By Drew Williams
Windows Media Player makes it easy to create a large music library on your computer. But if you don’t pay attention to the way the music is labeled, you’ll wonder where your songs are. The songs on your computer will be as disorganized as if you were storing a bunch of CDs in a cardboard box. Maintaining correct and complete information for each album and song in your collection is critical for finding your music fast.
The media attributes for albums and songs in the Player library—which include album art, album artist, song title, rating (the number of stars you or a data provider assign to a song), contributing (song) artist, composer, and release year—are collectively known as media information. When the media information in the Player is correct, you can easily find a song by typing part of an artist’s name or a few words from the song title in the Search box.
In the majority of cases, the Player automatically finds all of the media information for you when you rip a CD or drop a music file into your Music folder. But this process isn’t foolproof. When information is incorrect or missing, it can frustrate your listening experience. It might be difficult to find what you want if your Inuit Throat Singer albums are accidentally labeled as punk, or London Calling appears as Clash Album #3.
After fixing many instances of incorrect media information in my own music collection, I’ve adopted a few strategies for keeping my music library tidy. I reconcile my laziness with my need for correct titles by trying to find the easiest solutions first before I start making manual fixes. Whenever possible, I let the wizard do the work.
The first thing I do when faced with missing media information is…nothing. Album and song info usually appear immediately in the Player library when you rip a CD, but art often takes longer to appear. Just as with art, you should be patient after you drop new music files into your Music folder. It might take a while for the Player to find and display these files. (If you want to listen to a song without waiting for it to appear in the Player library, just double-click the file in the Music folder.)
If a day goes by, and you still don’t find the album art or information you’re looking for in the library, use the Find Album Info wizard. To launch the wizard, right-click the album art (which is still, most likely, the placeholder art), and then click Find Album Info.
Your specific experience with the wizard depends on how much information you already have in the library. When only a few media attributes are missing, the wizard can typically fill in the rest for you. For example, if you have correct album and song information but no album art, the wizard can usually find an exact match. Review the information that the wizard finds. If it’s what you want, click Finish. The wizard automatically updates any inconsistent media information and adds the correct art.
If some of the song information in the library is different from the information the wizard finds online, the wizard allows you to pair each unmatched track with the correct track. The existing tracks in your library appear on the left side of the wizard. The wizard’s suggestions for matching tracks appear on the right side. Scroll through the suggested tracks and click the one you want, or click Edit to add your own information. Once you’ve matched all of the unmatched tracks, click Next to see the updated information for each song, and then click Finish to save these changes.
Occasionally, no media information appears after you rip a CD, leaving you with an untitled album and untitled songs. You can still use the wizard, but you’ll need to enter the album artist or album name in the Search box, and then click the Search button. The wizard generates a list of possible album matches for you. Select the album that’s a match, make any necessary track changes, and then click Finish.
The wizard is usually quick and easy, but sometimes it’s just as easy to make the change yourself directly in the library. If you’re happy with most of the basic media information, you can tweak individual media attributes by right-clicking one of the attributes, and then clicking Edit. To speed the process, you can make edits to several attributes at once: Hold down the SHIFT key while you select multiple instances of the same attribute, and then right-click the entire selection. When you edit the text for one media attribute, the Player changes the information for all of the selected attributes.
Another quick fix involves a common problem in the library where songs from one album have inconsistent attributes. This creates two partial versions of the same album. The solution is to drag the partial album with incorrect information onto the album with the correct information. The tracks combine into a single album. It’s always a good idea to run the album through the wizard after this fix to make sure the updated information is consistent with what the wizard finds.
If, for some reason, album art is still missing after the Player updates the album information and after you verify the song information with the wizard, you still have an easy option for dropping art onto the placeholder art. If you can find the correct art file on the Internet (such as on a website run by the label that released the album), right-click the art file, and then click Copy. Then, in the library, right-click the placeholder art you want to update, and click Paste Album Art.
If the wizard doesn’t fix incorrect media information, and you don’t want to edit all of the individual media attributes in the library, consider using the Advanced Tag Editor. It allows you to fix all of the media attributes for a single track in one window—all you do is fill in the appropriate text fields, and click OK. You can even add new media attributes to the file, such as lyrics, languages, and pictures. To open Advanced Tag Editor, right-click a song in the library, and then click Advanced Tag Editor.
I find this feature most useful when I’m dealing with single tracks that I’ve downloaded individually or that are from a compilation that included several different artists. For example, I like to look for sample tracks on websites run by independent record labels. The record labels often don’t provide media information with these downloads, but I can add it myself with Advanced Tag Editor. After I download a file, I give it a name I’ll remember, drop it in my Music folder, and then search for it in the Player library. Once I locate the file in the library, I just right-click the track and get to work filling in the text fields.
If you aren’t familiar with the methods I’ve outlined, try them all to see which ones are the most intuitive for you. You can also experiment with ways to alter media information, such as adding even more detailed track information using Advanced Tag Editor. If you need more information about how to keep an orderly music collection, Media information in Windows Media Player: frequently asked questions is a good place to start.
It usually takes only a few seconds to fix media information in Windows Media Player once you’re familiar with the process. If you make the extra effort to maintain correct track information, you’ll thank yourself later when you’re looking for a single polka song amid thousands of tracks in your impressive bluegrass, trance, and funk collection.
About the author
Drew Williams is a writer on the Windows team at Microsoft. Before joining Microsoft, he wrote about video games, airplanes, crime, and hazardous waste (although not always at the same time). Outside of work, his hobbies include raising small children, shoveling compost, and sleeping.
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