Science

Windows 10 anniversary update disables users' webcams

Windows users are complaining that Skype and other apps that require a webcam are no longer working, thanks to a major Windows 10 update earlier this month. And Microsoft says a fix isn't expected until September.

Fix coming in September, Microsoft says

Many webcams have been disabled by Microsoft's Windows 10 anniversary update, released on Aug. 2, causing applications like Microsoft-owned video-calling app Skype to freeze, users report. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

Windows users are complaining that Skype and other apps that require a webcam are no longer working, thanks to a major Windows 10 update earlier this month. And Microsoft says a fix isn't expected until September.

Those who use popular brands of webcams, such as Logitech, have been complaining on Microsoft forums, on Twitter, and other sites about their webcams freezing after the installation of Microsoft's Windows 10 first anniversary update, released on Aug. 2.

The anniversary update was intended to enable lots of new features, such as more capabilities for the Cortana digital assistant and support for notes hand-written and hand-drawn with a digital stylus.

But users on the Windows Dev Center forum say it has disabled webcams and consequently webcam-reliant apps ranging from e-banking software Crealogix to virtual reality learning software zSpace. Some companies say thousands to millions of their customers have been affected.

The problem has disabled Microsoft's own popular Skype video calling app, report users such as Peter Bright, technology editor at Ars Technica and Brad Sims of the Microsoft-focused site Thurrott.com, along with many on the Microsoft Dev Forum.

The problem is caused by a new feature that allows multiple apps, such as Windows Hello facial recognition app and the Hololens augmented reality headset, to access a computer's webcam at the same time, explained Mike M. from the Windows Camera Team on Windows Dev Center forum on Aug. 12. In the process of implementing that feature, Microsoft disabled two popular formats for compressing video, MJPEG and H.264.

'Planned, designed, tested'

"This behavior was planned, designed, tested, and flighted out to our partners and Windows Insiders around the end of January of this year," he wrote. "We worked with partners to make sure their applications continued to function throughout this change."

Microsoft said in an official statement emailed to CBC News Monday afternoon, "We are aware of a situation where support of some apps that use compressed MJPG and H.264 streams for webcams have some incompatibilities with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. We are currently rolling out a fix that should go public shortly."

Mike M. claimed – contrary to many user reports — that the camera functionality in Microsoft-owned Skype should continue to work.

However, he acknowledged that Microsoft has "done a poor job communicating" the change to Windows 10's use of webcams. "We dropped the ball on that front, so I'd like to offer my apologies to you all."

Last Thursday, Mike M. wrote that based on user feedback, Microsoft will issue a series of fixes for the webcam problems. It will start by re-enabling the MJPEG in an update in September, followed by H.264 later.

"I'll continue doing my best to give you regular updates on our progress, and I'll let you know the dates when you can expect the updates to be published as soon as we have that information," he wrote.

Unfortunately, until those updates are released, there is not that much users can do. Windows 10 only allows users to roll back to a previous version for 10 days after updates are applied. That means most people haven't be able to revert back to the pre-anniversary update version since Aug. 12.

A U.S.-based engineer named Rafael Riviera, who writes for Thurrott.com, says he has found a solution, but it involves making changes to the Windows Registry, which many users may not feel comfortable trying.

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