How to Play FLAC Files in Windows Media Player 12

Make WMP more useful by boosting format compatibility

A window for installing extra Media Player codecs.

Mark Harris / Lifewire

Microsoft's media player built-in to Windows may be a popular tool for playing digital music, but when it comes to format support, it can be rather antiquated. Compared to other jukebox software programs, its audio format support is quite sparse.

Out of the box, Windows Media Player 12 isn't compatible with the popular lossless format, FLAC. However, by installing a FLAC codec you can quickly add support not only in WMP but also for any other music playing software on your computer that might not be FLAC-aware.

For this tutorial, we are going to use a popular codec pack that comes with a wide range of audio and video codecs. If you intend on staying with WMP 12, then adding more formats will extend its usefulness as your primary media player.

How to Add FLAC Support to Windows Media Player 12

  1. Download Media Player Codec Pack. You'll need to know which version of Windows you're running in order to choose the correct download link on that download page.

  2. Close out of WMP 12 if it's running, and then open the Media Player Codec Pack setup file.

  3. Choose Detailed Installation on the first screen of the installer. You'll soon see why this is important.

  4. Click/tap Next >.

  5. Read the end-user license agreement (EULA) and then click or tap the I Agree button.

  6. On the "Choose Components" screen is a list of codecs that are automatically selected for installation. If you want the maximum format support, it's best to leave these default selections. However, if you're only interested in installing audio codecs, you can deselect the following: Additional Player; Video Codec's & Filters; Source Splitters & Filters; Other Filters; Associate Video Files; and Disc Handler.

  7. Select Next >.

  8. Like a lot of free software, Media Player Codec Pack comes with a potentially unwanted program (PUP). To avoid installing this extra software (which is usually a toolbar), remove the check in the box on the "Install Additional Software" screen.

  9. Choose Next >.

  10. Wait for the installation to complete.

  11. On the "Video Settings" screen that shows your CPU and GPU settings, click or tap Next.

  12. On the "Audio Settings" screen, keep the default selected unless you have reason to change them, and then click/tap Next again.

  13. Select No on the pop-up message unless you want to read the file association guide.

  14. Restart your computer to ensure all the changes take effect.

Once Windows is up and running again, test that you can play FLAC files. Windows Media Player 12 should already be associated with files ending with the .FLAC file extension, so double-clicking or double-tapping on the file should automatically bring up WMP.