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Windows Media Player - Should it Overuse the CPU?

written by: Daniel Barros•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 12/10/2009

Is Windows Media Player overusing your CPU? We've got the cure for you here.

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    WMP 11 Fail

    Windows Media Player is the accepted standard media player that comes with every copy of Windows. Simply by virtue of both being a decent media player and being included with Windows, WMP 11 is the “most popular” media player, trailing only iTunes due to the large volume of people with iPods and the inability to download codecs for their media players.

    WMP 11 is designed for sleek and low-profile use even when watching high-definition video. To watch high-def videos, you’ll need to download the CCCP, or the Combined Community Codec Pack (at least until DivX comes out with full MKV support). But what about WMP 11 using CPU while watching a video?

    The CPU shouldn’t be used excessively while watching a video. If this is the case, there’s something seriously wrong with one of two things – either the CPU or your installation of the media player. This is usually a symptom of extra background activity during the playing of a video or the fact that your PC doesn’t have enough RAM to handle the size and bit-rate of the video.

    With Windows, the system resources set aside for playing media are substantially more streamlined with every iteration of Windows Media Player. If the Media Player is over-using the CPU, it might also be indicative of a spyware or virus infestation.

    If it’s a virus, it’s a rather clever one to run during video playback and disguise itself as background noise to the CPU so that you don’t realize it. But if the CPU is burning out during video playback, it’s time to run a virus scan using your fancy NOD32 scanner. Don’t have that scanner? Read our links of free online scanners or download AVG for yourself.

    Suppose however, that it’s not a virus. It could be spyware, which is code for viruses that are only out to get your personal information. Could it be that your computer got transformed into a botnet before your very eyes? If that’s the case, you’ll want to run a scan of your computer through Spybot: Search and Destroy.

    Either way, diagnosing a problem like this one can be difficult. Any number of things could be inhibiting playback of your videos, and it might not even be related to the Media Player. As a matter of fact, corrupted codecs, viruses, spyware, adware, and lack of hard drive space could all cause the same problems.

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    What if the Problem Returns?

    There's no guarantee that a virus sweep and a spyware sweep will be able to get rid of the viruses and spyware that might be causing your media problems. Unfortunately, viruses and virus protection today work like mending a boat with holes. Virus protection can be proactive, but most times, it just patches the holes caused by the viruses in your PC. This means that if your media player starts acting up again, you'll want to re-run the virus scanner and the spyware scanner to fix additional problems.

    It may sound like a pretty bad deal, but just having a virus scanner and spyware engine running at the same time won't be enough to protect you against these insidious little bugs. The best proactive defense for your PC against video-crippling viruses is to exercise caution surfing the web:

    1. Don't click on a link before double checking where it leads by hovering over it with the mouse.

    2. Don't give away any information unless it's ABSOLUTELY necessary, and even then don't just give out your social security number.

    3. Finally, use a good java blocker (like NoScript on Firefox) or a good ad-blocker if you're going to be surfing the seedy side of the Internet.