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What is a Media Player

In order to watch movies and play music on your computer, you'll need a media player. A media player is a type of program which is designed to play different types of audio and video file. Some media players can also display picture slideshows. Windows 7 comes with Windows Media Player, although there are many other third-party options available such as VLC Media Player, Winamp, Foobar2000 and more. Windows Media Player is, by itself, quite limited with regards to the different formats that it supports. To enhance the capabilities and compatibilities of Windows Media Player and any other media players on your computer, you'll need to install additional codecs.

Codec is short for "coder / decoder." A codec is designed to read (decode) a specific audio or video format. Windows Media Player provides various codecs of its own, natively supporting common formats such as MP3, WAV and WMV. However, when you try to play an unsupported format such as the MKV video format, Windows Media Player will be unable to open the file and will instead report an error. To address this issue, you'll need to install a codec which includes MKV support or otherwise use a different media player. Codec packs such as Shark007 or K-Lite provide almost every codec that you're ever likely to use in on convenient package. Alternatively, you can use another media player, such as VLC Media Player, which plays virtually everything without needing to install any additional codecs or patches.

Media players these days often provide a media library feature. Media libraries provide a convenient, centralized location from which you can manage your entire audio and video collections. Using the media library component of Windows Media Player or any other media player, you can organize your collections by artist, album, genre and many other characteristics.

Although not, technically speaking, a media player in itself, Windows Media Center is also included in Windows 7. Windows Media Center actually runs on top of Windows Media Player, serving as an alternative interface for it. Windows Media Center is designed primarily for remote control input and it works in a similar way to a standalone home entertainment system. Because it runs on top of Windows Media Player, your audio settings, codecs, plug-ins and visualizations in Windows Media Player will be the same in Windows Media Center too.


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