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Windows Media Player \program files\windows media player\wmplayer.exe;\windows\system32\mplay32.exe

Play back video and audio media files, such as .mpg movies, .mp3 songs, audio CD tracks, and .asf streaming media.

To Open

Start Programs Accessories Entertainment Windows Media Player

Double-click on any associated media file

Command Prompt wmplayer (version 8)

Command Prompt mplay32 (version 5)


Windows Media Player is the default application used to open and play most of the types of video and audio media supported by Windows XP (see Figure 4-114). Although you can open Windows Media Player from the Start menu, it makes the most sense to simply double-click on a supported media file or click on a link in a web page to open that video or audio clip and play it.

Figure 4-114. Windows Media Player is used to play video and audio clips

Windows XP actually comes with two different versions of the media player. The main application, Windows Media Player 8 (wmplayer.exe) is the default for all supported media file types, and is the one that is launched from the Start menu. Windows Media Player 5 (mplay32.exe) has a far more modest interface and even supports multiple instances (two or more videos playing at once), but uses the same media player subsystem, so its support for all the different media formats is identical to Windows Media Player 8. Try both to see which one you like better.

The rest of the Windows Media Player (either version) is fairly straightforward, with the standard VCR-like controls (e.g., Play, Stop, etc.).

Windows Media Player 8 supports several additional “gee whiz” features, such as visualizations, which are graphical displays that react to audio. In addition to the visualization plug-ins.com with Windows Media Player 8, you can download additional plug-ins for all sorts of visual effects. Also supported are “skins,” which are used to make Windows Media Player look more exotic or interesting. Like visualizations, additional skins can be downloaded and installed (see Figure 4-115).

Figure 4-115. Lots of “skins” help you dress up the Windows Media Player window

The Radio Tuner in Windows Media Player 8 allows you to listen to radio broadcasts over the Web. Although no special radio hardware is required, a fast Internet connection certainly helps.

CD burning

Windows XP is the first version of Windows to include support for CD writers built-into the operating system (or more specifically, into Windows Media Player and Windows Explorer). The interface is a little awkward, and it doesn’t offer the flexibility of most third-party CD burning applications, but it works.

If you have a CD recorder, follow these steps:

  1. Open Explorer, right-click on the drive icon for your CD recorder, and select Properties.

  2. Choose the Recording tab and make sure the “Enable CD recording on this drive” option is turned on. Set any other options here as desired and click OK.

  3. Open the Windows Media Player and go to View Taskbar Media Library.

  4. In the tree on the left, navigate to Media Library Audio All Audio (if you’re not already there).

  5. Drag-drop any .mp3 or .wav files into this window in the desired order. Songs can’t be rearranged here, but they can be after the next step.

  6. When you’re done, click the “Copy to CD or Device” button on the left (or go to Media Library Audio Copy to CD or Device) (see Figure 4-116).

    Figure 4-116. Use Windows Media Player’s built-in support for CD writers to burn your own music CDs

  7. The songs to be written to the CD are shown on the left, and the songs already on the CD (if any) are shown on the right. The songs in the playlist can be reorganized by right-clicking and selecting Move Up or Move Down.

  8. When you’re ready, click the Copy Music button in the upper right. Any .mp3 files are temporarily converted to .wav format, and then all tracks are written to the CD.

This procedure will write audio CDs that can be played by nearly all CD players (with the exception of some older DVD drives). See “Windows Explorer”, earlier in this chapter, for details on making data CDs.


  • Although it doesn’t come with many of the goodies found in the newer version, Windows Media Player 5 is much simpler to use, loads faster, and takes up less screen real estate.

  • If you encounter a video or audio file that Windows Media Player doesn’t understand, you can usually add support for it by downloading the appropriate codec (compression/decompression driver). Right-click on the media file, select Properties, and choose the Summary tab to view the name of the required codec (if available). Then, use an Internet search engine (such as http://www.google.com) to locate the codec installer.

  • Use the Windows Update feature, discussed later in this chapter, to install the latest drivers, codecs, and updates to the Windows Media Player.

  • The CD Player application found in earlier versions of Windows has been removed in Windows XP, and the Windows Media Player has assumed its role in playing audio CDs. To play an audio CD or DVD, just put it in the drive. If a disk is already inserted, you can eject it and reinsert it, or start Windows Media Player and go to Play DVD or CD Audio.

  • To choose the program that plays audio CDs automatically when they’re inserted (or to disable autoplay entirely), right-click on your CD drive icon in Explorer, select Properties, and choose the AutoPlay tab. Choose Music CD from the list and choose the desired action below.

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