Windows includes a way to stream media to your PC through the use of Windows Media Player, which is preinstalled with most Windows operating systems. Although Windows Media Player provides some decent capabilities and functionality, there are also other media players available that offer the same functions plus additional features.
If you are not a fan of Windows Media Player or you simply prefer the idea of having a few options, here are a few great alternatives:
If you can never find what you are looking for in your music library, MediaMonkey is a full-featured media player which plays all of your favorite music and organizes it into an easy-to- access library. The library is capable of managing and organizing more than 100,000 music and video files and provides a lookup service for Album Art and tags your audio and video by genre.
You can also take advantage of the playlist feature, which allows you to customize playlists as well as setup MediaMonkey to automatically DJ your latest party. The syncing feature allows you to transfer tracks to your iPhone, iPod or Mp3 player and to listen to your favorite selection in a variety of different formats.
If recording and copying CDs is a common activity for you, you can use the Record and Convert feature which allows you to record CDs to your hard drive by choosing from a variety of included encoders. Once you have finished recording, you can convert the recording to any file format you wish.
MediaMonkey is offered in both a free version and a paid version which provides additional features and encoders for added capability and functionality.
If you have trouble getting files to play on other media players, VLC Media Player is known for being able to play formats that are not compatible with other players. VLC Media Player is an open source application which offers free video playback while providing video recording functions for streaming video.
VLC provides toolbars, which are fully customizable, to allow easy access to the functions you use the most. It also plays audio and video in a wide variety of formats including but not limited to: MP3, DivX, or MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, and OGG in addition to VCD, DVD and different streaming protocols. VLC can be used as a server for multicast or unicast streams on a high-bandwidth network in IPv4 or IPv6 and is capable of playing back zipped files as well.
Recent versions of VLC include fixes for HTTP Live Streaming and CDDB, UDP/RTP as well as support for MxPEG files and streams, and splitted RAR files playback.
VLC Media Player is designed to run on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, and UNIX and is available as a free open source application.
If you are looking for a media player which is an effective music organizer, Zune is worth taking a second look. Zune is more adept at organizing music files according to the artist, genre, album, or playlist than it is for organizing your video library. Zune offers free software for managing and sharing your favorite music and multimedia and allows you to sync your music and videos to your mobile devices.
Zune also provides other cool features which include the Zune Music Pass that provides you with unlimited access to music selections you can stream or download to your mobile device, Xbox, or PC. Also, you get access to Smart DJ, which is like having your own personal DJ that creates playlists of your favorite music selections. You also have different options for obtaining music and videos via rental, purchase, download, or streaming, in addition to receiving recommendations based on past selections.
Although Zune software is free, additional features, such as Zune Music Pass, require a monthly subscription in addition to Xbox LIVE Gold if you want to use streaming with your Xbox device.
These are three of the more popular alternatives to Windows Media Player. As you research, you will find other available options which vary in features and capability.