How to Play Music in Windows Media Player 12

Playing music – whether it’s a digital audio file or a CD – is Windows Media Player 12’s core function and most likely what you’ll use it for the most. To continue our series, I will discuss how to play songs and other audio files that are in your Library as well as how to play songs that aren’t in your Library. I will also explain the different Playback Modes and how each of the Playback Controls works.

Windows Media Player 12 Supported Formats

Windows Media Player 12 really brings its A-game in terms of file support. Whereas previous versions often protested when unfamiliar file types were played, demanding that you install various codecs and plugins, Windows Media Player 12 happily natively supports just about every file type that appears in the typical digital audio collection. Here are the audio and video formats that Windows Media Play 12 supports out of the box:

  • Windows Media Audio:.asx,.wm,.wma,.wmx
  • .mp3 and.m38
  • .aac
  • .wav
  • Windows Media Video:.asf,.wmv,.wm
  • AVCHD files (includes Dolby Digital audio):.m2ts,.mst
  • .avi
  • Apple Quicktime and.qt
  • .wtv
  • MPEG-4 movie files:.mp4,.mov and.n4v
  • MPEG-2 movie files:.mpeg,.mpg,.mp3,.m1v,.mp2,.mod,.vob,.mpv2
  • MPEG-1 movie files:.m1v
  • Motion JPEG files:.avi,.mov

Windows Media Player 12 also automatically uses codecs installed by other players, when possible. So, for example, if you’ve installed iTunes, Windows Media Player 12 will also be able to play Apple formats, such as m4a.

To check to see which codecs you already have installed, click Help on the menu bar and choose ‘About Windows Media Player’.

Windows Media Player 12

Next, click ‘Technical Support Information’ in the ‘About Windows Media Player’ window.

Windows Media Player 12

The ‘Technical Support Information’ window opens in your default web browser. Scroll down to see the audio codecs.

Windows Media Player 12

Note: If you don’t see the Help menu, click Organize and choose Layout and select ‘Show menu bar’.

Windows Media Player 12

Playback Controls and Playback Modes

The Playback Controls are always visible, but once a song is playing or selected, they become functional (you’ll notice they are no longer grayed out).

Windows Media Player 12

Here’s a closer look at the Playback Controls. From left to right, they are:

  • Shuffle – this turns Shuffle Mode on or off. In Shuffle Mode, tracks in the album, playlist or category you’ve chosen will be played in a random order.

  • Repeat – this turns Repeat Mode on or off. When activated, Repeat Mode will repeat the playlist, album or category you’ve selected. For example, when it reaches the end of an album, it will begin again on the first track. If you’d like to play one song over and over continuously, play it from a search query or create a playlist containing that one song only.

  • Stop – pressing Stop ceases playback and resets the Play Position to the beginning of the song.

  • Previous – it returns to the previous song in the playlist or category selected. In Shuffle Mode, this button plays the song that was played previously, regardless of its position in the playlist or category.

  • Play/Pause – if playback is stopped, this button resumes or begins play. If a song is playing, this becomes the Pause button and will stop playback but retain the Playback Position. When you press play, you begin playback where you left off.

  • Next/Fast Forward – Next skips to the next song on the playlist as if the song has reached the end of its duration. Clicking and holding this button fast-forwards playback so you can seek to a certain part of the song.

  • Mute – click this button to mute the volume. Playback will not stop, though you will not hear any audio.

  • Volume Slider – slide this left to decrease the volume and right to increase the volume.

  • Seek – hover your mouse over the progress bar above the playback controls to reveal the Seek slider. Move this to the position where you’d like the song to begin playing from. Slide left to move towards the beginning of the song and slide right to move closer to the end of the song.

Windows Media Player 12

Before you move away from the Playback Controls, you should note the song information display in the lower-left hand corner. Click it to switch it from displaying the album artwork or the equalizer. Hover your mouse over it to display additional song information.

Windows Media Player 12

Also note that in Skin Mode or Now Playing Mode the Playback Controls may be pared down or displayed differently but function in the same way.

Windows Media Player 12

There’s also another playback feature that isn’t included on the Playback Controls. If you hover your mouse over a song, a little dialogue will pop up with the Preview button. Click it once and the song will begin playing.

Windows Media Player 12

Once the song is playing in Preview Mode you can skip 15 seconds into the song by clicking Skip. Move your mouse away from the dialogue box and the song will automatically cease playback. This is a handy feature if you are looking for a certain song and you aren’t sure if this is the one.

Windows Media Player 12

Playing from the Windows 7 Taskbar

Along with the other New Features and Improvements in the Windows 7 Taskbar, Windows Media Player 12 gets some added functionality and convenience with the ability to play songs right from the Taskbar.

Simply allow your mouse to hover over its icon in the Taskbar and the Playback Controls appear. Hover over the Playback Controls and a tooltip will display the name of the song playing. Click Play/Pause, Previous or Next just like you would while viewing the Player Library.

Windows Media Player 12

How to Play Audio CDs

Playing Audio CDs or digital audio files saved to a data disc, all you have to do is insert the disc into your computer and it’ll pop up in your Navigation Pane. Note that these songs won’t show up in your Library unless you rip them from the CD. Click the name of the disc and it’ll show you its contents (You can also see the drive letter in the breadcrumbs at the top). Next, choose a song or hit Play just like you were playing a song from your Library.

Windows Media Player 12

Playing Digital Audio Files from Your Player Library

Basic playback of MP3 files and other digital audio files from your Player Library is simple. Just navigate through Windows Media Player 12 and double-click a file or select it and press Play on the Playback Controls. See our related article for more information on Windows Media Player 12 Menus & Views.

How to Play Songs Not in Your Library

You can also play songs and movies that aren’t in your Library. To do so, simply drag an audio file from another location, such as a folder, the desktop or a webpage, and drop it in the Play List. If the Play list is not displayed, click the Play tab in the upper-right hand corner. The song will play but won’t be added to your library.

Windows Media Player 12

You can also right-click an audio file in Windows Explorer and choose Play or ‘Add to Windows Media Player List’.

Windows Media Player 12

Also, if you are viewing a folder with music files in it in Windows Explorer, you can click Play to play the selected file in Windows Media Player 12. Note that if Windows Media Player 12 is not your default program, you can choose it from the drop-down menu by clicking the arrow to the right of Play. Clicking ‘Play all’ will add all of the songs in the folder to the Play list in Windows Media Player 12.

Windows Media Player 12


That covers the basic playback functionality of Windows Media Player 12 for listening to digital audio and audio CDs. Check back for when we delve in deeper into Play Lists. We have more to come about Windows Media Player 12. In the meantime, feel free to add your tips and comments about this new version. We’re really curios to know if you like it or not.