Great Digital Media with Windows XP includes everything you need to know to play digital music stored on your PC, on audio CDs, Internet radio stations, and through Web-based streaming audio. But it doesn't end there: With Windows XP, you can almost endlessly configure Microsoft Media Player for Windows XP (MPXP), manage digital music directly from the Windows shell and through MPXP, copy music from audio CDs to your PC, and create your own audio "mix" CDs and data CD backups. And best of all, these capabilities are all built into Windows XP... for free!
Here are some tips for working with digital music and audio in Windows XP.

Copy CD Audio in MP3 format with an MP3 Encoding Add-on Pack
Microsoft Media Player for Windows XP (MPXP) can record CD audio in Windows Media Audio (WMA) 8 format natively, but if you want to use the more common MP3 format, you will need one of several MP3 Encoding Add-on Packs, which will be available for download by the time Windows XP is widely released on October 25. The add-on packs will cost less than $10, and will be available from Cyberlink, InterVideo, and Ravisent.

Use transcoding to save space on portable audio devices.

When copying music from an audio CD to your hard drive, you will probably want to use a decent encoding rate (128 Kbps WMA or 160 Kbps MP3 format) to ensure that the resulting files are as close to CD-quality as possible. But such files are pretty large, and if you're going to be copying them to a portable audio device--such as an Iomega HipZip or a Pocket PC--you won't be able to bring very many songs with you on the road. To overcome this problem, Media Player for Windows XP (MPXP) supports a feature called transcoding, which will let you downsize files on the file as you copy them to a portable device. So you might transcode 128 Kbps WMA files down to 64 Kbps, for example, to fit twice as many songs in the same amount of space, with only a small loss in sound quality. To configure this feature, open MPXP and navigate to Tools, Options, Devices. Then, choose the appropriate device and click Properties. This dialog will allow you to set a custom quality level for music copied to that device.

Use audio CD artwork in your digital media folders.
One of the coolest new features in Windows XP is its album thumbnail generator, which automatically places the appropriate album cover art on the folder to which you are copying music (WMA 8 format by default). But what about those people that have already copied their CDs to the hard drive using MP3 format? You can download album cover art from sites such as or, and then use the new Windows XP folder customize feature to display the proper image for each folder. But this takes time--you have to manually edit the folder properties for every single folder--and you will lose customizations if you have to reinstall the OS. There's an excellent fix, however. When you download the album cover art from the Web, just save the images as folder.jpg each time and place them in the appropriate folder. Then, Windows XP will automatically use that image as the thumbnail for that folder and, best of all, will use that image in Windows Media Player for Windows XP (MPXP) if you choose to display album cover art instead of a visualization. And the folder customization is automatic, so it survives an OS reinstallation as well. Your music folders never looked so good! Also, you can save a smaller-sized image albumartsmall.jpg if you'd like: This file is used to store the album art thumbnails you see in folder icons.

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Vishnu vardhan Reddy Boda is Tech Blogger and Software Engineer.

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