Pin Me

Updating Mac OS X Codecs

written by: •edited by: Michael Dougherty•updated: 4/27/2011

To watch clips encoded with the latest technologies on your Mac you will either need a codec pack or a specific media player...

  • slide 1 of 5

    Get the Right Codecs for Your Mac

    Choosing the Best Mac Os X Codec Packs Watching videos and listening to music is one of the top desktop computing activities that we engage in, yet so many video formats (and some audio ones) are left unsupported by the operating system.

    The result is either an inability to watch certain videos, or videos that only playback in the wrong colors thanks to the correct video codecs not being present. Codecs are a set of instructions that detail to media players how certain video clips are encoded, how they should be played back, etc., and while operating systems ship with up-to-date codecs built in, they soon go out of date.

    Don’t let this stand in your way of enjoying a good movie on your Mac, however – new codecs can be downloaded!

    Image credit:

  • slide 2 of 5

    Do I Really Need a Codec Pack?

    There is some argument as to whether or not a codec pack is genuinely required. This derives from the fact that some codec packs in the past have been compiled from pirated and hacked software, thereby making their legality extremely dubious. Additionally codec packs often seem to feature codecs performing duplicate tasks – a sure sign of needless bloatware.

    As there is always a risk of finding yourself doing something that breaks someone’s terms of use or copyright while using a computer, staying away from such a codec pack is certainly recommended.

    However there are various codecs that can be used safely and legally on your Mac. Note however that these cannot be described as “packs" – instead they are individual codecs that can be installed as and when required.

  • slide 3 of 5

    The Only Mac OS X Codec Pack You Will Need

    If you are dead set on a Mac OS X codec pack, there is only one available.

    Available from, Perian describes itself as “The Swiss-army knife for QuickTime" and is a free and open source codec pack offering additional file support for QuickTime. Among the enhancements it delivers are:

    • Additional file formats such as AVI, DIVX, FLV, MKV, GVI, VP6, and VFW
    • Various video types such as MS-MPEG4 v1 & v2, DivX, 3ivx, H.264, Sorenson H.263, FLV/Sorenson Spark and many more.
    • AVI support for AAC, AC3 Audio, H.264, MPEG4, VBR MP3 and more

    Installing the Perian codec pack is a case of going to the Download page, clicking the Download Perian link and waiting for the pack to be downloaded before opening the disk image and double-clicking the Perian.prefPane icon. Note that you will require Mac OS X 10.4.7 or higher.

    Meanwhile if you’re looking for individual codecs head to where you will find a good selection of codecs for specific tasks, such as encoding H.264 faster than the official Apple encoder, or adding a QuickTime extension for XviD movies.

  • slide 4 of 5

    The All-in-One Alternative: VLC Player

    Rather than go to the trouble of downloading a new codec pack, why not download a new media player?

    While QuickTime is a popular video player for Mac, without the right codecs its use is limited to what it can play, which might mean you are unable to enjoy the content that you want.

    This isn’t a problem with the open source VLC Player, however, which is equipped to play pretty much any format you can think of, and is regularly updated to make sure that this remains the case. Available for Mac (pictured above), Windows and Linux distros, VLC Player can be downloaded from and also acts as a media converter and streamer!

  • slide 5 of 5


    • Author's own experience
    • Perian,