Q: When I try to open some e-mail attachments that I want to run on Windows Media Player, I get the error message “Windows Media cannot play the file. The player might not support the file type or might not support the codec that was used to compress the file.” What does this mean? What’s a codec? How do I fix this problem?

Bill Inman, Brooklyn Park


A: You’re getting an error message because there are certain types of files that Windows Media Player doesn’t support. Not surprisingly, these include some common Apple file formats, such as the video format “.mov,” that were intended to play on Apple’s QuickTime program.

One solution is to install the free QuickTime for Windows program from Apple (find it at tinyurl.com/8vts). When you receive a file in an e-mail, click it. It should automatically run on either QuickTime or Windows Media Player.

Alternatively you could install a new codec (which stands for coder-decoder software). Codecs can make QuickTime files run on the Windows Media Player program, or Windows Media Player files run on the QuickTime program.

CNET, a reviewer of software, recommends the free Windows Essentials Media Codec Pack for Windows Media Player (download it at tinyurl.com/bnn553h), which is designed to play nearly all types of movie and music files available on the Internet. Microsoft offers a free codec (see tinyurl.com/bobhenj) to make Windows Media Player files work on QuickTime for Apple Macintosh computers.

It’s also possible to convert some file types to others, such as changing a Windows Media song file to one that will work in Apple’s iTunes (see tinyurl.com/ckx3ttq). But it’s better to avoid file conversions because the file quality can be hurt in the process.


Q: I was affected by the issue you wrote about in last week’s column, Microsoft’s conversion of its Hotmail.com Web e-mail service to Outlook.com. When I compared Outlook.com on the Web to the Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 program on our computers at work, I found the layout and options of Outlook 2007 were far superior. If I install the Outlook 2007 program on my own PC, can I route my new Outlook.com e-mail to it instead of viewing Outlook.com online?

Brian Ziegler, Elk River


A: Yes, you can configure your online Outlook.com account to work through your PC’s Outlook program as long as you use the 2003, 2007 or 2010 versions of the Outlook PC software. But first you have to install a free piece of software from Microsoft called the “Outlook Hotmail Connector.” (Yes, the name is outdated since Hotmail technically no longer exists.) Once you install the software, you must make some manual changes to Outlook.com, such as server settings. For details, see tinyurl.com/bnnp8vu.


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