By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1999, The Syracuse Newspapers
If you've installed Microsoft's new Media Player, you inadvertently joined a big club of unhappy PC users. The new Media Player is great for video, but it does a terrible job playing sounds.
The problem isn't the sound quality. Windows handles that very well. The problem is the inexcusable delay each time the new Media Player gets itself going just to play a sound file. The old Media Player had no such problem. The new player is so slow that Windows no longer seems like fun when you want to sample audio clips.
Fortunately, you might have the old Media Player stuck in a folder somewhere on your hard drive. If you do, I can show you a quick way to force Windows to use the old, fast Media Player for audio files while keeping the fancy new Media Player for video.
You probably need the new Media Player, because the one that came with your PC isn't able to show the latest video files. A huge bonus you get when you install the new Media Player is a far better set of audio "codecs" -- Windows helper files that let your PC play MPEG Layer 3 (MP3) files and other new audio formats.
These "codecs" are Windows files, not Media Player files, so they're available for any program running on your PC. And that means the old Media Player can use them for playing audio, too. Think about this benefit for even a fraction of a second and you'll see how important the new Media Player is.
To add the new Media Player to your Windows 95, Windows 98 or Windows NT computer, go to http://www.microsoft.com/windows/mediaplayer/. The download file is fairly large. If you use your phone line to connect to the Internet, download the file when you don't mind typing up the phone for a long time.
I can't guarantee you'll have the old Media Player squirreled away somewhere. But I do know that installing the new Windows Media Player does not get rid of the old one -- if the old one is on your PC when you install the new one. In other words, if your PC has a previous version of the NEW player, the installation program gets rid of it. If your PC has a previous version of the OLD player, Windows keeps it.
To force Windows to use the old Media Player, first find out if you have it on your hard drive. Click Start, then Find. (You may have to click "Files and Folders" at this point.) Type "mplayer.exe" (without the quotes). Make sure "Look in:" says "C:" (for the main hard drive) and press Enter.
The name you typed, "mplayer.exe," is the filename of the old Media Player. If it exists, you'll see it in a window. If you see nothing more than an icon, click the View menu at the top of that window and click "Details." That tells Windows to show you more information about the file.
The "Details" view will show you the name of the file ("mplayer.exe") and its location (under the "In Folder" heading). Write that location down on a piece of paper.
Click Start, then Run. Type "explorer" (without the quotes) and press Enter. Click the View menu in the Explorer window, then click Options or Folder Options, whichever it is called on your PC. Click File Types. Scroll down list of file types to "W" (or press "W" to have Windows scroll immediately to entries that start with "W") and click "Wave Sound" once. (It's possible your entry says "Wave Audio File" or something else. That's OK. Just be sure to click the Wave entry.)
Click Edit. Then click Open in the "Actions:" window. Click Edit. Find the line labeled "Application used to perform action:" and type the location you wrote down on a piece of paper followed by a backslash and "mplayer.exe" (without the quotes). The line probably should read "c:\windows\mplayer.exe /play" (without the quotes) or something similar, such as "c:\win95\mplayer.exe /play" (without the quotes).
Click OK, then click the first Close button and the second Close button.
You're done. The old Media Player will now play Wave files.
Technical notes: The "/play" command after the filename tells Windows to play the audio file right away and not just load it. If you'd like Media Player to close down right after playing the file, put "/close" (without quotes) after "/play" in the "Application used to perform action:" line. Make sure you put a single space between those two commands.
And you might want to get the old Media Player to handle MIDI files, too. To make the same change for MIDI files, do what you did for Wave files, but look for "MIDI Sequence" as the file type.