Windows Media Player 9 was released to widespread acclaim from the computing industry press. The WMP9 audio protocols outperform the older Windows Media protocols, providing both higher quality and reduced file size. So one naturally would have expected even greater things from WMP10. Unfortunately, WMP10 underwhelms.
WMP10 replaced the familiar menu running down the left side with horizontally organized tabs along the top. Interestingly, although the main “frame” of WMP 9 and 10 is a web page, tabbed browsing still hasn’t been released as part of Internet Explorer. Perhaps WMP10 was an early experiment, but the "tabbed browsing" in WMP10 doesn't work very well. Switching between the menu items takes place quickly in WMP9, but switching between tabs in WMP10 takes a much longer time.
Furthermore, WMP10 seems to “choke” on larger media libraries. Once a library gets much over 10,000 items, opening the library takes longer and longer. When the library gets much over 11,000 items, sometimes WMP10 will freeze when WMP is opened, and stop responding altogether when the Media Library is selected. Even when the library is opened, clicking on an item in the media hierarchy may lock up the player. And when the library gets over 12,000 items, WMP10 may not open at all.
In WMP9, the process of finding album information is relatively straightforward as long as the ID3 tags are correct. (If Microsoft wanted to be really useful, they would offer a utility to modify the ID3 tags in the files, not just in the WMP media library.) In WMP10, the process is more difficult. First, WMP10 often returns an error message from the Passport network and fails to open the Media Guide. Even if the Media Guide opens, often the system fails to find a particular CD or artist. Yet if you open the Music tab and do the same search from there, you can find the CD and artist the system failed to find on its own. This is curious, as I’ve not noticed this same problem with WMP9.
The Now Playing page in WMP9 opens briskly. In WMP10, less so. In addition, opening the Now Playing page in WMP10 does not automatically put the focus onto that page. Generally you will have to click on the album cover art twice to bring up the Album Information and Artist Profile pane for whatever music is playing. In WMP9, the Now Playing page opens with the focus on the album art, and it only takes one click to bring up additional information on that artist.
In WMP 9, when a plug-in is active a small green plug icon appears in the lower right corner of the player. Clicking on that icon opens the “Plug-ins” tab of the Options menu. This one-click functionality is missing in WMP10. Instead, you have to click on Tools/Options/Plug-ins, which takes three clicks. This is a backwards step in the user interface. Since WMP plug-ins are incredibly useful, and conversely since malfunctioning plug-ins are the most common source of WMP problems, making the process of accessing the plug-ins more difficult just doesn’t make sense.
Given the problems with WMP10, the average user might think it would be a simple process to revert to WMP9. And the average user would be correct, although the process is somewhat counterintuitive. It is not as simple as deleting WMP10 and reinstalling WMP9. That normal process doesn’t work. WMP is part of the Windows operating system, so deleting it doesn’t actually remove the program. The Windows Media Player is still there, but you can’t see it, and the system “pretends” it isn’t there. But if you try to reinstall WMP9, you’ll quickly discover that WMP10 is still installed and that you cannot install WMP9 over the top of it. So what to do?
The process is simple, but it isn’t immediately obvious. You need to click Start/Control Panel/”Add/Remove Software”. At the top of the Add/Remove Software pane you will see a check box next to the words “Show Updates”. Check that box, then navigate down the list to Windows Media Player. Now you will see all the updates that have been made to WMP9. As it turns out, WMP10 isn’t an entirely new program, but is an update to WMP9. Remove the update and you’ll have WMP9 back. Then connect to Microsoft Update for any security updates and you’ll be back in business.