Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How to Fix Problems With Your Music Collection - Windows 7 Permissions & ID3 Tags


So I have been rather annoyed for a long time now with my music collection and Windows 7. Honestly, you would think that with today's tech, and how long id3 tags have been around that everything would just work... but it doesn't.

I use Windows Media Player 12 to watch/listen to my media, I also use the built in library to find stuff. When I migrated to Windows 7/WMP 12 about half of my music collection stopped showing up in the library or didn't have any information/wrong information. This was incredibly annoying. I keep my music pretty well organized in folders on my hard drive, so I had let it go for a long time as I was just using explorer to find and play stuff. Then I tried to edit tags using explorer and I got this error...

I'd had enough... my anal retentive side kicked in and I wanted my media library straightened once and for all... So I started to dig around online and had a hard time finding any solid answers. Everyone had a piece of the solution but I couldn't find an easy "how-to" anywhere... I got my library and my id3 tags fixed, now I am going to help you do the same...

A LITTLE BACKGROUND (skip this section if you already know this stuff and just want the fix)

ID3 tags - Basically, a "tag" for your music files that includes things like the artist, year, title, track #, etc. Media programs, like WMP scan your files and read these tags, they then build a searchable library based off of the information contained within. Several different versions of these tags have come out over the years and the latest version apparently has problems. Any of your music that has the newest version of the tag may or may not have problems with the WMP12. Sometimes tags can get damaged or corrupted which may or may not cause issues as well.

Permissions/Ownership - Perhaps unbeknownst to you, all of your folders and files in windows have permissions associated with them which dictate who can do what. They also have an "owner" who usually has full control over the file (i.e. this user can modify, delete, copy, read, etc.). Everyone else can usually only "read" the file. If your music collection has moved from several different computers or through several different OS upgrades, your old user account from another computer might have the "ownership" of the files. Which means your new user account on your new machine is not allowed to do much else other than "read" the files. You need to "Take Ownership" as the owner has "full control" of the file by default.


This is a two part solution...

A. You need to have ownership of your files in windows... 
Go to http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/windows-vista/add-take-ownership-to-explorer-right-click-menu-in-vista/. Read the article and download the file. As explained in the article, the download is a ".reg file" which adds a "take ownership" option to the windows shell right-click menu. Once installed, in explorer you can right-click on the root folder that holds all of your music and select "take ownership"... I am pretty sure that the ownership is "inherited" by all sub-folders and files. As the new "owner" of your music files, you should have "full control" by default and be able to do whatever you wish with them.

B. Fix Your ID3 tags issues. 
Go to http://www.mp3tag.de/en/download.html and get the program. It is a very small and completely FREE program which works beautifully. This is how I fixed my library. Follow my instructions and this should completely fix your tag issues:

1. Install the program

edit - After you are done installing make sure that Windows Media Player is completely closed down, not just minimized. You need all of your files to be available for editing.

2. In the program go to the "File" Menu and choose "Add Directory" - Select the root directory that contains all of your music and WAIT....

3. One it is done scanning you will see ALL of your music and the type of tag it has. In my case I had several bad tags and a lot of id3v2.4... This is the "newest version" of id3 tags that I talked about, and it causes problems.

4. Here is how to fix the problem very easily.... Go to the "edit" menu and click "select all"

5. Now, pay attention. With everything selected, in the left pane of the program you will see all of the different tag fields (artist, composer, year, etc.), go to the "comments" tag block and just fill in some garbage... "abcdefg"... (I don't really care a whole lot about comments so I selected this block because if I screwed it up it wouldn't matter.) now, highlight the garbage you just typed (abcdefg) and replace it with this < keep >... Some of you at this point are thinking, we just put back into the block what was already there to begin with... Yes... we did, but the reason we just went through that rigamarole is because the program now thinks that we have changed something on all of the files and will give us the option to "save" the files.

edit - make sure your put "< keep >" EXACTLY as you see it here without the quotes, otherwise you might lose all of your comments on your files (if you care about them). I actually just copied and pasted "< keep >" from one of the other fields.

6. With all of your songs still highlighted go up to the upper left hand corner underneath the file menu and click the little blue 3.5" diskette (why do we still use this for an icon???) to "save" all of your files.

7. Wait... it took mine several minutes to re-save the information on all of my files...

8. Go into Windows Media Player and click your library button... or something... The idea is that you should get WMP to update your library again. You should get a notification of it doing as much in the lower right hand corner. Once again... WAIT... in my case I got back like HALF of my media library which was not there before... This took about 10 minutes or so.

-Total time to fix your entire library ... I would say not more than 30 minutes....

This wonderful little program uses id3v2.3 tags by default, and when it re-saves your information it changes the tag version to this default... that is what we are doing and that is why it works.


  1. hi,

    for file transfer you make a tutorial ?

  2. I am sorry, I have been incredibly slammed. I still plan on making a tutorial for file transfers. I just happened to come across this fix recently and wanted to post about it so that it was done. It didn't require a video so it wasn't nearly as time consuming as the file sharing tutorial is going to be.