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Screenshot of Media Player, one of the components of Video for Windows

Video for Windows (VfW, also referred to as Video Compression Manager (VCM)) was a multimedia framework developed by Microsoft that allowed Microsoft Windows to play digital video.


Video for Windows was first introduced in November 1992 as a reaction to Apple Computer's QuickTime technology which added digital video to the Macintosh platform. Originally released as a free add-on to Windows 3.1 and Windows 3.11, it then became an integral component of Windows 95 and later. Like QuickTime there were three components in Video for Windows. The technology introduced a file format designed to store digital video, Audio Video Interleave (AVI). The technology provided an application programming interface that allowed software developers working on the Windows platform to add the ability to play or manipulate digital video to their own applications. Lastly, it included a suite of software for playing and manipulating digital video:

  • Media Player
  • VidCap
  • VidEdit
  • BitEdit
  • PalEdit
  • WaveEdit

The original version had a number of limitations including a maximum resolution of 320 pixels by 240 pixels and a maximum framerate of 30 frames per second.

The Video for Windows technology was mostly replaced by the July 1996 release of its COM-based successor - ActiveMovie - first released as a beta version along with the second beta of Internet Explorer 3.0 ActiveMovie was also released as a free download, either standalone or bundled with a version of Internet Explorer. One component that was not replaced with ActiveMovie was video capture, which still required an install of Video for Windows until the release of WDM capture drivers, which only started to become popular in 2000.

In 1995 Video for Windows became an issue in a lawsuit Apple filed against Microsoft, Intel, and the San Francisco Canyon Company, regarding the alleged theft of several thousand lines of QuickTime source code to improve the performance of Video for Windows. This lawsuit was ultimately settled in 1997, when Apple agreed to make Internet Explorer the default browser over Netscape, and Microsoft agreed to continue developing Office and other software for the Mac for the next 5 years, and purchase $150 million of non-voting Apple stock In March 1997, Microsoft announced that ActiveMovie would become part of the DirectX 5 suite of technologies

Version history

Release Date Version Notes
November 1992 Video for Windows 1.0 First public release. Including Microsoft's RLE and Video1 codecs.
  Video for Windows 1.1 Added Cinepak codec
  Video for Windows 1.1a  
  Video for Windows 1.1b  
  Video for Windows 1.1c  
  Video for Windows 1.1d Included Indeo 3.2 (Allegedly included source code from Apple's QuickTime for Windows)
March 1995 Video for Windows 1.1e Last version for Windows 3.1x
August 1995 Video for Windows 95 Bundled with Windows 95
July 1996 Video for Windows NT 32-bit version bundled with Windows NT 4.0
July 1996 ActiveMovie 1.0 The successor to Video for Windows. Added support for MPEG-1 and QuickTime file formats
March 1997 DirectShow 1.0