Tips to Get the Most Out of Windows Media Player

Windows Media Player has been a part of the Microsoft operating system through quite a number of versions and it remains in place in Windows 8, almost as a relic from the past. But the app is still relevant, even on modern computers.  The software has quietly moved up to version 12, though it looks little different from the past few iterations.

Microsoft has not changed much in recent updates of the app and, in fact, has lost some functionality, given that the company removed DVD playback from the software — unless you pay the extra $20 for the Media Center Pack, which requires the Pro version of the operating system.

Otherwise, you will need to install a third-party app, such as the free VLC Player, which is my recommendation. But if you wish to pay, then grab something like Power DVD.

The Basics

In newer versions of Windows Media Player the options have become increasingly more difficult to find. With the latest interface the simplest way is to right-click the menu bar, scroll to Tools and then click Options. This brings up a box that allows you to change almost any setting in the app.

By default, this opens to the Player tab, which allows for some simple options such as how often you wish to check for updates and what options you wish to enable by default — Allow screensaver by default, Connect to the internet and a whole lot more. But this tab is the least of what you can change here.

Rip Music

If you are like me then you probably want to insert a disc in the drive and have WMP automatically open, begin ripping the disc and store it in your choice of locations.

This tab allows you set all of this into motion and once set it will happen every time you insert a disc that the system recognizes as not being part of the current library.

Click the “Change” button to choose the location of your music library. Tick the “Rip CD automatically” button and choose the kbps rate you want your music stored at — by default this is 128, but I would recommend upping it to at least 256.

Library

If you have more than one computer in your home, as most of us today do, then it is likely that you have the media stored on one particular one — a desktop or home server are likely locations. The only problem with this method is that it results in you needing to let other computers know where to find this music.

That is easy with Windows Media Player. From the main screen you can click “Organize” and then “Manage Libraries” and choose “Music”.

From here you can browse to any location on your home network (make sure you have the folder you need shared) and add it to the library. This does not work with just music, but also pictures and video as well.

Burn

As the name implies, this is where you go to make a music CD. Granted, that is not something many of us are doing these days. The fact is, CD’s are becoming a thing of the past. They are not 8-track tapes yet, but they are still a shadow of their former selves.

The Burn tab lets you apply volume leveling,  burn a disc without gaps and more. By default, all options are enabled and there is no real reason to change any of these settings.

Plug-ins

Still in the Options menu, you will find a Plug-ins menu. From here you can configure a number of options. There are visualizations that can play on the screen that keep in time with your music. Sadly, many of the other plugins that were formerly a part of this program have been taken away, but some plugins remain online.

Microsoft still maintains a gallery of apps, though it has grown a bit sparse in recent times. However, users can still find some options here.

Not surprisingly, many of those have to do with DVD playback, thanks to its new found absence in the software. But users can also find a couple of audio features as well.

These are not the only two sources of plug-ins for WMP. You can search around fore more, but just be careful of malware pretenders.

There is ASIO Window Media Player Plugin, which is described as “a Windows Media Player plugin that plays incoming audio through a user-selectable ASIO device. The Windows Media Center application is also supported”.

A Now Playing plugin allows you to easily publish what you are currently listening to — “The Now Playing plugin monitors the song you are listening to and publishes the data in various ways” — via Twitter or Facebook.

Haali Media Splitter may be the most useful add-in for Windows Media Player. This provides a simple, but necessary task, in that it brings with it the ability to play MKV files, which is one of the most common on the internet, but for some reason not built into WMP.

The Verdict

In recent versions of Windows, Microsoft has given its Media Player (and Media Center as well) a back seat. The company seems intent on forcing users to move along to Xbox for all media. However, the software is far from dead — only wounded. If you look around carefully, and are diligent about what your click, then you can still find ways to enhance the program.

Plus, the built-in features still work incredibly well. Microsoft has seemingly ceased updating both Windows Media Player and Windows Media Center, but both programs still have life left in them.