How to Play HEVC Video Files on Windows 10 for Free

Video image quality has come a long way in recent years and is only getting better. Older tube TVs were only able to display video at 480p (although emissions are often lower than that). Fast forward to today to discover beautiful 4K TVs capable of producing vivid colors and crisp images. Unfortunately, the higher the image quality, the more data it requires.

Fortunately, a video compression standard called High Efficiency Video Coding (or HEVC / H.265) is available to help. The good news is that Windows 10 PCs can play H.265 video files. The only problem is that you have to pay for it. Or you?

What is HEVC?

H.265, or HEVC, is a video compression standard. Its predecessor, H.264, has been the go-to video compression standard for many years. H.264 was used in virtually all video consumed, whether streamed, downloaded, or broadcast on HDTV. Without getting too technical, the new H.265 standard allows video to be compressed by 25 to 50% without loss of quality. Encoding video in the H.265 standard results in significantly smaller file sizes. This translates into saving a ton of data, making it easier and cheaper to stream videos in the highest resolution available.

Hevc logo

Fortunately, Microsoft added support for the H.265 video standard when the Windows 10 operating system was released. However, for some reason they decided to disable it. Windows 10 users who try to open an H.265 video file will be faced with a message asking them to install the HEVC codec. This allows playback of H.265 files from there. The only problem is that you have to pay for it.

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Install the HEVC Video Extensions Package

Hevc extension officialHevc extension official

Fortunately, installing the official HEVC codec for use on your Windows 10 PC is a painless process. The codec can be downloaded from Microsoft Store. Plus, it will only cost you $ 0.99, so it won’t break the bank. That being said, it’s pretty annoying that Microsoft turned it off in the first place. Especially when you consider the fact that there are a number of third party video apps that can handle H.265 files without a problem. Fortunately, if the money is tight or you refuse to pay on principle, there is another way to enable H.265 playback on your Windows 10 PC for free.

Install HEVC Video Extensions for free from the device manufacturer’s package

Hevc extension developerHevc extension developer

Microsoft has hidden another completely free HEVC package to download and install on your Windows 10 device. This package is intended for developers and manufacturers; however, anyone can download it from the Microsoft Store. It features the exact same codec that will allow H.265 playback as the paid version described above.

Use another video player

As we mentioned earlier, many third-party video players support H.265 playback. The best part is that a lot of them are free to download and install on your Windows 10 PC.

VLC Media Player – one of the most popular multimedia applications available. Completely free and easy to use.

Hevc VlcHevc Vlc

MPV – supports a wide variety of media files and codecs; however, it is designed to be run from the command line. Although the MPV player has a very basic control overlay, the lack of a full graphical user interface is not for everyone.

Hevc mpvHevc mpv

PotPlayer – developed by a Korean technology company, PotPlayer is a feature-rich media player that supports many file formats and codecs.

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HEVC compression is a huge leap forward in the way we consume media. Since its inception, many companies have opted for this new standard, including Apple and GoPro. In the future, there is a good chance that HEVC will become more and more common. As a result, hardware and software manufacturers will embrace it as the new benchmark in video compression.

If you want, you can also transcode your video files to HEVC using VLC.

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