How to Fix Video Files Explained in Plain English

If you are having trouble playing a video file that you downloaded, the first thing you should do is make sure you have the latest version of Windows Media Player, or QuickTime on the Mac. Go onto WMP’s or QT’s Help menu and you will find a command that will take you to the Microsoft or Apple web site where you can download the latest free version.

If that doesn’t help, download and install the free VLC media player. It can play just about anything, and runs on a wide variety of computers including Windows and Macintosh.

Next, try to download and install the free DivX codec. See our DivX page for an explanation of what codecs are, and links to more codecs.

If that doesn’t fix the problem, try GSpot. This free program can tell you:

  • what codec was used to compress the movie
  • whether or not the codec is installed on your system
  • list all the codecs installed on your system

(If you know of such a program for the Macintosh, please post a comment below.)

VCD and SVCD Files

Your video might be in VCD or SVCD format. If you can’t play these files with VLC, you can try these programs: PowerDVD, WinDVD, and on the Mac, MacVCD. If your computer has a DVD drive, it probably came with a program that may be able to play files that Windows Media Player, or QuickTime cannot, so hunt around your computer for that program. If you can’t find it, look in the stuff that came with your system and you should find a CD with the software on it. Then do a search on your computer for it since it should already be installed.

AVI Files

AVI files are often a pain because they can be encoded with many different codecs. If you can’t play an AVI, use GSpot to determine the codec, and then do a Google search to find it. (Codecs are almost always free.) On the Mac, QuickTime will play AVI files, though it sometimes cannot play the audio, so try VLC. AVI is a Windows format, so most of the AVI’s you come across are made by Windows users. Apple and Microsoft also do not cooperate sufficiently so each company’s player may not play the other’s formats.

QuickTime (.QT and .MOV) Files

If you are using a Macintosh, you should be able to play all of these files since QuickTime is included with every Mac. If you can’t play one, go onto QuickTime’s Help menu and see if you need to upgrade to the latest version.

Windows users can also play these files. Microsoft used to support QuickTime files in Windows Media Player, but they have ceased doing so. WMP can now only play older QuickTime files. For most QuickTime files, you will need to download and install Apple’s free QuickTime Player.