I have never liked Windows Media Player. Although it does the job, I could not warm to it. So on Thursday I decided to look for a free alternative.
A recommendation site suggested a Korean program, which I promptly downloaded. It was hideous! A black on black colour scheme made it almost unreadable, and the micro buttons used to play and navigate the music were hardly user friendly either. And call me old-fashioned, but I believe that it shouldn't be a research project to figure out how to find your music collection. Uninstall!
Next I tried Free Media Player. As I went through the install wizard, warning bells started to ring. This program wanted to install an awful lot of other stuff as well. I hoped I'd be able to avoid the deluge by unchecking the right boxes, but I soon decided I wasn't confident that was going to be possible, so I quit the installation, and went back to playing WMP.
The next day I booted up my PC and found myself back in the Free Media Player installer. Imagine my delight. Easy enough to stop it, but next reboot, there it was again. This goes well beyond aggressive marketing—more like a salesman who refuses to let you shut the front door on them.
I searched everywhere I could think of to find out how Free Media Player was able to try installing itself on boot-up, but without success. My favoured tool, msconfig (another powerful Microsoft product with a rubbish user interface), was no help.
Fortunately, another Google search came up with 'Autoruns', the alternative to msconfig. Ironically, you download it from Microsoft.
That quickly identified the problem: Free Media Player installer had added itself to the registry (key HKLM\Software\WOW6432Node\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce). I removed the key (you have to run Autoruns in administrator mode), rebooted, and all was well.
All in all, a very annoying experience, which reminded me (I shouldn't have needed it) how much damage installing 'free' software can potentially do to your machine. On the plus side though, I have a very useful tool for removing the next pest to infect my PC. On top of that, I am now completely happy with Windows Media Player.