Change Windows Media Player Settings

From the book Just Say No to Microsoft by Tony Bove (No Starch Press)

For Windows users who want to use alternatives to Windows Media Player

 

Note first that you can never really get rid of Windows Media Player, nor should you want to, if you use Windows. There are some media types designed for it that require you to use it. But you can use alternatives for all other media types.

Windows Media Player version 10 (current as of this writing) automatically takes over all media on your PC, installs Microsoft's rights management, and spies on your music and video folders. It looks for new things to stuff into its library without your knowledge -- unless you intervene by changing its options during the setup process or right after installing it. You are essentially about to put blinders on Windows Media Player to prevent it from performing certain tasks automatically.

Whether pre-installed or upgraded, Windows Media Player is usually set up as the default for everything from CDs and DVDs to MP3 music files -- shutting out all other players. It also tries to trick you into setting up Microsoft's MSN Music online music service as your active service by displaying a normal-looking license agreement:

During Windows Media Player setup, don't accept the first wizard page as if it were just a simple license agreement. See the fine print at the top? Say no to Microsoft -- decline the option to set MSN Music as your active online music service.

You can get around the problem of shutting out other players by changing the file types associated with Windows Media Player. The Customize the Installation Options page in the setup wizard lets you change the file types, as shown below. Click to remove the checkmark from each media or file type that you want to reserve for other players. I suggest you only check the box for Windows Media formats (as explained in the table below) and skip all other media types.

During Windows Media Player setup, be sure to uncheck the file and media types you may want to use with other players. Don't let Windows Media Player take over all these files and media types without a fight.

At the end of your Windows Media Player setup procedure, a dialog appears that lets you choose whether or not to search your hard disk and add files to its library, as shown below. This is another important time to say no to Microsoft. Click the No button, so that Windows Media Player doesn’t go off looking for media files to capture.


If Windows Media Player is already set up as the default player, you can still change the file types that automatically activate it. In Windows Media Player, select Tools > Options and then click the File Types tab. Uncheck the file and media types that you may want to use with other players. Remember, you can always launch Windows Media Player and open any of these files or media types, but if you turn off this automatic feature, you will have more choices.

Liberating Media for Other Players

To disassociate media file types from Windows Media Player, thereby liberating them to be used with other players, select Tools > Options and then click the File Types tab. Decide for each media type as follows:

Media Type Recommendation
Windows Media file (asf) Windows Media files with .asf, .asx, .wm, .wmx, .wmp, and .wpl extensions. While many other players can play these files, Windows Media Player will probably remain your choice for this type. Keep this box checked.
Windows Media Audio file (wma)
Windows Media files with .wma and .wax extensions. Windows Media Player is the best choice and the only choice for protected files, so keep this file type turned on.
Windows Media Video file (wmv)
Windows Media files with .wmv and .wvx extensions. While many other players can play these files, Windows Media Player will probably remain your choice here as well. Turn it on.
DVD Video
DVD Video files with .vob extensions. Stop right there -- uncheck this if you want to try other DVD video players that run on Windows, such as RealPlayer or WinDVD.
Music CD Playback
Files with .cda extensions. Do you really want to use Windows Media Player for your audio CDs? How about iTunes or RealPlayer or a dozen other possibilities? Keep this unchecked.
Windows video file (avi)
Files with .avi extensions. Keep this unchecked, because there are many other players out there that support this type.
Windows audio file (wav)
Files with .wav extensions. iTunes offers more choices for converting .wav files into compressed formats. Definitely keep this unchecked so that you can try other players. Everything out there plays .wav files.
Movie file (mpeg)
Files with .mpeg, .mpg, .mpe, .m1v, .mp2, .mpv2, .mp2v*, and .mpa extensions. Windows Media Player on automatic for these files? Fuhgeddaboutit! Turn it off. Try RealPlayer, QuickTime, or an open source program such as MPlayer.
MP3 audio file (mp3)
Files with .mp3 and .m3u extensions. MPEG stands for Moving Picture Experts Group, a committee that recognizes compression standards for video and audio. Windows Media Player is the absolute worst choice for playing MP3 files. Definitely uncheck this baby. The noble MP3 format roams freely across the Internet and from application to application, and it should not have to put up with the disgrace of being played by proprietary Microsoft code. Check out WinAmp, RealPlayer, iTunes, whatever.
MIDI file (midi)
Files with .mid, .midi, and .rmi extensions. What MIDI composer do you use? There are lots of MIDI players out there -- what does Microsoft really know about MIDI? Uncheck this as well.
AIFF audio file (aiff) Files with .aif, .aifc, and .aiff extensions. How insulting to Apple! Uncheck this type, which is the standard high-quality (uncompressed) format for Apple Mac users. Obviously, iTunes does AIFF better, and so do loads of other players.
AU audio file (au)
Files with .au and .snd extensions. Professional musicians and computer music nerds already have better tools for playing AU audio files. Uncheck this one too -- try RealPlayer.