Windows 10's built-in music app is all right, but it's very simple. If you want to really get the most out of your music collection, you'll need to download something else – and there are some great options available.
Whether it's organizing and tagging your music collection, downloading and streaming from online radio services, or optimizing playback for different devices, there's an app here that will make it effortless – whatever your level of experience.
The best free music apps for Windows will give you full control over your music library and help you enjoy it like never before. Here's our pick of the best options around.
MusicBee is, quite simply, the best app around for managing and playing your music collection. Unlike some apps, which try to cover all forms of media (with varying degrees of success), MusicBee is dedicated entirely to songs, and the focus shows.
Unlike most music apps for Windows, which require you to build up a new library from scratch, MusicBee lets you import your existing tracklists from Windows Media Player or iTunes.
Once that's done, getting everything organized is a piece of cake. MusicBee labels your songs using industry-standard metadata, and does a brilliant job of searching for any missing information online. If there's anything it doesn't get quite right, everything can be edited manually.
There’s a multi-band equalizer with digital signal processing effects, support for high-end audio cards, upmixing from stereo to surround sound and even support for WinAmp plugins to expand the app further.
MusicBee is also packed with thoughtful little touches that show how much thought has gone into its design. For example, in addition to finding the usual metadata like the year of release, artist and publisher, the app will search online for photos of the artists in your music library, which it will display in a neat slideshow while their tracks are playing. It will hunt down lyrics too and superimpose them over the top – all without you having to do a thing.
It's a truly exceptional music app for Windows, and should be your first choice if you're looking for a way to get more from your songs.
Unlike MusicBee, MediaMonkey isn't designed exclusively for songs, but it's still one of the best free music apps for Windows.
This is no simple player. MediaMonkey is designed to form the basis of a serious home media setup, and can take files from pretty much any source (local, online or a networked drive), with automatic conversion and leveling.
MediaMonkey will also track down appropriate metadata from online sources, plus song lyrics and album art to help get your tracks organized.
If you're also interested in archiving your CD collection then you'll want to take a look at MediaMonkey gold. Lots of music apps can copy music from discs, but very few offer bit-perfect ripping that ensures you're getting a perfect like-for-like copy of your tracks. MediaMonkey Gold can also convert these lossless files into a more convenient format for playback.
For everything else, the standard free version of MediaMonkey is all you need.
This free music app for Windows is smart, stylish and unfussy, making enjoying your favorite tracks effortless.
Some of the apps in this roundup might be a little intimidating if you're not used to the finer details of music management, but Dopamine makes everything as straightforward as possible.
It offers a choice of interfaces – a full-screen player, one that displays album covers together with playback controls, and a nano version that only shows controls for starting, stopping and skipping tracks. It can even pick up the color scheme from your Windows desktop automatically, which ensures it always looks great.
Dopamine doesn't support as many file formats as tools like VLC Media Player, but it has all the most popular options covered. Provided you haven't gathered a music collection from dozens of esoteric sources online, it should be able to handle everything without a hiccup.
If your music collection needs some serious reorganization and tagging then a tool like MusicBee will suit you better, but you could always switch to Dopamine once you've used a more sophisticated music app to get everything in order.
VLC is a hugely popular open souce media app, and for good reason. It can handly virtually any file format you can throw at it – music or video – and even convert between different formats if necessary.
It's hugely customizable via plugins, but the main software also receives regular updates to keep it up to date with modern technology. Some recent additions include support for 360-degree video and virtual reality. Not so important if you're just looking for a music app, but if you need a more general purpose media player then you'll be hard pressed to find something more capable.
VLC also supports all the main streaming protocols, so you can download it safe in the knowledge that it'll be able to handle your preferred music streaming service.
It's maintained by a dedicated team of volunteers, who have developed versions for Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android and iOS. Provided your music collection isn't a complete mess to begin with, in which case you'll find something like MusicBee easier to work with, VLC is the only media player you'll ever need.
If you're interested in streaming your music collection around your home – and possibly your videos and TV shows as well – Kodi is a great place to start.
The Kodi app is free to download, and is an ideal heart for any home media setup. It's incredibly flexible, and almost infinitely extendable via plug-ins. Take care to only install ones that have been given the green light by Kodi itself – there are some illegal add-one around that stream copyright-protected material from the internet.
Kodi works best when hooked up to a TV or large monitor for watching movies and shows, but that's not an issue for music and it will run perfectly happily on even a low-powered PC or laptop.
You can use the software to stream music to your mobile devices too – though iOS users will need to jailbreak their phones or tablets, which always carries a certain degree of risk.
- Want to play video as well as music? Check out the best free media players