The Top 5 Free Media Players For Windows

Free Media Players For Windows Intro   The Top 5 Free Media Players For WindowsWhen it comes to video playback, there are way too many choices available – even if you look at only the FREE options. Within that selection, some players are fantastic and others are sorely lagging behind their competitors, and the most popular ones aren’t always the best ones. The difficulty is taking the time to separate the wheat from the chaff. That’s what I’m here to do so you don’t have to settle for less than best.

Comparing Windows media players is actually a pretty difficult task. Yes, some players are more feature-packed while others are barebones. Yes, some players are easier to use out-of-the-box thanks to off-the-bat codec support and such. Yes, some players are uglier or prettier. But ultimately the choice comes down to your own preferences – I use a few different ones from this list, personally.

Here are five of the best media players you can use on Windows for free. Take this list with a grain of salt. Try them for yourself and see which ones you like!

VLC Media Player

best windows player vlc   The Top 5 Free Media Players For Windows

Back in the day, VLC used to be the king of free Windows media players. I’m not sure when I first discovered it, but it was a long while ago and the only viable alternatives were Windows Media Player or Winamp. Since then, VLC has become a little too bloated for me and I run into issues with playback from time to time, so it no longer has a home on my computer.

It’s still good for playback, though, and remains extremely popular to this day thanks to its large feature set:

  • Plays most media codecs without needing to install any codec packs. MPEG-2, DivX, H.264, MKV, WebM, WMV and MP3 are supported out of the box (among others).
  • Cross-platform availability: Windows, Mac, Linux, and even Unix.
  • Can play media straight from files, discs, devices, and webcams.
  • Can play media straight from a stream URL. Supports HTTP, MMSH, RTSP, and raw formats.
  • Supports skins so you can customize the interface.

If you use VLC as your main player and you want to explore some of the more obscure features, check out Saikat’s overview of VLC’s secret features.

Media Player Classic – Home Cinema

best windows player mpchc   The Top 5 Free Media Players For Windows

Despite the program’s name (which admittedly sounds outdated), Media Player Classic – Home Cinema is one of the best media players I’ve ever used. It’s designed to be a compact, no-frills sort of program, yet it does pretty much everything you’d expect from a media player. It works straight from installation without requiring any additional codec packs, except maybe for the most obscure formats.

  • Simple, easy-to-use, and intuitive interface.
  • Extremely lightweight and uses very few resources while playing.
  • Out-of-the-box support for VCD, SVCD, and DVD file format playback.
  • Using DirectShow, MPC-HC immediately supports a vast array of video format families including: AVI, MPEG, MKV, MP4, MOV, FLV, RM, WMV, MP3, AAC, FLAC, and a whole lot more.

Intrigued? Well, you should be. I’ve written an overview of Media Player Classic – Home Cinema so check it out to see if this is the right player for you.

GOM Player

best windows player gom   The Top 5 Free Media Players For Windows

I recently installed GOM for the first time (not only GOM media player, but GOM audio player as well) and I’ve fallen in love. It’s like they truly know what makes me tick as a person and then used those principles to design their media software. For those who don’t know, I am a big sucker for minimal and clean aesthetics when paired with strong functionality.

GOM player is the primary player for GOM-TV, a popular competitive gaming stream site in Korea, and it’s no secret why. Check out their features:

  • Brilliantly designed UI with a powerful skinning system.
  • Codec Finder for when you try to play a video and don’t have a matching codec. GOM automates the process and gets you viewing as quickly as possible.
  • Control Panel that helps optimize your viewing controls with functions like in-clip repeating, subtitle controls, and a 10-band equalizer.
  • Image and Audio Capture so you can isolate screencaps and audio tracks from videos.

PotPlayer

Note: The program homepage for PotPlayer is in Korean, so I’ve linked to VideoHelp which maintains the most updated versions.

best windows player potplayer   The Top 5 Free Media Players For Windows

I know that I just mentioned above that I’m a sucker for minimal designs, but PotPlayer has sucked me in with its strange combination of interface-overload and ease-of-use. There are a lot of buttons and displays but it isn’t as complicated as you’d think. Lots of options and great features make PotPlayer definitely worth checking out.

  • Detailed interface that manages to not be cluttered while delivering all of the important information and controls that you need.
  • Playlist controls for ease of video watching sessions, plus playlists are carried over from session to session.
  • In-clip repeating that lets you define a point A and a point B, between which the media file will constantly repeat.

If you’d like to learn more, check out Tina’s review of PotPlayer and how it’s the perfect player for those of you who want full control.

SMPlayer

best windows player smplayer   The Top 5 Free Media Players For Windows

SMPlayer doesn’t have the prettiest of interfaces (it almost turned me away, actually) but it has some great functionality that may prove enough for you to overlook the lacking aesthetics. Fortunately, SMPlayer does have a skinning system that helps there. With built-in codecs, SMPlayer will handle almost anything you throw at it right away.

  • Youtube Browser lets you search and browser Youtube straight from inside SMPlayer. I’m not going to lie – this feature is both fast AND awesome! You can also download a video by recording it as it plays.
  • Remembers settings on a per-video basis, including track position, volume, subtitles, and more.
  • Search and download subtitles easily with SMPlayer’s integration with OpenSubtitles.
  • Take screenshots of the current video with a single button click.
  • Open source and cross-platform: Windows and Linux.

Conclusion

Media Player Classic – Home Cinema is my default video player and it has been for a very long time. However, both PotPlayer and GOM Player come close with their polish and feature sets, and pretty soon one of them might overtake MPC-HC for first place. But like I said before, your personal choice will be based on your own tastes.

The five players above are probably the best free Windows media players you’ll find on Windows. Know of another player that deserves a mention? Share it with us in the comments!

Image Credit: Man Pressing Media Player Via Shutterstock

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51 Comments -

vvvlad

Agree!
I don’t know why is this player is not yet as famous as others.
I’ve been looking for a good music player for years, and was not happy with all the others, and then… Boom! Love from first sight!
AIMP2 is the best :)

siurian

aimp2 for music
kmp for audio

ameo

you forgot to mention GOM player, BS player and Quintessential Player ?

Aibek

BS is another excellent player, been using it for years

Skyler Huse

I’d have to recommend the Combined Community Codec Pack (CCCP) and Media Player Classic for video. It’s the best thing I’ve found to play videos.

Foobar is a great audio player too.

kokos

hey i have a problem .sometimes my pc plays videos but doesnt show image only sound and it shows a light black screen.

othertimes it shows normally . i ve tried many players but nothing what do u suggest?

Chris

You didnt mention how VLC can save a file in a different format while you play it.

Aibek

well, it does mentio that it “can be used as an audio decoder”.

alper

I was also going to mention AIMP. Great music player… Probably the best…

adi

My vote goes to GOM. It is near perfect for videos. but for audio I would mention foobar as the best…

Tony

Foobar2000 is, imho, a much lighter, must more configurable, but just as powerful media player (for music specifically) than any of these.

If you set up keyboard shortcuts and get the album searching plugin, even with no further configuration this is an incredibly powerful music player.

Then you can add columns (helps make foobar more customizable) – addons like bookmarks (allows you to save bookmarks for long audio files like speeches or audio books) – a plethora of visualizations, etc. to make it even more ridiculously useful and customizable.

Northman

Dan: I must have been lucky – I upgraded VLC to V0.9 and an online streaming radio station that I could not get before suddenly worked. So I am happy :-)

Also, it is Open Source, so goes well with my mozilla.com/firefox?from=sfx&uid=249329&t=317, miranda-im.org , (multi-protocol IM client), etc.

N

venkat

I used Vlc and kmplayer both are fine, AIMP is audio palyer than Media player correct me if I am wring AImp and foobar 2000 both good audio palyers.

Ibrahim Hussein

I used to use Media Player Classic, then started using VLC, but after their latest update it looks like I will either use their older version again or just use MPC. VLC 0.9.4 just has something wrong, just like what Dan was saying. I hope they fix it, I did send them my feedback.

For me winamp is still for those who listen to music only, I wont use it to watch video, it just doesn’t work well with me. The future is for Songbird, if they don’t end up screwing it like what VLC did.

maccolar

I’d prefer Windows Media Player with K-lite cod Pakc. Sometimes, I will convert the video to wmv video for playback on windows media player with this video converter, works pretty well. It also has Mac version for apple user.

WolvenSpectre

As for the problems some of the people are having with the new version of VLC, It is the first version of an entirely new and reworked interface and not even all of the advanced settings have been integrated so of course there are going to be a bunch of bugs.

As for AIMP as I understand it it has no video support, which to my understanding all of the ones listed do (Songbird with Extentions) however I could be wrong about that.

I was going to bring up Media Player Classic, but someone beat me to it. I however was going to suggest the free K-Lite Mega Codec Pack from CodecGuides.com.

So if you are using a more modern version of Windows, open the run command and launch Media Player (The original One) by typing “mplayer2″. If you have Direct Show Codecs installed it will play them… not always with the best colour quality, but it will play them.

manny

No mater how cumbersome…. i tried playing videos simultaneosly, from vlc, cyberlink, gom you name it. The victor is Media Player Classic. It gave thre richest color, vibrant and clear.

The best things in life are 4 free. hehehe.

B4 i used winamp, 4 music playing because it has dfx really better quality in sounds, yet it messes up with my video codecs with other players.. downside… :(

Anyway i’ll try AIMP2 as suggested above.

Davin Peterson

A good one you forgot is MediaMonkey. You can download free at mediamonkey.com

Henk

I still prefer 1BY1 player : http://mpesch3.de1.cc/1by1.html
– it’s indeed free
– only 145 Kb
– no need to start organizing your music collection and MP3 tags.
– Quality sound, integrated enhancers and equalizer
– can skip silences so you get a continuous mix
– simple interface
– no clutter like “buy online” shit or all those other annoying “extensions” of broadspread music players.

Josiah Guile

Here’s another vote for foobar2000. It’s light, fast, and extremely customizable.

ryan

The video you’re playing in the VLC is hilarious! I love “The IT Crowd”…

As far as the players go, I’ll have to try out some of the new suggestions to me.

revan

aimp2 is that underrated?

Abhishek

The players are good.
It would be better if latest versions are available to download on this site.

BOLLINENI YUGESH CHOWDARY

hii, the VLC player is best for watching vedios…GOM player is also the best player….but we can get good clarity in VLC

ja

Which one(s), if any, allow you to filter for duplicates in your collection?

Afras

very good players but i am expecting little more.
” Enjoyable Players “

Juan Carlo

Great players, but I think neither Songbird nor Media Jukebox handle podcasts… or do they? That’s a deal breaker for me.

Nigel

I use MediaMonkey and am quite happy with it – my use is probably far less sophisticated as the rest of you, so simple is better in my case – would like to see reviews of the other players mentioned in these comments – better yet, how about a datasheet comparison feature-by-feature?

great article – thanks!

MIke

i just got got media monkey. dont like the fade in/out thing. ruins the songs i think. and its a bitch trying to figure out how to update the album info. keeps getting me to try to buy shit.

Bretteo

When it come to tunes im always ising Cowon Jet Audio

cowonamerica.com/download/

As for movies etc? i have always and prolly always will use MPC

Anshul

My vote goes to Media Monkey.I have used a lot of media players and all of the above mentioned but Media Monkey is my favourite.
its got interchangeable skins and auto tag from web feature
it cant play videos however

Chrisclap

Come on people the top five an Moovida is not up there thats ruff, Moovida is flipping fantastic, well it is what i have been using for ages an will continue to use.

You should check it out
moovida.com

Gerard Syms

Here’s wot, folks: on Thursday just as Windows was almost finished downloading media player 11, boom!, electricity goes, system goes, then restarts and I can’t get the media player to open!So, what does a guy do, but google search an’ try out stuff?
Right, but guess what?
1. Shoutcast on winamp wasn’t working.
2. Songbird doesn’t support c.ds!!!!
3. Quintessential worked for about 1 c.d and then decided that it wouldn’t do it for others and, for good measure, the shoutcast radio refuses to work. Hell, it locks up my system when uninstalling! It’s still on, i’ve left it alone!
4. MediaMonkey… sorry not working and…
5. Oh, yeah:Media jukebox refuses to work also….
I’m wonderin’ wot the heck is goin’ on…
HELLLPPPP! I NEED MY MUSIC AND NOTHING SEEMS TO WORK!
HEELLLPPP!

Will Mueller

It would help if you were more descriptive. Tell us, is there an error message, do you not hear sound, etc. Just saying that an application is “sorry not working” does not help us to address your problem.

Gerard Syms

Hello, Will and thanks for the response. Let me give you as full a picture as possible:first of all, I didn’t see any error messages, nor did I hear any sounds. I don’t know if my choice of media to test is the problem here: c.d.s. I haven’t completed my task of committing all my c.d.s to the digital side of things as yet.
This was quite the strangest thing for me to experience, I mean, nothing, absolutely nothing responded when I tried to operated controls on Media Jukebox and MediaMonkey. With Quintessential, I opened it again and tried to get just the web radio functional and nothing. It’s controls seemed frozen and unresponsive too. In MediaMonkey, the c.d. I used wasn’t a burn, but the genuine article, the program read it and identified each track and yet, when I clicked on ‘play now’, nothing but silence and a rolling over of the track titles.
With Quintessential, the radio allows you to choose a station, but then when you click on play selected station, nothing but silence and the entire screen just freezes.No kidding! I just did that little experiment again and guess what? Now the screen won’t even minimize. It seems to have locked up, or trying to lock up everything. I just don’t get it.
I do hope you can give advice quickly. It’s frustrating!

Will Mueller

Well, I am not sure of the specifics of your system. But, you should be sure you have a compatible operating system (of course), and a 32-bit OS/chip if necessary, as well as enough RAM (over 1.5GB of course). Other then that, MediaMonkeey only skips ovr tracks if it is unable to read the tracks or if they are not in the proper location. You should also make sure your tracks are in the proper, playable format (mp3, wav, flac, etc) and that you have set proper permissions to each application, etc. There could always be a problem with the registry, in which case, the only fix is usually to re-install the operating system.

Gerard Syms

Hey, Will,

Again, I’m grateful for your response. I think I’ve found the real source of the problem: a ‘missing’ media audio controller. I believe what happened last night was that in trying to set my audio right, I clicked on the SoundMax icon only to get the message that it was not present. I found this odd, since i saw the icon pinned to the start menu, present on my all programs menu as well as located in the control panel.
No matter where I tried to open it, no interface came up. So… I, unwisely I should say now, removed it from my programs! Now, I’m having a time finding the right media audio controller and the correct drivers. Frustrating, doubly so because I brought this on myself.
Again, any advice or help would be peachy, mon!Thanks for whatever you could do, ‘k?

Gerard Syms

Will,

I forgot to forward my system specs: Windows XP Pro Version 2002, Service Pack 3, with an AMD Sempron 2600 processor, running at 1.6 GHz. I have an Asus board, the K8V-MX series, VIA K8M800 Chipset support.

Again, thanks for any help with my problem.

kyle

i’m surprised you didn’t add media monkey, how come?

ted

Thanks for letting us know about songbird, looks like a sick new project, can’t wait to mess with it!

metalhorde

its the TOP 5, not the top 100, thats why the others wern’t mentioned!! And aimp does NOT have video play, there for its not a media, but an audio player. Same goes for mediamonkey.

Jawad Ahmed

nice softwares…!!!

Jawad Ahmed

i have just downloaded the software ‘songbird’ really awesome..!!!

gopal shankar

km player is best among all the media players as shown above./

ipod-transfer

How to transfer video to ipod?here is an answer.

SAN

AIMP2 IS THE BEST PLAYER

NEW VERSION IS v2.60, build 525

God

JetAudio Plus VX for music because it has added enhancements that other players make you pay for, and its free on the internets. For video I used to use GOM player but now I’ve found that the player included in the K-Lite Mega Codec install is cool, Media Player Classic Home Cinema is the best, it utilizes the least amount of CPU and memory of all players for less stuttering and system bogdown, and because I’m running and Atom CPU I really need that.

RIDIP

AIMP2 PLAYER FOR MUSIV AND VLC MEDIA PLAYER FOR VIDEO

harry

Hey among all players KMPlayer is the best by comparing all the features it was the best one. With clear sound clarity and video clarity with all its decoders and album art gives a sleek look its really a very good one .No player can reach it.
Thanks.

Andrew

OMG IT Crowd on the VLC Player!

I agree with VLC for movies, but for music, it’s boiled down to Foobar and Songbird. Everything else is really just meh.