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How to Stop Your Webcam From Freezing and Crashing on Windows 10


Windows 10’s Anniversary Update just broke millions of webcams. Microsoft supposedly has a fix coming in September, but there’s a registry hack you can use to fix the problem and get your webcam working properly today.

Thanks to Rafael Rivera for discovering this registry hack. It’s nice to have a solution, but Microsoft should really be documenting this sort of thing on official support pages rather than making Windows users scramble to fix broken hardware and software on their own.

How Microsoft Broke Millions of Webcams

In the Anniversary Update, Microsoft only allows USB webcams to use YUY2 encoding. Microsoft removed support for MJPEG and H264 streams, which many webcams–including the very popular Logitech C920 webcam–use.

This means that doing something as simple as enabling HD video in Skype will cause your webcam’s video to freeze. Apparently no one on Microsoft’s Windows team, Microsoft’s Skype team, or Logitech noticed the problem during the entire Insider Preview process for the Anniversary Update.

If you have this problem, you can downgrade from the Anniversary Update to the previous version of Windows. Unfortunately, with the Anniversary Update, Microsoft quietly changed the downgrade period from 30 days down to 10 days. If you installed the Anniversary Update when it was first released, there’s a good chance you can’t downgrade any more. Yikes.

Mike M, an engineer on the Windows Camera team at Microsoft, explained Microsoft’s reasons for removing this feature in a thread on the Microsoft forums. Microsoft did this to enable more efficient concurrent camera access–that is, access to the camera by multiple applications at once. Unfortunately, the change broke many existing webcams and applications.

How to Fix Your Webcam

Microsoft is working on an official fix that will be available in September. But, if you can’t wait a month before your webcam works properly again, there’s a registry hack you can use to re-enable the old behavior and fix this problem.

Here’s the standard warning: The Registry Editor is a powerful tool and misusing it can render your system unstable or even inoperable. This is a pretty simple hack and as long as you stick to the instructions, you shouldn’t have any problems. That said, if you’ve never worked with it before, consider reading about how to use the Registry Editor before you get started. And definitely back up the Registry (and your computer!) before making changes.

First, open the registry editor by opening the Start menu, typing “regedit”, and pressing Enter.

Then, navigate to the following key in the left sidebar:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindows Media FoundationPlatform

Right-click the “Platform” key in the left sidebar and select New > DWORD (32-bit) Value.

Name the value “EnableFrameServerMode”. Double-click it and set the value to “0”.

The next part depends on if you’re using a 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows to perform this process. Not sure? Here’s how to check. If you’re using a 32-bit version of Windows 10, you’re done–no more tweaks necessary. If you’re using a 64-bit version of Windows 10, though, you’ll also need to navigate to the following key in the left sidebar:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREWOW6432NodeMicrosoftWindows Media FoundationPlatform

Add the same setting here, right-clicking the “Platform” key and adding a DWORD value with the name “EnableFrameServerMode” and the value “0”.

You can now close the registry editor. Your change will take effect immediately. Just relaunch any applications where your webcam was freezing and they should work normally–no reboot or sign out necessary.

If you want to undo this change in the future after Microsoft actually fixes Windows, just revisit the same location in the registry and delete the “EnableFrameServerMode” value you added.

Download Our One-Click Registry Hack

If you don’t want to do the registry editing yourself, you can download our one-click registry hacks to make the change on your own.

Again, you’ll need to know whether you’re using a 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows to know which registry hack to use. Not sure? Here’s how to check.

These are just small .reg files you can double-click to add the setting above–and also remove it, if you like. Just download the hack, unzip the file, and double-click either the “Enable Webcam Workaround (64-bit)./reg” or “Enable Webcam Workaround (32-bit).reg” file, depending on which version of Windows 10 you’re using.

Agree to add the information to your registry and relaunch any applications your webcam didn’t work in. They’ll work immediately without any logout or reboot necessary.

If you’d like to remove the registry setting after Microsoft rolls out a real fix, just double-click the “Disable Webcam Workaround.reg” file instead. If you’d like to see what these or any other registry hacks do, you can just right-click the .reg file and select “Edit”.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He’s as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.


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