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What Causes Windows Media Player to Run Slowly?

written by: Matthew Becker•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 1/27/2010

It can be frustrating for users who use Media Player to discover that its CPU is being completely drained simply because the program is in use. Read on to find out what could be causing these slowdowns and how to fix them.

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    Some issues are fairly obvious, while others are a little bit more discrete as what’s causing a slowdown with your computer’s performance. To monitor your CPU’s usage, and other resources, right-click on the taskbar and select “Task Manager." Pressing Control+Alt+Delete will also bring up this window.

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    Other Programs

    On the bottom of the Task Manager window, you’ll see an indicator which says “CPU Usage" followed by a percentage digit. The higher the number, the busier your computer’s processor is. Near the top, where it says “Processes" you’ll find exactly what is running in the background, and how much memory each individual program is using. Why does this matter? If you have other programs in the background that require a lot of memory or processing power to use, that will affect the performance of Windows Media Player, particularly if you are viewing high quality video or audio files.

    Of course, a lot of this has to do with the resources your computer offers. If you have a computer with 256MB Memory or less, it may be beneficial not to run too many other programs if Windows Media Player is in use.

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    File Quality

    The harder Windows Media Player needs to work to display the file that you want to view or listen to, the harder it will be on your resources. It will use more CPU and will be just as hard on your available RAM. A possibility is to either close down other programs that are not in use, or to access files that will be less strenuous on your computer to display. Alternatively, it could be that your computer does not have the latest codecs. Check out DivX.com to make sure that you’re all up to date on your codecs.

    An unfortunate option would be not to access files that cause your resources to be fully consumed. If your computer can’t handle it, don’t push it.

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    Viruses and Other Malware

    You’ve probably seen the suggestion that Media Player is corrupted, or that the files that you are using through Media Player are corrupted. It is possible; some viruses out there can activate themselves when certain programs are loaded, causing resources to be heavily depleted amongst other damage to the computer. It could have been corrupted by accessing a file disguised as a file-type that Media Player can access (a virus disguised as an MP3 or AVI, for example). Usually, once a program is corrupted, the only way to repair it is to uninstall and re-install it.

    The only way to fully protect yourself from this is to run a virus scan on every new file you download. Using your virus scanner to check one file doesn’t take more than a few seconds. It's tedious, yes, but far less stressful than having to go through the rigorous process of uninstalling and reinstalling a program all over again.

    Hopefully these possible scenarios include the one under which your computer falls under. Remember: Don’t run a lot of other programs while Media Player is running, make sure you have the latest codecs, and always make sure the files you’re running are legitimate. If certain files are too demanding on your computer’s resources, don’t access them.