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Windows Media Player database

April 16, 2012

My husband’s data drive (D:) crashed a couple of weeks back. He got his computer back late last week, with a new hard drive. The old D: drive was irrecoverable (scratched on the inner circle of the platter and even the ‘almost 100% guarantee’ data recovery people couldn’t get the data off it). His C: drive was fine, which meant we didn’t have to have a complete OS reinstall plus the agony of reinstalling all his apps. But D: was where he stored his data. He lost a LOT of documents about musicians, songwriters, discographies, etc. as well as all his music files.

While he had a backup from some months ago, he asked me if he could get a listing from his Windows Media Player (v11) of the albums he had added since the last backup. Not so easy at first glance, though I was able to find a way after some Googling.

Here’s how to get a copy of the database and a text listing of everything in the database (but WITHOUT the metadata, unfortunately).

  1. DO NOT open Windows Media Player (WMP) until you are told to in these steps. (Step 4). If you have the ‘delete files’ option turned on, as soon as you open WMP and it can’t find the files, it will start deleting them before your eyes!
  2. Make a copy of the *.wmdb file (in Windows XP, this database is located here: C:\Documents and Settings\<username>\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Media Player – this may be a hidden folder for you, so make sure you turn off the setting to hide system and hidden folders).
  3. Paste the copy of the database (the *.wmdb file) to another location for safekeeping (e.g. somewhere else on the computer, a thumb drive, an external hard drive, etc.).
  4. Open WMP and IMMEDIATELY go to Tools > Options > Library and TURN OFF the Delete files from my computer check box and click Apply. Do this as quick as you can, because if it is turned on, it will start deleting unfound files straight away.
  5. Now turn off these options in WMP too (I’m not sure if they made any difference, but with them all turned off, none of the listings in the WMP library database disappeared):
    • Tools > Options > Devices: turn off the When deleting playlists option
    • Tools > Options > Library > Monitor Folders > Advanced — select the drive that no longer exists and click Remove. You can add that drive back in later after you’ve copied across whatever you’ve got still remaining from your backup.
  6. Close WMP.
  7. Go to the Microsoft site and download and install the Winter Player Pack 2003 (http://download.microsoft.com/download/b/a/8/ba836c39-01ab-4071-954d-c99d49a672ef/WinterPlayerPack.msi).
  8. Once installed, WMP re-opens with the Media Info Exporter window hovering nearby.
  9. Click Properties on the Media Info Exporter window and choose the application to use to open the list (Excel is selected by default) and give the text file a name and location. Leave the encoding as it is. Close the Properties dialog.
  10. Click Export.
  11. Media Info Exporter exports all the main data (titles, albums, artists, file format, bit rate, etc.) to a text file and opens the text file in Excel. Save it as an XLS file. (This export takes only seconds.)

You now have a list of everything that was in your WMP library database.

What you don’t have is all the metadata that you may have added, altered etc. This is the blood, sweat and tears for anyone who’s into music ‘liner notes’ data, so it’s loss will be sorely felt. This was a very hard lesson for my husband who has been collecting this sort of music metadata information for years.

Supposedly the Metadata Backup software is meant to back up that metadata ready to restore it, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t get more than one song listed in the resulting XML file, even though the software told me it had backed up 70 of my test MP3 files.

And yes, he now has two external backup drives with software installed to automatically back up changes to files as he makes them…

See also:

[Links last checked April 2012]

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