How to remove Windows Media Player from Windows XP

WMP is a diabolical bastard - steals associations from other programs without being used, screws up DVD autoplay settings, is a bloated piece of crap, and due to Microsoft's infernal mechanisms, is remarkably hard to remove.
It also is reinstalled as part of the Service Pack 3 upgrade...

No normal method will do the trick to remove this malware infestation, which is why I've put together the following simple steps to salvation:

Bulletproof steps to removing Windows Media Player (9 or above)

  1. If WMP is actually installed rather than just 'latent' in the system (ie. it prompts you to install it every time you try to play a media file), either remove it by removing it from the the Add/Remove programs list (control panel, add/remove programs),
    or go into the "Add/remove Windows Components" section of the Add/Remove programs list (left-hand side) and untick it there.
  2. Disable Windows File Protection by downloading and running this app,
    or by following Microsoft's own instructions here.
  3. Go into Explorer, Tools menu, folder options, View tab, and turn on "Show hidden files and folders" and turn off "Hide protected operating system files".
  4. Delete the "c:\program files\Windows Media Player" directory.
  5. Go into c:\windows\inf and delete any file starting with "wmp" except for wmpocm.inf (used by the Windows Add/remove windows components section). Ditto within c:\windows\system32.
  6. Go into Explorer, Tools menu, folder options, View tab, and turn off "Show hidden files and folders" and turn on "Hide protected operating system files".
  7. Re-enable Windows File Protection either via the same app mentioned in 1. or via the instructions from Microsoft.
  8. Reboot.
  9. (Optional) If you experience problems with Autoplay on your DVD or CD drive, download and run Microsoft's Autoplay Repair Wizard, and make sure you have Autoplay enabled on that drive using Microsoft's Tweakui.

Viola. Now install, or reconfigure, whatever your favourite media player is (I like VLC Media Player, an excellent open-source effort).

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