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Solving the: ‘Windows Media Player Won’t Start in Vista’ Problem

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Sometimes Windows Media Player (“WMP”) refuses to start. I’ve had this problem since I first installed Vista in January 2007.

Through most of this period I had thought there was a conflict of some sort with iTunes. Why? Because iTunes is almost always running and, well, it just seemed to make sense since iTunes and Vista were not very friendly for most of Vista’s first year. I had hoped/thought various Vista and/or iTunes updates had solved the problem. But, no, this problem has persisted to this day. Sometimes Windows Media player starts, other times it won’t and I never understood why.

The solution

I have Googled this problem probably a dozen times with no resolution until today. My heart-felt thanks go out to Rob for this post in the Vista x64 forums. Since his answer to the problem was exactly correct and succinct, I reproduce it here:

When this happens, press Ctrl+Shift+Esc to start Task Manager, select the
Processes tab and you’ll find the wmplayer.exe process is already running
(although it doesn’t appear on the Applications tab). Select it and choose
End Process.
I’ve no idea why, but some bug in Vista causes wmplayer to start whenever
the PC is restarted or brought out of sleep, but without its window showing.
You can’t run two instances of wmplayer, and as Vista assumes you’re trying
to run a second instance when you click Windows Media Player, it silently
ignores you.

I cannot isolate any specific cause (though I have tried). For whatever reason, sometimes, unbeknownst to me, WMP had already started.  Perhaps its iTunes related, perhaps it’s caused by playing media within Firefox. I don’t know. But I can now say categorically that, whenever WMP won’t start, it is exactly for the reason Rob stated, it is already running behind the scenes. Stopping it on the Process tab resolves the problem.

The solution step-by-step

If WMP is not starting (whether by clicking on its icon or attempting to open a media file associated with it), do the following to resolve the situation:

  • Press Ctrl-Shift-Esc to open Windows Task Manager
  • Click on the Process Tab
  • Find ‘wmplayer.exe’ in the process list (Tip: click on the “Image Name” Column head twice (see picture below) to sort the processes in reverse alphabetical order)
  • Right click on the ‘wmplayer.exe’  (‘wmplayer.exe *32’ in the picture below)
  • left click “End Process”  closing wmplayer.exe in windows task manager processes tab 
  • Click the ‘End process’ button on the subsequent warning screen
    Do you want to end this process warning screen
  • Close the Windows Task Manager screen

That should be it. From then Windows Media Player will start up as normally.

4 Comments


  1. // Reply

    Yes, the problem clearly isn’t Vista only – or WMP specific either. It’s just that I’ve never had this problem before and assumed it was Vista specific. Since I wrote this blog post I’ve used the same solution for other programs that wouldn’t start and on different operating system.


  2. // Reply

    Thanks, I had this problem and this worked. I hope it doesn’t keep doing it though.


  3. // Reply

    i do not have firefox or itunes if that helps give you some clues to a solution. i am experiencing the same problem and also have to use crtl alt del to end process and then click the link i want to have media player utilize. Dell i570 studio vista 64 bought may 09′ most bells and whistles included. the event seems to occur randomly after selecting a few video links.


  4. // Reply

    Since writing this post, I’ve noticed this works with other programs too. If you can’t start’em, there’s probably a stub of the program still running. Ctrl-Shift-Esc will bring up the running apps and processes. Find the running stub, stop it and you are generally good to go.


  5. // Reply

    I’ve had the same problem for a while, and although I knew how to solve it, I wished there was a way to keep it from happening in the first place.

    At least this suggests that perhaps I shouldn’t waste my time trying to reinstall Vista or anything since apparently it’s a common bug.


  6. // Reply

    I was having the same problem and this is what I did, works now, click Start, find Windows Media Player and right click, then in the box click on Run as Administrator.


  7. // Reply

    Since writing this post, I've noticed this works with other programs too. If you can't start'em, there's probably a stub of the program still running. Ctrl-Shift-Esc will bring up the running apps and processes. Find the running stub, stop it and you are generally good to go.


  8. // Reply

    u absolute legend 😀 this has been baking my noodle for months 😀 thank you xxx


  9. // Reply

    i do not have firefox or itunes if that helps give you some clues to a solution. i am experiencing the same problem and also have to use crtl alt del to end process and then click the link i want to have media player utilize. Dell i570 studio vista 64 bought may 09' most bells and whistles included. the event seems to occur randomly after selecting a few video links.


  10. // Reply

    Thanks, I had this problem and this worked. I hope it doesn't keep doing it though.


  11. // Reply

    This solution worked perfectly.


  12. // Reply

    Thanks, you information did the trick. Windows Media Player opened right up.


  13. // Reply

    man that worked like a charm… i have an xp but i had the same problem… thanks though


  14. // Reply

    Yes, the problem clearly isn't Vista only – or WMP specific either. It's just that I've never had this problem before and assumed it was Vista specific. Since I wrote this blog post I've used the same solution for other programs that wouldn't start and on different operating system.


  15. // Reply

    unfortunately, wmplayere.exe does not always end what way.


  16. // Reply

    Ha, thank you! I just installed itunes on my 5 month old laptop and thought that it had messed up my wmp.


  17. // Reply

    When I had this problem, the library also froze and I could not make any additions or changes. The problem was a corrupted database, fixed by this:nhttp://www.howtogeek.com/howto/windows-vista/fixing-when-windows-media-player-library-wont-let-you-add-files/nAfter the database was fixed, WMP also started opening normally without running in the background


  18. // Reply

    the program does not appear running in my task manager :(ni also tried regedit but i still can’t fix it.nany solution pls email me atncyn.writer@gmail.com


  19. // Reply

    Why can not the Windows Media Playeru00a0 start in Vistau2019 problemu00a0?


  20. // Reply

    So I tried this and unfortunately my wmplayer.exe process is randomly starting and stopping so quickly that I can’t end it before it disappears off of the screen again. However, I did notice this never happened before I downloaded Spotify. Could this have anything to do with it?

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