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windows media playersWhen 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

windows media players

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:

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  • 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 7 Top Secret Features Of The Free VLC Media Player 7 Top Secret Features Of The Free VLC Media Player That VLC pretty much plays everything that you throw at it is old news. It is also a media genie when it comes to other things apart from playing movies. We looked at some of... Read More .

Media Player Classic – Home Cinema

free media player for computer

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 Looking For A Lightweight Media Player? Try Media Player Classic - Home Cinema [Windows] Looking For A Lightweight Media Player? Try Media Player Classic - Home Cinema [Windows] As of 2012, there are a ton of media players available on the market, and many of them are free. With such a large selection, sometimes it can be hard to pick which software will... Read More so check it out to see if this is the right player for you.

GOM Player

free media player for computer

I recently installed GOM for the first time (not only GOM media player The Free & Powerful Video Player You’ve Never Heard About - GOM Media Player The Free & Powerful Video Player You’ve Never Heard About - GOM Media Player Not too long ago, I found myself impressed by the sleek functionality of GOM Audio for Windows. It turns out that GOM has its own free video player as well - GOM Media Player -... Read More , but GOM audio player Tired Of Big & Bloated Music Players? Try GOM Audio For Free! Tired Of Big & Bloated Music Players? Try GOM Audio For Free! Read More 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.

free media player for computer

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 Does Your Media Player Suck? Try A Unique Alternative: Daum PotPlayer [Windows] Does Your Media Player Suck? Try A Unique Alternative: Daum PotPlayer [Windows] Whenever we have written an article about great media players, people were quick to remind us of PotPlayer. Once we checked it out, we had to agree that it was indeed pretty awesome. So the... Read More and how it’s the perfect player for those of you who want full control.

SMPlayer

windows media players

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

  1. SANTOSH VASANT ATHAVALE
    September 15, 2016 at 11:40 am

    pot player is best.........must try everybody

  2. SANTOSH VASANT ATHAVALE
    September 15, 2016 at 11:39 am

    pot player is best even on low configuration pc's........thanks pot player

  3. Ted
    August 23, 2016 at 5:06 am

    GOM is SPYWARE. Even when you uncheck the online part of the program as soon as you try to watch something from on your computer it reaches for the internet, it is spyware.

  4. angela
    August 18, 2016 at 7:30 am

    After I downloaded GOM, my browser (Firefox) didn't work properly. It might have just been a coincidence but I didn't have any problems with Firefox before or after I deleted all traces of GOM from my computer.

    I downloaded GOM because I was looking for a media player with the same functions as VLC (being able to make adjustments so talking is as loud as background noise/music on a video) but GOM didn't haven't this ability - I think.

    I was looking for a new media player because when I play a video with VLC, the sound will often 'crackle' and fade out. I've posted on VLC's Facebook page (with no response) and I can't sign up with VLC's website forum.

  5. Jaquie
    January 23, 2016 at 5:14 am

    OMG this is such BULLshi(t). I was actually looking for a good, but no-frills audio player and was enthusd about the authors notes on "Gom", so I downloaded it. Well, it installed Bing and Gameo (online games for free) even though I selected for it not to. After it did that, it wasn't even that impressive of a program to use. In any case, I uninstalled it using Revo Uninstaller and I'm so glad I did. It left TONS of crap on my computer that Revo and Ccleaner caught.

  6. ViiRaL
    July 31, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    I've been using VLC and GOM Player.. but lately there is a new codec introduced which is x265 HEVC, but VLC or GOM among other media players can't play it smoothly. In VLC you can see the green screen flashing while playing it in every few minutes. And other media players get distorted audio and video. Any help??
    can anyone recommend me any other player..

    • Daisy Great
      August 14, 2015 at 3:44 am

      Ultra HD videos are often coded with H.265 HEVC, if you intend to play HEVC files, I suggest you to try 5KPlayer,http://www.5kplayer.com. and when I upgrade to Windows 10, it can still play all my HD and 4K files wonderfully. :) Hope this would help you, and do you happen to have any idea of what video converter I could use on my Windows, the one that is not so expensive?

    • Daisy Great
      August 14, 2015 at 3:54 am

      ultra HD videos are often coded with H.265 HEVC, if you intend to play HEVC files, 5KPlayer is suggested from me, and when I upgrade to Windows 10, it still plays every HD and UHD files I downloaded. Hope this 5KPlayer could play your HEVC files too and do you happen to have any idea of what video converter I could use on Windows? the one that is not so expensive? Anyway, just gambling my chance here:)

    • ViiRaL
      August 14, 2015 at 4:55 am

      Thx for your reply, and yes i tried 5k Player too, same thing happens as it does with VLC and other players but MPC-HC Plays it better.
      For your video converter try this..hope it will help you..
      http://www.winxdvd.com/resource/top3-windows-video-converters.htm
      or
      http://www.videoconverterfactory.com/tips/top-5-free-video-converters.html

    • Macgo En
      September 23, 2015 at 7:38 am

      I used VLC, too. A really classic free media player. Sometimes, I want to see some other languages' movie.

      abcnews4.com/story/30060607/macgo-free-media-player-provide-dvd-support-on-windows-10

      It's hard to use external subtitles. Free Media Player could support this function.

  7. Kevin Mathew
    April 30, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    GOM Player helped me, thanks for the suggestion! God bless!

  8. Eddy
    April 6, 2015 at 1:18 am

    Have you guys heard of QQ player. it's a great player
    I think KMPlayer and QQ player are the best players ever

  9. BiscuitEdi
    January 25, 2015 at 1:56 am

    I agree that MPCHC is a great video player but I like a polished interface too so I get mpc with codec pack and afterwards install alshow player. Works perfect and looks great.

  10. Yunus
    January 20, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    Daum PotPlayer & KM Player

  11. Andrew
    January 28, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    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.

  12. harry
    January 24, 2010 at 3:07 am

    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.

  13. RIDIP
    January 21, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    AIMP2 PLAYER FOR MUSIV AND VLC MEDIA PLAYER FOR VIDEO

  14. God
    January 19, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    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.

  15. SAN
    December 17, 2009 at 12:35 am

    AIMP2 IS THE BEST PLAYER

    NEW VERSION IS v2.60, build 525

  16. ipod-transfer
    December 11, 2009 at 12:32 am

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

  17. gopal shankar
    November 30, 2009 at 2:37 pm

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

  18. Jawad Ahmed
    October 9, 2009 at 3:43 am

    i have just downloaded the software 'songbird' really awesome..!!!

  19. Jawad Ahmed
    October 9, 2009 at 3:42 am

    nice softwares...!!!

  20. metalhorde
    September 24, 2009 at 1:32 am

    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.

  21. ted
    August 10, 2009 at 1:15 pm

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

  22. kyle
    August 6, 2009 at 6:05 pm

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

  23. Gerard Syms
    July 27, 2009 at 12:19 am

    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.

  24. Gerard Syms
    July 26, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    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?

  25. Gerard Syms
    July 26, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    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
      July 26, 2009 at 5:18 pm

      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.

  26. Gerard Syms
    July 26, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    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
      July 26, 2009 at 1:38 pm

      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.

  27. Chrisclap
    July 23, 2009 at 10:59 am

    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

  28. Anshul
    June 25, 2009 at 8:07 am

    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

  29. Bretteo
    June 8, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    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

  30. MIke
    June 7, 2009 at 1:53 am

    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.

  31. Nigel
    April 11, 2009 at 8:42 am

    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!

  32. Juan Carlo
    March 16, 2009 at 10:18 pm

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

  33. Afras
    February 21, 2009 at 2:20 am

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

  34. ja
    February 3, 2009 at 1:59 am

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

  35. BOLLINENI YUGESH CHOWDARY
    December 15, 2008 at 8:58 am

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

  36. Abhishek
    November 6, 2008 at 10:07 am

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

  37. revan
    October 30, 2008 at 2:53 am

    aimp2 is that underrated?

  38. ryan
    October 28, 2008 at 6:09 am

    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.

  39. Josiah Guile
    October 27, 2008 at 1:53 pm

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

  40. Henk
    October 27, 2008 at 7:54 am

    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.

  41. Davin Peterson
    October 27, 2008 at 10:35 am

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

  42. manny
    October 27, 2008 at 1:38 am

    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.

  43. WolvenSpectre
    October 26, 2008 at 11:51 pm

    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.

  44. maccolar
    October 26, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    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.

  45. Ibrahim Hussein
    October 26, 2008 at 4:54 am

    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.

  46. venkat
    October 25, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    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.

  47. Northman
    October 25, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    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

  48. Tony
    October 25, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    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.

  49. adi
    October 25, 2008 at 4:23 pm

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

  50. alper
    October 25, 2008 at 3:15 pm

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

  51. Chris
    October 25, 2008 at 2:43 pm

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

    • Aibek
      October 26, 2008 at 1:00 pm

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

  52. Skyler Huse
    October 25, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    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
      August 19, 2009 at 6:35 am

      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?

  53. ameo
    October 25, 2008 at 2:03 pm

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

    • Aibek
      October 26, 2008 at 12:58 pm

      BS is another excellent player, been using it for years

  54. x
    October 25, 2008 at 1:56 pm
    • vvvlad
      October 25, 2008 at 2:20 pm

      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
      January 17, 2010 at 11:01 pm

      aimp2 for music
      kmp for audio

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