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A list of "instructions," known as an algorithm, which programs such as encoders and players use to compress and decompress data. In the case of digital media content, codecs are used to decrease the content's file size and bit rate, or the amount of data in kilobits per second that are required to render audio and video content. With smaller file sizes and lower bit rates, digital media content can be stored and streamed over a network more easily.
You may also see an error message in Windows Media Player (WMP) that says "Error downloading Codec." WMP tries to download the right codec if you try to play a video for which you don't have a codec installed on your system. If you are behind a firewall or router, WMP may not be able to connect to the Microsoft server to automatically grab the right one. You may be able to resolve this issue by temporarily disabling your firewall. WMP may also not be able to download the right codec if it cannot determine the internal format of the movie file.
One solution is to visit a site such as The Nimo Codec Homepage where you can download a huge file that will install a variety of different codecs on your system. Once you have done this, you should have no trouble playing movie files in the future.
Other useful sites for codecs include:
•MS Codecs Download Package