Free Programs That Can Replace Windows Media Player

Tired of using Microsoft's aging media manager?

Windows Media Player comes with Windows, but compared to other free players out there, WMP lacks many desirable features. Even worse, beginning with the release of Windows 8, you can no longer play DVDs with WMP unless you pay extra for an upgrade.

Just because you've built up a WMP music library doesn't mean you have to keep on using WMP. Many of the free alternatives can quite happily play the WMA format and the playlists you've already created. If you're tired of Microsoft's aging media player or are having problems with it, check out some of the alternatives. You may find the best media player for Windows that can replace WMP altogether for you.

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VLC Media Player: Full-Featured Replacement

A screenshot of VLC Media Player 2.1.6 running under Ubuntu MATE
Hinrik/Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons
What We Like
  • Completely free to download and use.

  • Supports nearly any video and audio format without add-ons. 

  • Totally ad-free.

  • Cross platform: Windows, Mac, Linux and Mobile

  • Great, responsive community of developers.

What We Don't Like
  • Outdated interface.

  • Has some difficulty playing DVDs smoothly or at all.

  • Not made to play or catalog your music library.

  • Not possible to customize.

  • Often victim of hackers.

If you're looking for a full-featured replacement for Microsoft's media player, then Video LAN's free multipurpose player is a serious contender.

The number of formats that it supports out of the box is impressive. In addition to playing audio, video, and DVDs, this program allows you to do advanced things that aren't possible with WMP.

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

VLC Media Player is available for Windows, Linux, Mac OS X and other operating systems.

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Foobar2000: Best Audio-Only Player

Image © Foobar2000
What We Like
  • Very simple, lightweight interface.

  • Lots of plugins to customize and add advanced functionality.

  • Very easy to customize the theme.

  • Supports gapless playback.

What We Don't Like
  • Default theme has an outdated appearance.

  • Many plugins are outdated or not frequently patched.

  • Some customizations require advanced computer knowledge.

If you are looking for an audio-only player, take a look at Foobar2000. It is regarded as one of the best. On the surface, the program has a simplistic look, but hidden under this interface is a capable player.

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

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

Foobar2000 is available for Windows 10, 8.1, 8, 7, Vista, and XP (SP2 or newer), as well as iOS and Android devices.

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Media Monkey Free: Manage Enormous Media Libraries

Screenshots of MediaMonkey.
What We Like
  • Free to download and use (with limited features).

  • Powerful music collection organizer.

  • Very intuitive interface.

  • Powerful audio format converter.

  • Syncs with most mobile devices.

What We Don't Like
  • Somewhat too complicated for novice users.

  • Attempts to become your computer's default audio player.

  • More advanced features aren't free.

MediaMonkey is a flexible free music manager that is a strong replacement candidate for Windows Media Player. This program can be used to manage small or huge media libraries with more than 100,000+ files.

The free version has a robust set of built-in tools for playing and managing audio and video. Format support is exceptional, 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.

Media Money is compatible with Windows 10, 8, 7 Vista, and XP, as well as Linux, macOS, iOS 11, and Android 8.

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MusicBee: Lightweight Player With Ripping and Tagging Tools

Image © Steven Mayall
What We Like
  • Completely free to download and use.

  • Performance is much faster than other media players.

  • Automatically imports song information (including lyrics).

  • Can sync with iOS devices (with plugin).

What We Don't Like
  • Only available for Windows.

  • Not suitable for extremely large music collections.

  • Very simplistic interface.

If you are looking for a lightweight 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, it 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.

MusicBee's rich selection of audio options includes extensive metadata tagging, podcast directory, audio format converter, secure CD ripping, and more.

MusicBee comes with a CD ripper/burner, which is useful if you need to import music or archive to disc. Streaming music from internet radio stations is easy. With the Auto-DJ function, it's possible to discover and create playlists based on your listening preferences.

Overall, MusicBee is an excellent alternative to Microsoft's WMP. It has more features and is arguably more user-friendly.

MusicBee is available for Windows 10, 8, and 7, and Android devices.

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Kodi: Flexible Streaming Media Tool

What We Like
  • Very easy "headless" setup (control with your mobile devices).

  • Supports nearly all media file formats.

  • Lots of add-ons available to stream many sources of media.

  • Completely free to download and use.

  • Cross-platform compatible, including mobile devices.

What We Don't Like
  • Lacks security features of other media players.

  • No technical support available.

  • Interface can feel confusing for beginners.

  • Has been victim of hackers in the past.

Anyone with massive music, movie, and photo libraries can benefit from using Kodi. The open-source software media center is designed to be hooked up to a TV or a large monitor, but you can run it just about anywhere. It can be used as a DVR if your PC has a TV card. 

Kodi excels when combined with some of the vast collection of compatible plugins. These extensions add support for extra services such as games, lyrics, subtitles, and streaming sites. The number of plugins is overwhelming, and it may take a while to configure them in the best way to work for you. 

Kodi is compatible with most virtual private networks that secure your devices and prevent hacking. 

Kodi is available for Windows, Linux, macOS, Android, iOS, Raspberry Pi and other operating systems.

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GOM Player: 360-Degree VR Video Player

Screenshot of GOM Player
What We Like
  • Free to download and use.

  • Very user-friendly interface.

  • Supports most common media formats by default.

  • Capable of playing broken (partially downloaded) media files.

  • Multiple language support.

What We Don't Like
  • Connects to the internet on startup by default.

  • Lacks some features found in most other media players.

  • Has difficulty playing DVDs.

GOM Player is a free video player that supports all the most popular video formats by default, has plenty of advanced features, and is extremely customizable. 

GOM Player's unique claim to fame is its support for 360-degree VR videos. Use it to watch from up, down, left and right, 360 degrees around, by using the keyboard or mouse.

Other advanced features include screen capture, playback speed control, and video effects. The player can be customized with skins and advanced filter controls.

GOM Player is available for Windows 10, 8.1, 8, 7, and Vista, as well as for Android and iOS.