Free Programs That Can Replace Windows Media Player

Tired of using Microsoft's ageing media manager?

Why Use an Alternative to Windows Media Player?

As you already know, Windows Media Player (WMP) comes with Windows. However, compared to some other free players out there, it lacks compatibility with both audio and video formats. What's even worse is since the release of Windows 8, you can no longer play DVDs unless you pay extra for an upgrade.

And, just because you've built up a WMP music library doesn't mean you have to keep on using it. Many free alternatives can quite happily play the WMA format and the playlists you've already created.

So, if you're tired of Microsoft's aging media player or are having problems with it, then why not switch to an alternative that can replace it altogether?

1
VLC Media Player (Windows / Mac OS X / Linux / Others)

A screenshot of VLC Media Player 2.1.6 running under Ubuntu MATE
Hinrik/Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons

If you're looking for a full-featured replacement for Microsoft's media player, then VideoLAN's free multi-purpose player is a serious contender.

The amount of different formats that it supports out of the box is very impressive. And, as well as playing audio, video, and DVDs, this program allows you to do advanced things which aren't possible with WMP.

For instance, you can extract audio from video, convert between formats, and even set up your computer as a streaming media server.

2
Foobar2000 (Windows)

Foobar2000
Foobar2000 main screen. Image © Foobar2000

When you just want an audio-only player then Foobar2000 is regarded as one of the best. On the surface, the program has quite a simplistic look. However, hidden under this interface is a very capable player.

Audio format support is excellent and it can also convert between formats using optional plug-ins. The program doesn't need much memory either compared to Windows Media Player which can be a real RAM hogger.

Foobar2000 also comes with advanced music tagging which can use the Freedb service to automatically add metadata. The program also has a built-in CD ripper for transferring your originals to digital music files.

3
Media Monkey Free (Windows)

MediaMonkey
MediaMonkey Logo. Image © Ventis Media Inc.

MediaMonkey is a flexible free music manager that is a great replacement for Windows Media Player. This program can be used to manage small or very large media libraries (50, 000+ files).

The free version has a great set of built-in tools for playing and managing audio and video. Format support is good too, providing you have the correct codecs installed on your system.

You can use MediaMonkey Free to automatically tag music files, add album art, Rip CDs, burn media to disc, and convert audio files. There's also a handy set of Podcast options that allow you to subscribe and update your favorites.

4
MusicBee (Windows)

MusicBee
MusicBee user interface. Image © Steven Mayall

If you are looking for a light-weight music player and don't need video features, then MusicBee has an impressive tally of audio-based tools.

The interface is easy to use and in some ways feels similar to Windows Media Player. The left pane gives you a quick way to choose music, podcasts, audiobooks, and radio. Another nice feature about MusicBee's GUI is that you can have multiple screens via menu tabs -- it's a bit like using a Web browser in fact.

As previously mentioned, MusicBee has a rich selection of audio options. Top of the list includes: extensive metadata tagging, podcast directory, audio format converter, secure CD ripping, and more.

MusicBee also comes with a CD ripper / burner if you need to import music or archive to disc. Streaming music from Internet radio stations is easy to do too. At the time of writing, MusicBee supports several station directories such as IceCast, ShoutCast, Soma FM, and Xbox Music.

You also get built-in support for 'scrobbling' to Last.fm. And, with the Auto-DJ function it's possible to discover and create playlists based on your listening preferences.

Overall, a great alternative to Microsoft's player thats has a lot more features and is arguably more user-friendly too.

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