Windows Media Center + iTunes Library + OCD = suck.
March 19, 2006 9:51 PM   Subscribe

Windows Media Center + iTunes Library + OCD = suck.

I have a highly organized MP3 library with thorough ID3 tags (thanks OCD) managed via iTunes on a Mac. The library itself is stored on a NAS device (LinkStation), but that doesn't really matter.

I keep iTunes open on my Mac and set to Share so my Windows PC can access the library via Windows iTunes. No problem.

My PC is running Media Center Edition 2005 (with all updates) and I want it to be able to use the MP3 library in both iTunes AND the Media Center app.

If I point MCE's "My Music" to the NAS device containing my library, it seems to find/add the music okay -- but it does a piss-poor job of reading all my carefully defined tags in the music files -- namely things like Album art, the artist, and sometimes other basic info on a few random (but thoroughly tagged) tracks.

Out of about 350 albums, MCE automatically imported art for maybe 8 albums, and every single solitary MP3 under iTunes/Mac has album art embedded in it--guaranteed.

I know that the Media Center app pulls all of its actual media data from Windows Media Player's Library, and I've figured out that you can "automanually" add things like album art by having WMP attempt to look up your album.

But this process would be tedious to do by hand for every track on every album, and what's worse is that I created some custom album art for non-commercial tracks, AND when WMP DOES find your album/art, the art it inserts is really crappy low-quality JPGs, which look terrible when viewed in large size in the Media Center interface.

So, long set up, but: why won't Media Center just use the ID3 tags in my MP3s, including album art? I don't want Windows going in and overwriting my tag data with what IT thinks the genre/artist/album name is just so it can add its own version of low-quality album art to the file.

And it's not just album art, either. On a few CDs, it will take half the tracks and put them under the correct album name, and then the other half it will create a new album name that has maybe the last 7 characters cut off. And there are about 10 tracks that it just completely blows, not reading even the most basic ID3 info, even though it's definitely there.

One of the reasons I want this work via MCE2005 is that I want to have access to my MP3 library on my Xbox 360 as a Media Center Extender, with full art, etc. So forgetting about the Windows platform altogether is not an option.

So, any way to achieve this ideal set up:

* Single MP3 library on NAS device, thorough ID3 tags and album art associated with every track

* iTunes on Mac plays and shares Library to Windows iTunes (so far no problem)

* Windows Media Center Edition PC(s) look to NAS device for same library, but imports it cleanly with all album art/tags, etc. intact.

* WMC PC shares this clean/thorough library to Xbox 360 as WMC Extender
posted by robbie01 to Computers & Internet (2 answers total)
Since I have not actually dealt with this problem myself, I'll just mention that the most promising Google link is this: The case of the mangled music collection (, which recommends Tag & Rename, but a comment to the article disagrees (the following links added are mine):
First, there is a combination of two freeware programs that will be better than that app u suggest. For you guys to know, those applications are Album Art Fixer (whose only setback for some of u is that it just works for WMP/MCE library items), and the other is MusicBrainz Tagger, not wasting time explaining it, just use it, it will work. When you start using these apps remember to uncheck the automatic recovery of media information in WMP, if this is not done it might put bad info again on the tag or the album art (AA Fixer wil put a flag on the files for WMP not to update it though)
And second but more important, huge collections require big effort, the problem usually is not the software (well, in case of iTunes it is clearly the soft), but the way u use it, single song downloads (legal or not), CD ripping, music purchases on different stores... u will have to invest valuable time to have a good library, at least as good looking as the physical one... but you know, stupid software/publisher companies keep on pushing different standars to us that will make our digital life a real nightmare, not this thing about album art and tags, don't u think?

One last thing, don't forget to back up your "good" items regularly (making them read-only)... hard disks die from time to time, and the process is hard enough not to repeat it.
Hopefully one of these programs will help you make Media Center and WMP play nicely with your mp3s. Good luck!
posted by tweak at 10:39 PM on March 19, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the article link, tweak. Always reassuring to know I'm not the only one having the problem.

After playing around some more, I think the problem is the following:

* Album art: iTunes and Windows Media Player seem to store album art differently. iTunes either stores the art within the MP3, stores it in the iTunes-proprietary Library, or maybe creates a hidden file in the music folder. Windows seems to store the art by having a .JPG in the album folder as the art (actually two -- one "small" and one larger). Not sure why a handful of my CDs came in with art (10 out 350), but maybe the source for those particular ones came from Windows originally.

* Artist name: it looks like iTunes stores the artist's name in a field called "Artist", but Windows Media Player stores it in a field called "Album Artist" -- so it's considering them two different fields.

In both cases the "Album Art Fixer" program will help take out a little of the gruntwork (as opposed to fixing everything by hand in WMP), but I think what I will have to do is:

* Pretend iTunes doesn't exist for the time being.

* Re-import entire library from scratch into MCE / Windows Media Player. Use Album Art Fixer to add art (again) and Album Artist tags to all 3,000+ tracks.

* Back on Mac/iTunes, delete everything from Library, and re-import Windows-ized MP3 library that *should* retain all the original Mac tags I had to begin with, PLUS the new "extra" Windows information. Hopefully Mac library will continue to function as normal after it's been run through the Windows konfabulation machine.

* MCE should then have everything it needs and iTunes will continue to just work as it did before

Doesn't make me eager to figure out a process for adding new music to my collection, and God help me if I actually wanted to purchase a song from iTunes Music Store.
posted by robbie01 at 12:18 AM on March 20, 2006

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