Windows Update Breaks Millions of Cameras and People Are Pissed Off

By Darren Orf on at

Microsoft’s first big Anniversary Update for Windows 10 went live earlier this month. With it came improved pen performance, new Cortana features, and an all around better Windows. Two weeks later, it’s become clear that the Anniversary update has some big problems. First, some users were plagued with a system-wide freeze after logging into Windows, and now Paul Thurrott reports that the OS is killing certain webcams.

Specifically, there’s a piece of the update is affecting cams that work with two particular compression formats—H.264 and MJPEG. Without getting into too much technical mumbo jumbo, the problem popped up because Microsoft was actually trying to add new ways for applications to access webcams. Here’s how a Microsoft rep from the camera team describes it in the Windows Dev Center forum:

With the Anniversary Update to Windows 10, it is now possible for multiple applications to access the camera in ways that weren’t possible before. It was important for us to enable concurrent camera access, so Windows Hello, Microsoft Hololens and other products and features could reliably assume that the camera would be available at any given time, regardless of what other applications may be accessing it.

But Microsoft didn’t want multiple applications to decode the same stream—thus degrading PC performance—so it made the seemingly drastic decision to blacklist codecs. So when USB webcams try to access a stream, they end up stalling out and freezing because the cameras can’t enable these blacklisted compression formats. It’s even breaking Skype, software owned by Microsoft.

Here’s what Microsoft told Gizmodo in an official statement regarding this webcam debacle:

“Windows 10 continues to have the highest customer satisfaction of any version of Windows. We have seen a small number of reports of unexpected behaviors following the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. Engineering and customer support are investigating these on a case by case basis and offering trouble-shooting tips as necessary. If a customer has any issues, we offer customer support at www.microsoft.com/support.

Although Thurrott voices his own annoyances with the update affecting his gear, other users in the Windows Dev Center forum are, let’s say, varying degrees of pissed off.

Windows Update Breaks Millions of Cameras and People Are Pissed


Windows Update Breaks Millions of Cameras and People Are Pissed


Windows Update Breaks Millions of Cameras and People Are Pissed


Windows Update Breaks Millions of Cameras and People Are Pissed


Windows Update Breaks Millions of Cameras and People Are Pissed

If you’re worried that your own webcam might be affected, the best thing you can really do is wait to update. In the forum, Microsoft says it’s building a fix for the MJPEG bug, which is due some time in September, but H.264 users might need to wait longer. If you happened to have just updated to Anniversary software, you have 10 days to revert back to a previous version.

If you’re past that date...enjoy your new paperweight. [Microsoft Dev Forum via Thurrott]