Windows 10 supports video files encoded using High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), also known as H.265 video. However, Microsoft charges for its official codec and it is not included in Windows 10. You can get them for free without taking out your credit card and spending $0.99.
How HEVC Video Works on Windows 10
HEVC video is becoming more and more popular. iPhones now record video using HEVC by default, and 4K UHD Blu-rays also use HEVC.
These codecs allow you to watch these videos on your PC, but they only work with apps like Microsoft Movies & TV Video Player that comes with Windows 10, and other Windows apps that take advantage of Windows’ built-in codecs.
For example, the popular third-party video player VLC includes its own built-in codec. To play HEVC (H.265) videos in VLC, just install VLC and open them – done.
For built-in support, you need codecs. These are not included in the latest version of Windows 10, but must be installed from the Microsoft Store. These codecs are also required to encode video in HEVC (H.265) format in applications that use the Windows 10 system codecs.
related: What is HEVC H.265 video and why is it so important for 4K movies?
How to install codecs for free
There are actually two different codec packs you can get from the store. Both are the same, but one costs $0.99 and one is free.
If you search for HEVC in the store, you’ll see the HEVC Video Expansion Pack for $0.99. This fee may reflect the cost of licensing the codec for Microsoft.
However, you can also get a free HEVC Video Expansion from Device Manufacturer pack from the store. To find it in the store, copy and paste the following address into your web browser’s address bar and press Enter:
This is the same $0.99 plan, but it’s completely free. In the past, you could use this link to install packages from the store, but this link is no longer free.
hint: If the free package is no longer available and you don’t want to pay $0.99, we recommend installing VLC or another free video player that includes H.265 video support.
It appears to be designed to allow computer manufacturers to pre-install these codecs on their PCs. However, there is nothing stopping anyone from installing these codecs on their system – you can find them just by clicking on the direct link.
The original link mentioned above is valid in the US. We have received some reports that it may not be available in other countries. Like other app stores, the Microsoft Store has different software listings in different regions. May vary in other countries. We’ve recommended trying this link outside the US in the past, but it doesn’t seem to work anymore either.
By the way, you can also install support for High Efficiency Image Format (HEIF) from the store. Just download the HEIF Image Expansion Pack. This image format is also becoming more popular – iPhones now take pictures in HEIF by default. HEIF plans are free for everyone, without any pricing tricks.
Security updates also come from the store
The Microsoft Store will automatically install security updates for these codecs, just as it installs updates for other included apps.
When Microsoft began distributing critical security updates for the codec through the App Store on July 1, 2020, it took many by surprise. They are not delivered via Windows Update like typical security patches.
For security reasons, we recommend ensuring that automatic app updates are enabled. To do this, open the Microsoft Store on Windows 10, click Menu > Settings and make sure “Automatically update apps” is set to “On”.