Have a look at Media Player Classic. At first sight this tiny progam looks
incredibly Spartan compared to WMP, but try using it a while and you'll
realise that it's a far more solid and stable piece of code.
Also useful with MPC are ffdshow for DivX/Xvid files, the WMP codec pack
from MS, Real Alternative and Quicktime Alternative. With these, MPC will
handle most media formats.
It does the same on both of my Win2K machines, too. I had always
assumed the cause to be that I have WMP solidly locked out of gratuitous
Internet access with my firewall in order to prevent an unending flow of
FWIW, the m$ codec pack will not install unless WMP7 or better is
present on your computer. More insidiously, uninstalling WMP7 or better
also removes the codec pack. It's the m$ way....