Hi, I’m looking into buying a Sansa Clip+ for my father who is technologically inept to say the least, so I’m attracted by the simplicity of the player. I’m thinking I’d probably get him to sync his music files from an external hard drive to the player via Windows Media Player but I have a query about how this will work with the sd card. When syncing occurs, are the sd card and the player’s internal storage regarded as one? As in, if he has file A on the player and file B on the sd card, will the syncing process recognize this as a complete sync (provided both files are on the hard drive), or will syncing only want to put both files either on the player or on the sd card? I hope this makes sense. I want to be as well informed as possible as I’m anxious the process could be too complicated for him.
Sorry this is long, but bear with it, because the Sansa is definitely simple enough for Dad even if the explanation isn’t.
To avoid complications, don’t bother with sync at all. Sansas can work without Windows Media Player–or any other library program–in MSC mode. This is initially confusing, because Sansa’s documentation isn’t great, but it is one of the best features of the player because you can see what you’re doing without Windows Media Player in between.
Sync means having WIndows Media Player make sure the same files are on the unit as on the computer. But you’ll probably want to keep a lot of files on the computer and a more select group on the Sansa. Syncing, which is automatic unless you play with the defaults in WMP, often bollixes things up. Left alone, it will try to dump every media file in your computer–music, photos, videos–onto the poor little Sansa.
Luckily, the Sansa can be put in MSC mode. Settings/System Settings/USB Mode/MSC. This makes the internal storage and the microSD card in the slot show up in Windows Explorer (Computer or My Computer) as simple storage units–little USB flash drives. Nothing automatic. Set that up for Dad before you give him the unit.
Music files–from whichever folder on the hard drive holds them–can be drag-and-dropped or cut-and-pasted to internal memory or the microSD card and the player will find them. If the songs are in subfolders by Artist/Album you can drag-and-drop the whole folder and subfolders if you want them.
From ID3 tags (electronic labels in the files), the Sansa makes a database and shows Artist, Album, Song (title), etc. If Dad is really old-school he can also go into Music and scroll past Artist, Album, etc. to Folders, which shows the filenames in a Windows-like directory structure (folders and sub-folders) on the separate drives,
Library programs like WMP are useful if you want to make a playlist of songs from various albums on the computer, and send those over. Those songs all have to be in the same drive–I think in the internal drive, but someone will correct me if I’m wrong (I don’t use WMP with the Sansa). But WMP will also do that in MSC mode–and it won’t try to do automatic stuff that will drive Dad crazy.
You might also look at another library program–Media Monkey. There’s a free version that does everything except rip mp3s from CDs (WMP will do that for you). www.mediamonkey.com . It will also do playlists in MSC mode.
Why does anyone use WMP? Some people are stuck with files made with WMP that are copy-protected .wma (Windows Media Audio) files, which was the default setting on WMP ripping. “Copy-protected” means the files won’t play on the unit unless WMP also sends over hidden unlock codes in its automatic mode (which, as you’ll see under Settings/System Settings, is called MTP–Media Transfer Protocol).
MTP mode is also necessary for things like library audiobooks that have hidden expiration codes.
If Dad’s music files are copy-protected or he’s getting audiobooks from the library, then you’ll have to deal with WMP or with audiobook software (Overdrive, usually) that uses MTP mode. You’d have to go into Settings/System Settings/USB Mode and change it to MTP.
But if Dad’s songs are plain old mp3, or even .wma without copy protection, MSC mode is all you need.
Hi Black-Rectangle, thanks for your really helpful answer. Yeah, I pretty much had the same reaction to the whole syncing thing but my brother was adamant that if it all goes automatically then my dad will have to do less technology stuff (my brother’s an Apple guy though). I’ve personally never set anything to sync in my life and I’ve basically been using my own Zen mp3 player in the way you’ve described since the mid-2000s. So my gut reaction was probably along the right line.
Now, the issue remains about playlists. Am I right in thinking that making a playlist on the Clip is a little awkward without WMP? This is another reason why I was leaning towards the WMP route. One of the main things my father wants to do is make playlists so that’s a pretty high priority.
I believe WMP will also do playlists in MSC mode. And I know that Media Monkey, which is free, will do that. You could also look at the free VLC player from Videolan, which makes .m3u playlists as well.
You should get the unit and play with it a little before giving it to Dad. Try WMP, Media Monkey and VLC and see which looks easier. (Or just try them with your Zen, who knows?) Personally, I like the layout of Media Monkey, but someone who’s used to WMP might prefer that instead.
Thanks for all the great advice, I’ll definitely try them all out and hopefully my dad will get on ok.