Windows Media Video is a type of audio and video format that is used to digitally store audio and video information in a file. WMV is basically a container format developed by Microsoft that is used to hold several audio video codecs developed by Microsoft and to run on Microsoftsupported operating systems and machines. The Society of Motion Pictures and Television Engineers (SMPTE) initially standardized WMV format. Currently, several physical file formats, such as HD DVD and Blue Ray Disc, are using WMV format as the default format for media information storage. WMV file format is part of the larger Windows Media framework.

History and Purpose

Microsoft Windows Media Video format is a compressed video format based on Microsoft’s Advanced Systems Format (ASF) container format.

In 1999, Microsoft developed a new compressed video format to hold video encoded with several proprietary codecs. The initial version of this Windows media format, WMV7, was built on Microsoft’s MEG-4 Part 2. Two additional versions, WMV8 and WMV9, added improvements. Microsoft submitted the WMV9 version for standardization purposes to SMPTE in 2003. WMV9 was standardized in 2006 as SMPTE 421M, also known as VC-1. The basic purpose of developing WMV was to develop a media format which can be uniformly supported by all the Microsoft-supported devices and operating systems. Another major purpose was to devise a media format that could be used for streaming videos over the Internet.

Once SMPTE standardized Windows video format, WMV became one of the three video formats for Blu-ray video discs (BD-ROM). Thus, WMV video format has excellent widespread support. Other formats, such as MPEG-4 and AVS, still compete successfully, however.


There are several advantages of using WMV format over other formats.

  • WMV format contains a large quantity of video and audio information in smaller storage spaces. This makes WMV an ideal format for streaming videos over the Internet, as Microsoft originally intended.
  • WMV format is designed specifically to run on Windows devices. Hence, it is compatible with all the Windowspowered devices. Some devices even use WMV as the default audio/video format.
  • Older applications, such as older versions of MS PowerPoint, supported few formats. WMV is one of those formats.
  • According to Microsoft, WMV has 2x compression ratio as compared to MPEG-4.
  • Quality is maintained well with Windows video format.
  • As one of the smallest video format options, WMV is good for attaching a video to an email.
  • WMV can work on the Web via Google Drive.
  • While editing a WMV file or playing it on a non-Microsoft device can be tricky, it’s easy to find converters.


  • WMV is a proprietary to Microsoft, which means that it is not compatible with most of the other operating systems. It is not easy to find a Linux or Applebased media player to run WMV files. Probably the most popular Apple WMV format player is the Flip4Mac WMV QuickTime component. Alternatives include Eltima Elmedia Player and ShedWorx Smart Converter.
  • WMV files have a digital rights management system associated with them. which Users do not appreciate this system because it makes it impossible to restore the licensing information attached to WMV files. This is the case with Windows Media Player 11.
  • Video transmission sometimes can be delayed.
  • While WMV is one of the smallest video format choices, not all applications can work with the tiny size of WMV files.
  • Labeling can be problematic WMV can refer both to the file container format or the Windows Media Video codec. Subsequently, it’s not always clear whether a .WMV file also contains compression based on other codecs Microsoft supports.


WMV format is one of three compression technologies from Microsoft. These media formats are WMV Screen and WMV Image. WMV Screen is designed primarily for screencast content but has some conversion capability, as well. WMV Image is a video slideshow format.

Associated Codecs

Supported audio codecs include:

  • Microsoft Motion JPEG
  • Windows Media Video 9
  • Windows Media Video 9 Advanced (VC-1)
  • Windows Media Video 8
  • Windows Media Video 7
  • Microsoft MPEG-4 versions 2 and 3
  • ISO MPEG-4 versions 1 and 1.1

Supported audio codecs include:

  • Microsoft ADPCM
  • Microsoft G.711 u-Law
  • Microsoft G.711 a-Law
  • ISO MPEG Player 3 (MP3)
  • Microsoft Media Audio 9
  • Microsoft Media Audio 9 Professional
  • Microsoft Media Audio 9 Lossless
  • Microsoft G.726
  • Microsoft IMA ADPCM


WMV format having a very good compression rate, is a very good format, especially for Windows platforms. But where compatibility and portability is the priority, WMV format is not a good choice.