Use Windows Media Player to create the perfect playlist for every occasion

Different occasions call for different music—the songs you want to wake up to sound nothing like the music you want to go to sleep to, and the songs you play while you’re working out don’t have much in common with the music you listen to while you’re relaxing with friends. You can make sure the music you play always fits the occasion by using Windows Media Player to create lists of digital media content called playlists.

Before you start, check to see if you have the songs you want in your Windows Media Player library. If you don’t have many songs yet, you might want to consider copying music from your CD collection to your computer, which is a process known as ripping. This will give you more songs to choose from in your Windows Media Player library when you create playlists. To learn more about ripping CDs, see Rip music from a CD.

When to create a regular playlist

A regular playlist is like a digital version of the mixtape: it works well when you have a specific set of songs in mind that don’t necessarily have much in common in terms of genre, era, artist, or anything else. The criteria for a regular playlist don’t have to make sense to anyone but you.

Picture of a regular playlist in Windows Media Player
Dragging a song into a regular playlist in Windows Media Player

You can use regular playlists for:

The music you like to sing along to while you’re driving. Whether we want to admit it or not, at some point most of us have channeled our inner karaoke star in the privacy of our own cars. Put your sing-along favorites together in a playlist, roll up the windows, and belt it out.

Songs featured in a movie or TV show. Have a favorite TV show or movie? Create a playlist tribute by putting together all of the songs that movie or TV show ever featured, leave out the ones you don’t want, or make your own additions.

Music that reminds you of the good old days. Track down the songs that played at your high school dances, on your college radio station, or during your summer vacations, and collect them together in a playlist for instant nostalgia.

To learn more about creating regular playlists, see Create or change a regular playlist in Windows Media Player.

When to create an auto playlist

An auto playlist is perfect for when you want to play songs that are similar to each other, whether in the same genre, from the same era, by the same artist, or that match other criteria you've specified in Windows Media Player. Auto playlists change automatically based on the criteria you specify, so if your goal is to create a playlist with dozens or even hundreds of songs, creating an auto playlist instead of a regular playlist will save you a lot of clicking and dragging. And auto playlists are a big improvement over shuffling through your entire library because you won’t have to worry about what song might play next—like your 4-year-old’s music at a party for grownups or out-of-season holiday music.

Picture of an auto playlist in Windows Media Player
Specifying the criteria for an auto playlist in Windows Media Player

Use auto playlists for any occasion when you want to play music nonstop for a good length of time.

Party mixes. Sort songs by genre, artist, rating, or other criteria to keep the music going all night long (or at least until you want everyone to go home).

Favorite songs. Love to listen to certain songs over and over? You can create auto playlists of your most frequently listened-to and highest-rated music.

Greatest hits. Use artist, year, rating, or other criteria to build the ultimate playlist for your favorite band, genre, or era.

Before you create an auto playlist, make sure that the media information (which includes such information as genre and artist name) for the songs in your Windows Media Player library is accurate. Windows Media Player uses the media information in each song to determine which ones to add to your auto playlists. If the media information is incorrect, your auto playlists might not include the songs you’d expect. To learn more about editing media information, see Add or edit media information in Windows Media Player.

To find out more about creating auto playlists, see Create or change an auto playlist in Windows Media Player.

Take your playlists with you

Once you’ve perfected your playlists, you can take them with you in the car, to the gym, or anywhere else you might want to listen to your own personal soundtrack. All you have to do is burn your playlists to CDs or sync them to a portable music player.

To learn more about burning a playlist to a CD, see Burn a CD or DVD in Windows Media Player. For more information about how to sync your playlists to a portable music player, see Set up a device to sync in Windows Media Player.