Windows Media Player and USB Devices

While I use iTunes to play most of my audio files, I still enjoy using Windows Media Player to watch video files. However, there’s one MAJOR annoyance with WMP that’s bothered me for years, and it’s this: if you’re watching a video and then insert a USB device (like a hard drive or flash drive), WMP assumes that it’s some kind of media device, and it wants to sync to it.

WMP will continue to play your video in the background, but the foreground window will change to a “sync screen” that asks if you want to synchronize your files to the device. So if you’re watching, say, a football game using WMP and absentmindedly insert a flash drive into your computer, you’ll miss a few minutes of the game as you race to figure out how to dismiss the stupid window and get back to the video.

You’d think that there’d be something in WMP’s options section where you could check a box that says “don’t do this stupid shit again”. But you’d be wrong. You’d think this would be a setting that a lot of companies would want to control via Group Policy, but if there is such an thing, I can’t find it. You could always disable AutoPlay completely, but this seems like such a nuclear option for such a niggling problem.

So here’s a way to fix it:

You could open WMP and attach the USB device, then go to Options > Devices and look for your flash drive. You could then go to the device properties and uncheck the “Start sync when device connects” option. But you might find that option greyed out, and even if it’s not, you might still get the stupid sync screen when attaching the USB device. If so, move to the next step.

Create a playlist with a single mp3 or movie file. It need not be large, any media file will do. Set WMP to sync to the device, and let it sync one time. Then go to the device options and make sure that “Start sync when device connects” is unchecked. You should no longer get the “sync screen” when watching a video and attaching a USB device.

The single sync will create a file called “WMPInfo.xml” in the root of the USB device. Once the first sync is complete, you can delete any media files copied to the USB device during the sync… but not the XML file. Note that if you delete the XML file the “sync behavior” will return, and if you attach the drive to another computer the behavior will return. Oh, and you will have to go through this procedure for every USB device you have.

But hey, it’s a “fix”, right?

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