Playlist formats

Apparently my Ford Fusion is not compatible with the default playlist format (.PLA) that Windows Media Player uses.  I am able to make WMP save playlists in the .M3U format and have confirmed that only they reside in my /My Music/ My Playlists folder. However when I synchronize playlists to my Sansa Clip+ they go over in .PLA format anyway (even though that file doesn’t exist?).  Manually deleting the .PLA file and copying the .M3U file to the Sansa doesn’t seem to work.  Is there a way to synchronize between WMP and the Sansa such that it transfers a .M3U playlist file?  I should mention that my music collection is stored on a different computer hard drive than the C: drive that contains my /My Music /My Playlist  folder.  Maybe that is a problem?  If so, can I change the default playlist storage location to other than the C: drive?  There is not enough room on my C: drive for all my music. Thanks for any help!


  1. I don’t make playlists with WMP so I can’t advise you there. I make .m3u playlists with Winap and have had not problems.

  2. M3u playlist do not get stored in the Playlists folder on your player. They won’t work that way. They MUST be stored in the Music folder along with the mucis files that populate the playlist.

  3. In creating an .m3u playlist, remember the playlist must be created from files as they reside on the the player for the path to find them (the playlist file itself) to be accurate. You cannot create a playlist of files on your computer (or external hard drive) and then copy the playlist file over to the player, even though the files in the playlist happen to be residiing on the player as well; the path won’t be right.

  4. I’m not familar with the Ford Fusion and the head unit it uses, but other auto stereo systems that have a USB port for connecting an mp3 player do not recognize nor play playlists. The only way I can do that in my KIA Sorento is to use the AUX IN jack (basically playing through the headphone jack) and controlling things on the player, not the car’s head unit.

Basically a playlist is a list of locations. It tells the computer, play this file from this folder, then play this file from a different folder.

So the playlists you’re sending over from the computer are telling the Sansa how to find the folders on your computer. Not so good. As Tapeworm says, you need to build the playlist on the Sansa itself.

You could connect the player, make sure your music is on it, and make playlists with WMP.  PLA playlists are a little mysterious–they are binary files, basically little programs operating the processor. M3U lists are more human-comprehensible text lists. There should be a setting in WMP allowing you to choose the format.

Or you could use Winamp, which is less convoluted than WMP.

Winamp, although currently on hiatus, is–was?–a very sensible music library software that will work in MSC mode (Settings/System Settings/USB).  You can get a good version here but–IMPORTANT–use the little “Direct Download” link BELOW the big green button.

Or if you prefer, this skips to the direct download:

As Tapeworm said, you may just have to use the unit as a player instead of controlling it from the car.  Or, alternately, you may have to put the unit into MSC and just use it as, essentially, a thumb drive. But for more info there, you’d need to consult Ford or the stereo maker’s manual.

Thank you very much for the detailed info Tapeworm.  I had thought that syncronizing my Sansa to WMP would result in a new playlist being generated on the Sansa with the appropriate links to the music files on the Sansa.  When I originally created the playlist on WMP on my computer and specified it to be in the .M3U format this resulted in a 5KB file saved in the /My Music/Playlists folder on my computer.  When I sync’ed to the Sansa it entered a .PLA playlist with the same root name in the Playlist folder of the Sansa.  What is more interesting is that my computer reports that file (the .PLA file on the Sansa) contains no bytes of data and the Ford says the “Playlist is empty”.  However with the Sansa detached from both the Ford and my computer I can select and play the playlist.  Bizaar!

I’m not following what you say about where a .M3U playlist must be stored.  WMP stores my music on the Sansa in the same folder structure as on my computer: /Music /Artist #1 /Artist #1 Album #1 . . .  Artist #1 Album #N.  My playlist includes tunes stored in different album folders.  Are you saying that all of the tunes in an .M3U playlist must be glommed into a single folder or maybe even only in the main /Music folder?  The Ford manual indicates that it should be able to play music by Artist, by Album, by Playlist, by Genre, etc.  Or maybe that is what is happening every time I plug the Sansa into the Ford and get the “Indexing Device” message; it is expecting all the music to be in one folder and is sorting it out by reading the file metadata? 

I’ll try Winamp this weekend and see if it works better for me.  Maybe the Ford would actually work with a .PLA playlist file if it contained information :o).   I has bought the Sansa specifically to work over the USB port in the Ford as it does not have a mini sereo jack to plug into. I had been playing into its red-white RCA jack A/V connectors via an adapter cable and powering it from a 12V  outlet in the console: a snarly mess of cables.  I really hope I can get the Sansa working via USB. Thanks!

Black-Rectangle: Thank you very much for your detailed response.  See my response to Tapeworm above.  I’m ready to throw in the towel on WMP and will try Winamp this weekend.  Thanks for the links!  I’m beginning to suspect that the Ford can’t deal with the music folder structure on my Sansa.  I’ll try one of my kid’s iPods this weekend and see if it works. The Sansa by itself is a pretty amazing music player.  I hope I can get it integrated with my car. 

If your stereo is indexing the unit, or trying to, you really need to find the instructions for your stereo because the stereo is running firmware of its own–it’s not letting the Sansa pick the music.  

The stereo instructions should  tell you what USB mode it expects and what kind of playlists it reads.

My guess is that the car stereo is just expecting to find stored music–MSC (Mass Storage Class) mode, which you can use on the Sansa, making your USB connection see it as simple storage rather than a media device (MTP/Media Transfer Protocol  mode).

Your computer can only see one mode at a time. When you switch modes to MSC, the music you sent over in MTP becomes invisible to the computer. The Sansa can still find everything when you disconnect, but you probably want to stick to just one mode.

Actually,  it may end up being easier just to get a 32GB USB thumb drive, put your music on that (and possibly m3u playlists with  Winamp)  and let the car stereo do the rest. 

By the way,  PLA playlists always read as 0kb.  There is a lot more on playlists here:

Black-Rectangle you are so knowledgeable and helpful!  I happened to have a Sandisk 32GB thumb drive that I use to backup my computer files including my music collection.  I popped it into the Ford USB port and, after the car did some indexing, it let me browse to the My Music folder and play any tune, artist or album.  Awesome!  I’ll likely get another thumb drive for just this purpose and see if I can generate compatible playlists on Winamp.   I’m still happy to have the Sansa though.  Maybe I will now get rid of my Minidisk players :o).  I am interested in learning more about the MSC and MTP modes and will certainly take advantage of the playlist link you provided.  Thank you very much for all of the help!


For playback purposes indoors, walking around, etc. , the Clip fits into your pocket a lot more easily than the Ford.

If you’ve been making playlists with WMP, you should try doing that with the 32GB drive. Select from the music on the drive (not in the computer) and it might just work without a lot of fuss.

Just to close out this thread with what eventually worked for me: I did switch from WMP to Winamp which I find easier to use as suggested. I loaded my music collection onto a (blank) USB thumb drive and then loaded Winamp from there. Then I composed playlists in Winamp and from its File tab selected Save Playlist which brought up a dialog box. The default file type was .M3u8 which didn’t work for me. .M3u did work in my Ford Fusion; I didn’t try any of the other formats.  Placing the playlist file in a /Playlists folder on the thumb drive didn’t work for me (I think WMP was doing that?).  My Ford showed the playlist name but said it was empty.  Placing the playlist file in the root directory of the thumb drive worked although I couldn’t find any way to easily display playlists on the Ford’s touch screen.  I actually had to use the Sync voice command “Show Playlists” to have them show up on the touch screen.  And I could only do that after the Ford was done “Indexing Device” and “Creating Commands” which takes several minutes with about 1450 tunes on the thumb drive.  Hopefully that wait reduces when I begin to leave the drive plugged into the car.  What a struggle!  Many thanks to Black-Rectangle and Tapeworm for their expert advice!  Oldguy

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