There is something evil about Windows Media Player. This is not one of those anti-Microsoft rants about bloated code or Microsoft is taking over the world. For the most part, Windows Media Player works just fine. It's when it does not that the program can drive you to the edge of despair.
A key reason? It's practically impossible to fix. Windows Media Player integrates itself so deeply into Windows it is essentially unremovable, and it is so tighttly entwined into Windows that diagnosing the issue is mind bogglingly complex.
You cannot remove Windows Media Player entirerly, but you often CAN blow enough away to do enough of a reinstall to get it working properly again. It takes a little work and several steps, but that's what this guide is here for--I have fixed dozens of machines this way after nothing else worked--in fact, I am beginning to rely on this procedure rather than slaving away to determine a way to resolve undecipherable error messages.
The only drawback to this method? You lose your playlists, catalogues and preferences--all of which can be re-created. You will not lose any media (music or video) files.
Before you start, you're going to need a copy of Windows Media Player's setup files. You can get all versions of WMP from Microsoft here: Microsoft Windows Media Player downloads
You might also consider checking out www.oldversion.com, www.oldversion.com which is a nifty website that archives old versions of applications.
Download it and store it on your desktop for now.
After that, let's get busy. Start by logging off, (START > LOG OFF) which leaves you at the humble log-on screen even if you have a single user system.
CTRL-ALT-DEL brings you to the old-style log on screen which is familiar to some but not others. You want to log on as ADMINISTRATOR, by typing Administrator in the USER NAME: box. Administrator is NOT case sensitive. If you are using Windows XP Pro, you must also supply the administrator password, which is the password you created when installing Windows on the machine. If you have Windows XP Home, the default is a blank password, so leave it blank (unless you set a password) Go ahead and press OK.
Windows will now load the Administrator profile, which is necessary so that you can take care of a few folders in your normal user profile. You may need to do a little work to get to them though. First, let's open MY COMPUTER (START > MY COMPUTER)
By default, Windows hides certain files and folders to prevent users from carelessly deleting them. Well, we're not going to carelessly delete anything--we're going to blow away some files blatantly and with extremem malice! So, first thing we need to do is choose TOOLS and FOLDER OPTIONS from the text menu at the top of the MY COMPUTER window.
This brings us to this little window...choose the VIEW tab and then scroll down a little bit. We want to UNCHECK the HIDE EXTENSIONS FOR KNOWN FILE TYPES and the HIDE PROTECTED OPERATING SYSTEM FILES (RECOMMENDED) boxes. We also want to set the SHOW HIDDEN FILES AND FOLDER setting, by clicking the radio button, which will move the focus away from DO NOT SHOW HIDDEN FILES AND FOLDERS.
Alright, Click OK to return to the MY COMPUTER window, then double click LOCAL DISK (C:)
Then double click the DOCUMENTS AND SETTINGS folder
Then double click your normal user file. This will likely be your username unless you have changed it, but in some cases (for example, if you bought your PC from a large manufacturer), it will be called OWNER or USER. In this case, the default user account is GF
After double clicking the profile folder you will be looking at a number of folders, some appearing opaque or lighter than the others. We are interested in two of these. The first is APPLICATION DATA...double click it
Now we're getting into the bowels of your user profile. Programmers in general and Microsoft in particular love to hide things from users, figuring the deeper they bury them, the less likely a user will come along to mess it up. That's basically true, but then we wouldn't be in here if the programmers hadn't made their programs so hideously complex and [roblem prone. Double click the MICROSOFT folder.
You should now see the MEDIA PLAYER FOLDER....stop, we're not going in there. We just want to rename it. Right click it and choose RENAME, and give it a useful name like, oh "Old Media Player". After it is renamed, hit the Folder with the green arrow pointing up on the toolbar twice to take yourself back to ...
The root of your normal profile. We're not done yet. Look for the LOCAL SETTINGS folder....double click it.
And what do we find? Another APPLICATION DATA folder! Double click it to reveal...
Another MICROSOFT folder...what a surprise. Double click that to find...
Another group of folders, including a Media Player folder. Oh joy. Right click it and name it something appropriate (ike "Old Media Player")
OK, close all the windows so you are back to the desktop. For this next step, we need to be in safe mode. There are several ways to get into safe mode, with one way being to use the System Configuration Utility to edit the boot.ini file to add the safe mode switch. DO NOT DO THIS. In recent months, we have seen more than a few occassions where people have done this and locked themselves into a perpetual loop of rebooting. Normally, this method works, but in a few rare cases (certain malware and if people have the unpatched packet-writing software InCD from Nero) this can be in serious trouble.
Instead, reboot the PC and tap the F8 key while the memory is counting up, or while you are looking at the spalsh screen that says the name of the PC's maker or motherbaord.
NOTE: Some PCs disable the FUNCTION keys at boot up. You may need to activate the function keys so that they will work, typically with a F-LOCK (function lock) key.
2nd NOTE: Sometimes, when you press the F-Lock key, your PC will turn it back off when it first detects your keyboard a second or two later, so you have to be careful to note that the function keys are on.
Tap the F8 key about about once every second until you see this screen, then use your Ccursor keys (the up, down, left and right arrow keys) to navigate to SAFED MODE...
Even if you do not have a multiboot system, you will be given a choice of operating systems...just hit enter
You will see a whole bunch of lines of text--this is normal. These are your system drivers loading. In fact, this happens at every boot, but it is normally hidden by the Windows XP splash screen. Please note, there will be a short pause after several dozen drivers load.
Your now looking at a windows logon screen. If you haven't been in safe mode before, you will note that now the ADMINISTRATOR account is listed. Once again, if you are using XP Pro, the Administrator password is required and it is the one you used to set the system up. If you are using XP Home, the default is no password (so leave it blank) unless you set one.
Click the ADMINSITRATOR logon and sign in the password if needed.
We're going down the home stretch, now. Windows is going to alert you youre in safe mode, just click OK.
You're in safe mode, everything should look just like normal, just bigger...since windows is using the default windows driver. Things might seem a bit slower. That's ok, too. We're going to need windows explorer again, so click START > MY COMPUTER.
Which brings us back to our old friend from earlier, but this time, we are going somewhere else. Double click LOCAL DISK (C:) just like before...
This time, however, double click the PROGRAM FILES folder...
...and scroll down to WINDOWS MEDIA PLAYER. Right click WINDOWS MEDIA PLAYER, choose RENAME and give it a nice new name (like "Old Windows Media Player"
Windows will warn you that renaming this folder is a bad idea, but we're going to ignore Windows and go ahead and do it anyway.
That's it. That's the hard part. Reboot your machine normally and go start the Windows Media Player installation you download way back up at the top.
If, after reinstalling Windows Media Player, all is well, you can go back to the above renamed files and delete them.