Winamp for Windows Documentation

Winamp is the best, freeware media player that allows you to play most audio formats (including Internet Radio Stations) and video. Winamp works with portable media players, allows you to rip and burn CDs, has a built-in media library, graphic equalizer and visualizations. With the advanced plug-in mechanism, you have the possibility to increase its functionality. Thanks to skins Winamp can look and behave as you like...

Like the wind!

Learn How to Use Your Winamp 5... Just Like the Pros!!! The suggestions and general tips contained in this document are intended for users who want to make Winamp faster. You can also find out which settings to improve in order to be able to use its properties to the maximum, even on computers with slightly weaker parameters. Properly installed and properly configured Winamp can really be fast like the wind...

See anything missing? Have any comments? Contact Eric Caoili.

1. Make Sure You're Using the Latest Version of Winamp

With every new version release of Winamp, the Nullsoft team not only bundles in new features and functionality—they also make sure to include bug fixes and cleaner code. Many times, simply upgrading your software might be enough to kick whatever issues you may be experiencing. Problems that you might find lurking around in older versions of Winamp may already be long gone in the newest release. Therefore, users of older unsupported Winamp versions are highly advised to download the latest version of Winamp.

The latest release of Winamp, including a full list of features and download links for all offered packages, can be found here. It is suggested that you download the player from the official site if possible, as Nullsoft cannot completely vouch for the credibilty or the security of files hosted on third party sites.

2. Clean Install Winamp and Check Your Plug-Ins

When installing Winamp, you may want to install into an empty directory (new folder), or uninstall your previous version first. Clean installing helps avoid configuration conflicts that may occur when overwriting existing files. Please consult these procedures when looking to do a full uninstall and/or reinstall.

For an introduction to plug-ins, please refer to Winamp's What is a Plug-in?

Many instances of Winamp crashing or slowing down could be attributed to unsupported, third party plug-ins. Problems you are experiencing could be the fault of a plug-in, and not Winamp's. If you have reason to believe that a plug-in is in fact causing conflict with Winamp or any other plug-ins you may have installed, you can do one of the following:

  • Uninstall the plug-in by first pressing Ctrl + P to go into your Winamp Preferences settings. Under Plug-ins, choose the category of your plug-in. Select the offending plug-in. Click the "Uninstall plug-in" button.
  • Uninstall the plug-in by physically locating and deleting the appropriate files (files with .dll file extensions) in your Winamp Plug-ins folder. (e.g. C:\Program Files\Winamp\Plugins) or in %AppData%\Winamp\Plugins (you can easily locate/browse to your Plugins folder by clicking your "Start" button, selecting "Run", and typing in %AppData%\Winamp\Plugins). More information referencing the location of Winamp data is explained in more detail here.
  • Download the latest version of the plug-in, and hope it fixes the issue.
  • Contact the author about the issue, and hope he/she fixes the problem in their next release.

If the above does not help, or you are uncertain of what plug-ins you have installed, then supply a List of Plugins in the Winamp Technical Support forum, as indicated in the Consult the Winamp Forums section.

3. Install Only What You Need

If you wish to install Winamp with just "basic functionality", you have the option of downloading a powered-down "Lite" version. Though Winamp Lite is able to play your MP3 files and is compatible with older plug-ins and Classic skins, it lacks many features that the Full, Bundle and Pro packages include, some of which are: Modern skin support, video playback, the redesigned Media Library, integrated visualizers, ripping/burning support, and the integrated Online Services. Winamp's product overview provides some information on the above elements, and full feature comparisons between the Lite package and the other packages can be found on Winamp's Features Page.

If you'd rather not lose out on all of those items, you can download the full version, and uncheck the specific features in the installer that you do not plan to use. For example, you can uncheck "support for cd burning/ripping" if you do not plan on using Winamp for CD burning/ripping, but leave the other options marked to install those. Though Winamp runs fine on most systems with all of the "extras" installed, if you do not plan on using them, Winamp will be wasting it's time (and yours) loading them up.

4. Use Classic Skins or Keep Your Modern Skins Trim

For an introduction to skins, please refer to Winamp's What is a Skin?. Running Winamp in Classic skin mode drastically decreases the startup time of Winamp, while increasing overall speed. While Modern/Freeform skins typically come equipped with extra functions and are oftentimes more visually impressive, you pay for that all with longer load times and more CPU. Classic skins can usually be differentiated from their Modern counterparts by their rectangular shape. Winamp's default Classic can be selected by going to Options > Skins > Winamp Classic. There is a Classic skin that closely resembles the look of the prebundled Bento skin, for those of you who wish to use that instead. There is a Classic skin that closely resembles the look of the prebundled Winamp Modern skin, for those of you who wish to use that instead. You can choose not to have support for Modern skins at all by unchecking the feature when installing. A detailed list, compiled by DJ Egg, of all modular features which can be deselected prior to installation can be found here.

If you decide to use Modern/Freeform skins, there are several tweaks you can apply to your preferences, improving your performance while using these skins. All of these preferences can be quickly accessed by pressing Ctrl + P.

  • Skins > Modern Skins > General tab. On the Timer's Resolution, experiment with what works best for you by moving the slider to the right. The farther right you move the slider, the less CPU this function will use.
  • Skins > Modern Skins > Alpha Blending tab. Uncheck: Enable Desktop Alpha Blending (when requested by skin).
  • Skins > Modern Skins > Font Rendering. Checkmark: Allow use of bitmap fonts that have not been mapped.
  • Skins > Modern Skins > Current Skin tab > Skin Options button. Uncheck: Enable Beat Visualization
  • Skins > Modern Skins > Current Skin tab > Skin Options button > Song Ticker. Checkmark: Disable Song Ticker scrolling

5. Fine Tune Your General Preferences

Listed below are several options in Winamp's preferences that you can choose to either enable or disable. While each of these options should add some speed to either your load times or general usage, you should make sure that Winamp retains the functionality you need before turning off any features. All of these preferences can be quickly accessed by pressing Ctrl + P.

  • General Preferences. Uncheck: Show splash screen.
  • General Preferences. Uncheck: Check for new versions of Winamp at startup
  • General Preferences. Uncheck: Allow Winamp to report anonymous usage statistics
  • General Preferences > File Types. Uncheck: Restore file associations at Winamp start-up (Leave this checkmarked if you find that your other media players are resetting your file associations.)
  • General Preferences > Titles > Metadata Reading section. Select either the 2nd or 3rd options.
  • General Preferences > Global Hotkeys. Uncheck: Enabled (Leave this checkmarked if you wish to use Global Hotkeys.)
  • General Preferences > Media Library > Local Media > Options tab. Checkmark: do not load the Media Library database at Winamp start-up
  • General Preferences > Media Library > Local Media > Watch Folders tab. Uncheck: Rescan folders at startup
  • General Preferences > Media Library > Options tab. Uncheck: Enable 'Recently Played' view in Media Library (Leave this checkmarked if you wish to use the Recently Played view and keep track of your play counts.)
  • General Preferences > Media Library > CD Ripping > Ripping tab. Uncheck: read audio data from CDs using bundled Sonic extraction engine (Disabling this option will instruct Winamp to rip via a third party ASPI driver or, if not available, using the native NT SCSI API.)

6. Leave Winamp Minimized

Many users report that Winamp requires less CPU when in it's minimized state. You can usually find the minimize button on the main window's top right corner, third from the right. If you have Global Hotkeys enabled, a keyboard with multimedia buttons, or a plug-in that provides you with alternate playback controls, you should still be able to carry out basic functions with Winamp while the player is minimized.

7. Consult the Winamp Forums

If worse comes to worse, and none of the above tips help you, your problems might require a lot more than this guide can help you with. If that's the case, I suggest you either visit #winamptech (, or the Winamp Technical Supportsection of the Winamp forums. There should be a lot of good folks ready to help you in both of the above spots. Please make sure to run a search on your problem first before posting on the forums. Also, make sure that you include your system specifications, along with what plug-ins you are using by supplying a List of Plugins and confirm whether or not you have performed a clean install.