Thursday, April 16, 2009

Windows Media Player 11 Library - Apply Media Information Changes

I use WMP 11 because it does everything i want and comes with Windows - nuff said. If you use another player fair enough but dont post comments here about how other players are better, im well aware of them. Anyway i recently got myself a new 8GB SDHC card to replace my dead 4GB SD card to use in my Dopod D810. After using it for a bunch of MP3s, it became obvious very quickly that i needed to cleanup my music collection and update the meta data so they would be sorted correctly in the mobile media player. This is some useful information i found along the way and is a response to, what seems to be, a very misunderstood part of WMP and rightfully so.

Organising the Collection
WMP is actually really cool at doing this. The online metadata is fairly up-to-date and enabled me to organise my collection fairly quickly with the correct artist, album and song title information. The process i used was:

  1. Display my collection using the Additional Views -> Folder view, since although the MP3 tag may not have reflected it, my collection was logically organised into folders representing albums
  2. Browse to a folder (album) that i noticed wasnt being sorted correctly in the mobile media player
  3. Highlight all the songs, right click and select 'Find Album Info'. Select 'all songs are from the same album' if prompted. This usually yielded a fairly good search result where the correct album was in the top 3 hits. It seems to yield a much better search result than right clicking the blank album cover and selecting 'Find album info' since you are given the option to select that all songs are from the same album
  4. Manually match any unmatched songs. It appears that WMP matches based on song length more than any other piece of information. Title also appears to have some influence
  5. Click finish. Sometimes you then have to right click the blank album cover and select 'Update album info' and give it a few seconds to download the album art

Of course if you ripped the MP3s directly from a CD in WMP then usually this step is not necessary since it will be done using the CD information at the ripping stage.

Apply Media Information Changes
Doing that above gave me a very accurate set of songs. To my surprise though, the changes are not automatically applied to the files on disk, leaving the WMP database of information out of sync with the underlying files. I guess this is done for performance reasons ... although personally i think the small delay required to update ~10 files would hardly be noticed amongst the above process.

Anyway, you apply the changes to the underlying files using the Library -> Apply Media Information Changes option. This seems to be the step that gives most people a lot of hassle and i also encountered most of the problems which i was able to solve. This usually involves the progress bar not moving at all, or appearing to move but jumping back to 0 percent constantly. The following fixed the issue for me:

  1. In the options, ensure the Library -> Retrieve additional information from the Internet option is turned OFF completely (neither of the suboptions). This will stop the apply process from retrieving any meta data from the internet which can be an extremely slow operation for large music collections. In theory, if you followed the above steps each album should have the correct meta data anyway and it is unlikely to EVER change.
  2. The Player -> Connect to the internet setting, which supposedly overrides all other settings appears to have no effect when applying media changes. In other words, if you turn this OFF, it is not the same as turning off the option i mentioned in step 1. So make sure you perform step 1
  3. WMP does not apply media changes to files that are read-only. I would have expected WMP to simply make the change regardless, but this is not the case. This does mean you can use this to your advantage however, and make files readonly that you DONT want WMP to sync with its internal database. To make all music files writable, go to the root folder of your music collection and right click the folder and select properties. Then untick the 'readonly' attribute and click OK -> Apply to all subfolders.
After making these changes, the AMI option in WMP worked a treat and all files were updated with the correct information. It can still be reasonably slow for large collections (minutes) but you should clearly see it progressing at a reasonable pace now.

Hope this helps someone - working with software all day every day i was easily able to work out why WMP wasnt doing what it was supposed to. However i can see why the vast majority of people get frustrated with this function and end up turning to another player just because they cant update their media information. Its a shame because i think the library management in WMP is quite good - if they provided decent quality album art it would be even better!

1 comment:

Seán Wilson said...

Thank you so much for this. Really helped me out. My music is FINALLY looking pretty, ordered and named!