Online Help Center > Using Audio and Video >

Using Real Media and Windows Media Files on

NPR has an extensive online audio archive, dating back to 1996 for some popular programs. Due to changes in technology over the years, some of this archived audio is only available in limited formats and may not be compatible with the NPR Media Player.

From 1996 to 2003, most files are available in Real Media format only. From 2003 to mid-2005, both Windows Media and Real Media format are usually available. After this point, most audio should be available in the NPR Media Player.

In addition, most video prior to November 2007 is available only in Real Media format.

This page explains some of the common questions about accessing this archived material in Real Media or Windows Media format.

Common Questions and Issues:


Which players are supported for Real Media and Windows Media files on

Real Media and Windows Media links on launch the "standalone" versions of the Real Media Player and Windows Media Player.

Thus, to use these links you must have the approriate player installed on your system.

For best performance, we recommend that you use the latest version of your selected player. Newer versions often fix performance and compatibility issues and operate more reliably on modern systems.

While we strive to make accessible via a wide variety of platforms, browers and devices, the following combinations have been tested and are recommended for greatest compatibility with (as of April 2007):

Windows 2000/XP/Vista

Browsers Media Players


Browsers Media Players


Browsers Media Players

JavaScript and Cookies
In addition, many features on require JavaScript to be enabled to function properly. also uses browser “cookies” to store information according to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

Where can I download or get technical support for the Real Player or Windows Media Player?

For the Real Player, produced by Real Networks:

For the Windows Media Player, produced by Microsoft:

I select an audio link and nothing happens, or I hear a "click"

When you select an audio link, attempts to open a new browser window that contains the audio player. If you hear a "click" or "pop" or see a message at the top of your browser window when you select audio, please set your pop-up blocker to allow to launch windows.

A player window opens, but the audio doesn't start

You may need to change your firewall settings to permit streaming media (please consult your network administrator or service provider) or adjust your player's transport settings to listen to audio. Every site encodes and serves their audio a little differently, so even if your player works on some other sites, you may experience errors on, and vice versa.

Can I use Flip4Mac to play NPR audio on my MacOS X computer?

Windows Media Player 9 for MacOS X is no longer supported by Microsoft though it is still available for download.

Microsoft's recommended replacement for playing Windows Media content on MacOS is Flip4Mac from Telestream, but as of April 2007 some versions of this software have a known bug that prevents proper playing of NPR audio. Thus, we currently recommend that MacOS users who are having trouble with Windows Media format files try RealPlayer instead.

Quicktime or Adobe GoLive opens instead of RealPlayer

Sometimes, Quicktime, iTunes, Adobe GoLive, or another application will try to open and play ".smil" files which can only be used by RealPlayer. To fix this problem, please re-install RealPlayer or reset system and browser preferences to designate Real as the "owner" of these files:

Windows: Close all web browsers and open RealPlayer 10.5. Select "Tools --> Preferences" and in the dialog box that appears, select "Content --> Media Types". Select the option "Manually configure media types for RealPlayer" and click the Select button. In the list that appears, make sure that all of the checkboxes under "RealAudio and RealVideo" are checked. Then, near the bottom of the list under "Other Media" ensure that the box next to "SMIL Multimedia Presentation" is also checked. Click Ok to exit the dialog box. Check the box next to "Reapply your media type settings every time RealPlayer starts." and click Ok again to save your settings.

Macintosh OS X: Close all web browsers and open RealPlayer 10.1. Select "Help --> Check Media Types" from the menu. In the dialog that appears, make sure that all four items (particularly "SMIL Multimedia Presentation") are checked. If you had to check any of the items, click the "Save Media Types" button at the bottom of the dialog. Then, click the red dot in the upper left to close the dialog.

Still having trouble? Contact Us.

If you fill out our Contact form this will provide information to NPR and we will do our best to assist you in resolving media player issues on supported configurations as described above.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor


Browse Topics



PBS logo