files irrespective of the format.

How to Fix WMP Cannot Play Error - A codec is required to play this file

Regardless of its reputation as one of the most viable media players, WMP still sometimes gives users issues with playing video files. One of such errors described as “A codec is required to play this file” will be demystified in this article.

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Without further ado, let’s dive in.

Windows Media Player Cannot Play Error: A codec is required to play this file

Anytime you encounter this error when trying to play a video file using Windows Media Player, what it implies is that the codecs needed to play files of that format are not installed on your PC or as part of your WMP application. 

Usually, alongside the error message, you’ll have the option of seeking web help to determine if the specific codec is available for download from the web. That’s a starting point when trying to fix the “WMP Cannot Play Error: A codec is required to play this file”.

If that helps, then the issue is solved, congratulations. However, at other times, it might be an issue with the functionality of your Windows Media Player application. If that doesn’t help, which happens in more cases, you can check out the solutions proferred in the next sections.

Disable and Enable WMP through Apps and Features

One possible fix for the  “Windows Media Player Cannot Play: A codec is required to play this file” error is to disable Windows Media Player through Apps and Features and then enable it again.

To access the Apps and Features window, simply press the Windows key and start typing “Apps and Features” in the search bar. Several options should pop up, and you can go ahead and select the appropriate option.

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Search for apps and features on Windows

A faster alternative is to press the Windows key and X simultaneously on your keyboard, this pulls up a list of direct commands. Select Apps and Features (usually comes at the top of the list).

Alternative Way of Opening Apps and Features on Windows

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Once you’re in the Apps and Features Window, look out for “Optional features” and click on it to access a list of features part of which you’ll find “Windows Media Player”.

Optional Features - Apps and Features on Windows

The features here are arranged in descending alphabetical order so you’ll have to scroll to the bottom of the list to get to Windows Media Player. Click on Windows Media Player to expand the feature and click on the “Uninstall” option to disable WMP on your PC.

Uninstall Windows Media Player

Then, proceed to restart your PC and head back to Apps and Features to enable WMP again by installing it.

After doing that, check if you can now play the video file you were originally attempting to play before the error popped up. Hopefully, the “WMP Cannot Play: A codec is required to play this file” issue should be fixed already. In the event that you’re still experiencing that issue, proceed to the next fix proferred.

Turn Windows Media Player On and Off in Windows Features

This is another way to resolve the “WMP Cannot Play: A codec is required to play this file” error. This time, you’re disabling and enabling Windows Media Player not by uninstalling-and-re-installing it but by simply turning it off-and-on in Windows Features.

To access the Windows Features window, press the Windows key and type in “Windows Features” in the search bar. “Turn Windows Features on or off” should pop up, select that option and press the Enter key.

Search for Windows features

In the “Turn Windows Features on or off” window, locate Media Features and click on the “+” button on the left to expand that option. That should reveal Windows Media Player against which you’ll find a checkbox. Click the checkbox to uncheck it, thereby turning off WMP.

Disable Windows Media Player in Windows Features

Click OK to confirm that choice and repeat the process, this time clicking the checkbox to check it, thereby turning on WMP as a Windows feature again. Click OK to confirm your choice.

Try to play the video using WMP again to see if the “WMP Cannot Play Error: A codec is required to play this file” issue has been resolved.

Uninstall AMD Media Foundation Transcoder

Perhaps you’re still faced with the “Windows Media Player Cannot Play” error after applying the fixes proferred above, this is one last resort that should solve the issue.

The goal here is to uninstall the AMD Media Foundation Transcoder, a program that helps to convert incompatible videos for portable video players and re-install it after updating its drivers.

To access the AMD Media Foundation Transcoder, open your file explorer and navigate to the Control Panel. In the Control Panel window, select “Uninstall a Program”. Locate the AMD Media Foundation Transcoder in the list of programs and run the uninstall wizard to uninstall the program.

Once you have uninstalled the AMD Media Foundation Transcoder, download the latest drivers for the program and install them again.

This should help fix the “WMP Cannot Play Error: A codec is required to play this file” issue on your PC. 

Summarily, whenever you encounter the “WMP Cannot Play: A codec is required to play this file” error on your computer, you either search the web if the required codec is available for download using the web help feature or try out any of the solutions discussed above.

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