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In this article, I share five of the best free media players for Windows. If you have suggestions for other media players, let us know in the comments.

I chose these media players with the following requirements in mind:

  • The media player should play most file types out of the box.
  • The media player should be free and not include adware, spyware etc.
  • The media players should work on all recent versions of Windows (XP, Vista, and 7.)

Windows Media Player 12

Windows Media Player 12 comes bundled with Windows 7 (so it’s pretty much free after you purchase your Windows 7 license–let’s just call it free) and is, in my opinion an excellent media player that packs the following features:

  • Plays all kinds of file types—including 3GP, AAC, AVCHD, MPEG-4, WMV, and WMA. It also supports most AVI, DivX, MOV, and Xvid files.
  • The new Play To feature streams music and video to other PCs running Windows 7 or compatible devices around the home. With Remote Media Streaming, you can enjoy music or videos on your home PC from the road.
  • The new Now Playing mode is a study in minimalism: It shows only the controls you need, so nothing comes between you and your music or video.
  • Features smarter DVD playback, 15-second song previews, Jump Lists for fast access to favorite media.

windows media player12 Best Free Media Players

I don’t use Windows Media Player, but I still think it’s a great program. Hopefully it’s featured in future versions of Windows and there’s no antitrust suit against it (IE8 ring any bells?)

Useful Windows Media Player links:

Media Player Classic

If you’re looking for a program that plays all kinds of files, uses low system resources, and doesn’t try to impress you with visual effects, you should try Media Player Classic. Much like VLC (see below), this player plays most video files and it runs on almost any hardware without slowdown (of course depending on the encoding of the media.)

Some features of Media Player Classic:

  • Supports the following filetypes: WAV, WMA, MP3, OGG, SND, AU, AIF, AIFC, AIFF, MIDI, MPEG, MPG, MP2, VOB, AC3, DTS, ASX, M3U, PLS, WAX, ASF, WM, WMA, WMV, AVI, CDA, JPEG, JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP, D2V, MP4, SWF, MOV, QT, FLV.
  • Support for EVR (Enhanced Video Renderer.)
  • Supports Subtitles.
  • Playback and recording of television if a supported TV tuner is installed.
  • Supports Multi-Monitor configuration.
media player classic Best Free Media Players

Download Media Player Classic

VLC Player

VLC Player is my media player of choice (other than for my media center, which I use Windows Media Center–which I didn’t include because it doesn’t come with all versions of Windows.)

Here’s some features I really like about VLC:

  • The software is regularly updated.
  • VLC is free of bloat, it loads quickly, and plays almost every file type I throw at it.
  • Subtitles and alternate language files are supported (so I can have Macedonian subtitles and Afrikaans audio… of course!)
  • I can use VLC to record an instream from my desktop or webcam (great for screen-casting and surveillance.)
  • Did I mention it’s completely free?

vlc 650x424 Best Free Media Players

Download VLC Player

Zune Software

I don’t own a Zune; I’d like one though! You don’t need to own a Zune to use this great software. Here’s some marketing jazz:

  • Quickplay – Get instant access to the stuff you care about most with shortcuts to favorites, recently downloaded or played music, videos, and more.
  • Smart DJ – From any artist, album, or song, Smart DJ will generate a related playlist from the music on your computer and new music from Zune Marketplace.
  • Mini Mode – Putting the Zune software into mini mode while listening to music allows you to use your other programs while continuing to see what’s playing.
  • Mixview – Launch into Mixview from any artist or album and discover a mosaic of connections to other artists, albums, and fans.

Everyone I’ve spoke to that uses this software (that’s three people!) really like this program and highly recommend it.

zune software Best Free Media Players

Download Zune Software

iTunes

Well, it made it to the list. Yeah, this program isn’t anything new but then again, neither are the previous programs I listed! iTunes is a very popular program and I (begrudgingly) use it frequently. As I use an iPhone and am still trying to find a good iTunes alternative, this program does the job. Here are some of the features I (really) like:

  • Easy home network sharing between PCs.
  • A free Remote App for the iPhone/iPod touch that lets you control playback remotely.
  • Genius playlists that send your (hopefully legitimate) collection information to Apple and use this information to make Genre-based playlists and new music recommendations.
  • The ability to separate Audiobooks (now called Books in the latest version of the software.)
  • A clean easy to use interface.

The things I like least about iTunes is the huge install size, added services, and slow operation. Other than that, this is a solid media player.

itunes 500x311 Best Free Media Players

Download iTunes

What did I miss? Which programs do use use to play your media? Let us know in the comments.



 Best Free Media Players

About Rich

Rich is the owner and creator of Windows Guides; he spends his time breaking things on his PC so he can write how-to guides to fix the problems he creates.

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Comments

  • http://nomoreprinces.livejournal.com/ Ana

    Have you tried Songbird as an iTunes alternative? If you haven't you should definitely give it a go.

  • Corey Perrigo

    My favorite media player for Windows is Songbird. It can handle all my music, but sometimes there are some glitches (duplicate tracks where one is a broken link, occasional switching of saved lyrics) and the initial load time is around a minute. I hate to say this and offend the Windows community, but my all-time favorite media player is Quod Libet for Linux (doesn't work that well in Windows). The fastest media player I've ever used and comes with an equally powerful tagging program. But that's just my opinion.

  • JTK

    KMP player and kantaris are great video players.But u need to be careful of the open candy software in the installer.J River media player and ever dependable foobar 2000 are great music players for audiophiles as you can use the asio plugin.

  • anyhow2004bc

    The point you've missed in Media Player Classic is the amount of keyboard shortcuts and how similar they are to other programs. So that you can start using them with the first run itself (intuitively). VLC on the other hand doesn't even go full screen with alt+enter.

    Also, Media player classic can play broken videos instantly (you may need to skip the broken parts though, but you can preview your partially downloaded videos) whereas VLC takes a long time to fix the file before playing.

    Aside from that, VLC seems every bit as competent as Media Player Classic. In fact, those two are the only video players worthy of being discussed here. (don't get me started on Windows media player or iTunes)

  • gypsycat67

    You should check out IMesh at http://www.imesh.com … Great free app w/free music dl's and other surprises.

  • Pedro

    1º – Wmp12 is not available for download – the link only show wmp11 – microsoft.
    2º – i use wmp12 in w7 and not play all files.
    3º – i think one sugestion very good is The Kmplayer.

  • Christopher

    I used to use Songbird and I loved it. Unfortunately, I had to switch to iTunes because of my iPod. I like iTunes, but I really like Songbird, especially because it is built on Mozilla foundations.

  • Ang087

    Thanks for posting, Rich. I use the VLC Player quite a bit. I've used it for around three years now and love the simplicity of it. It has a lot of great feature, and I especially love the snapshot feature. I use it quite often to make screencaps while I'm watching videos. I love it because it plays almost every format there is … AVI, MPEG2, MPEG4, DivX, xvid, FLV, etc.

    The player's features are really easy to use including the full screen mode. You can switch from full the small screen to the full screen with just a click of the mouse.

    The VLC Player and Windows Media Player is all I use and need. :)

  • http://mintywhite.com RSVR85

    WMP12 is available to download from the link given. Try looking at the drop down menus at the top of the page ;)

  • zxnino

    GOM Player or KMPlayer

  • Jew94

    I use VLC for vids and Foobar 2000 for music
    I need my global shortcuts

  • Jew94

    I use SharePod for media transfer. Works great with iPods, not sure about the iPhone. Portable exe.

  • muzzikiluv

    I love iTunes =)

  • http://twitter.com/mindborne manoj

    i use AIMP for music and VLC player for videos.. Zune takes up a lot of memory :( so i didn't like that.. AIMP in particular is having excellent sound output.

  • andrew

    this article is a joke.. what about players that everyone's grandma DOESN'T use?

  • http://twitter.com/ingrblair ingrblair

    Hi friends, I have Read your Post which is really interesting and Amazing. Currenttly I Have Using VLC Players And Window media Player12 They both are Working Nice and Amazing Loaded With latest Features. I want to use other latest Media P{layers. So please More Information about. iTunes and Zune Software.

    Ever Brite Smile

  • http://mintywhite.com RSVR85

    How constructive!
    So what would you suggest andrew?

  • http://richr.org/ Rich

    How about them?

  • http://richr.org/ Rich

    Thanks for the tip anyhow2004bc.

  • http://richr.org/ Rich

    I've had a post in draft status for sometime that lists iTunes alternatives and Songbird is at the top of the list — great suggestion!

  • SHAANTMEHEDI

    The KMPlayer is a powerful warrior in this battle,it has the potential to compete.

  • Franky

    Yep KMplayer is the one that should be the first on this list… it plays the .mkv files the best… without any codecs instaled after the program….

  • Av

    Gom Player. Its simple, plays everything, and doesn't look like its form windows 98 (unlike VLC or Windows classic)

  • Ang087

    Dear Andrew,

    Do you consider people between the age of 20 and 30 as “Grandma”? Wow! According to your statistics, I guess there must be thousands and thousands of Grandmas out there because that's how many people use these fine players (people of all ages) that Rich and some the other nice people around here posted about.

    What's really nice about these players like VLC and others mentioned is that they work really well and don't compromise the PC or the OS. They're also free. The players are never out of date and the fine makers of these players make sure of that.

    So, how about listing the players that you think “Grandmas” don't use. Are they as reliable as these players and are they freeware??

  • Maestoso

    i support andrew. this article is a joke… its like me posting… BEST Cell phones of 2010… iPhone, The Driod, htc My Touch… how bout u write an article that is worth writing about. do your research go deep underground and analyze other media players that are not being advertised constantly

  • http://richr.org/ Rich

    Just because something's popular, doesn't mean it can't be the best. In fact, it's usually quite the opposite, which is why it becomes popular ;)

    Good suggestions on alternatives.

  • Vaikz

    yeah KMPlayer should be included. +1 for this.

  • Doc Deepankar

    He just mentioned 'Popular media players'.They are NOT the best players.This article is indeed a joke.

    • marcelo

      One shouldn’t only criticize but also expose an idea for a good alternative. So do you have any?

  • Doc Deepankar

    My top 5
    1-Gomplayer (He doesn't even mention it!)
    2-KMplayer (Pro-Good player with excellent performance Con-Has an Uncool Name so most people ignore it)
    3-Vlc player
    4-MPC
    5-Windows Media player


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