Offline mode silently prevents you from streaming media content


Into Windows Media Player (version 9 if you're keeping score at home), I type the URL of an MP3 file (poor man's podcast) and get the error message "The download of the specified resource has failed."

On this dialog there two buttons: Close and Web Help. Close closes the error dialog, of course. Web Help does nothing.

Turns out the real problem was that I was in offline mode. Go to the File menu and uncheck "Work Offline".

So if you get the "The download of the specified resource has failed." error, check that you aren't accidentally running in offline mode.

Working backwards, I'm guessing that the Web Help button didn't work because I was offline. Which is kind of ironic, because the only way to get help is to have already fixed your problem...

Comments (14)
  1. Tom says:

    Ah, Windows Media Player 9 errors.  Here’s my favorite – I
    can’t play ANY video, off the net or off my hard drive, unless I’m
    running media player as Administrator.  When trying I get either
    nothing at all or the error “Windows Media Player cannot play the file.
     The file is either corrupt or the Player does not support the
    format you are trying to play.”  

    Well… I can play them all if I log in as administrator or I runas
    administrator, so the error is in error.  Searching the net and
    usenet I find others with the problem and guesses but no solution.

    So… I’m stuck trying to keep my computer reasonably secure but
    being forced to open it up to potential exploits if I want to watch any
    video.

    Sigh, I wish all Microsoft’s developers were as thorough as you Raymond.

    [Hm, I don’t have that problem. Maybe you have a third-party codec that requires administrator privileges? -Raymond]
  2. Dave says:

    I think the logic behind it is that if you are really working when you select Work Offline, you shouldn’t be listening to music. :-)

  3. Stu says:

    So, did you report this issue to the media player team?

    [It’s for version 9. I’m two versions out of date. This is hardly a critical bug for such an old product. -Raymond]
  4. Mal says:

    It appears to be fixed in version 11 at least. You get a "Webpage unavailable while offline" message with options to "Connect" or "Stay Offline".  Far more informative.

  5. notwork says:

    Funny, when you select "work offline" mediaplayer does the opposite, it does not work offline.

  6. David Walker says:

    Notwork: I think "work offline" is a toggle.  It goes on and off each time you select it.

  7. Al says:

    I think notwork was making a joke :)

    As for Tom’s problem. It might be that the particular CODEC that is required for whatever video you’re watching has to be run as administrator (I dunno, I can imagine some CODEC authors are weird like that… Maybe it stores some registry key in a place you can’t access when not Administrator?) and thus the CODEC fails to load and thus WMP9 thinks that there IS no CODEC and thus it says it can’t play it and gives a generic ‘CODEC won’t work’ error.

    Of course if you’re just trying to play any normal non-special CODEC video then I dunno what could be up. Maybe you installed a new special CODEC that decided to associate itself with all videos it is able to play, rather than its one particular video type. You could try using GSpot – http://www.headbands.com/gspot/ – and seeing whether GSpot can render it. If it can’t (or if you notice that an odd CODEC is taking over a normal CODEC) then you can set the weird broken CODEC’s priority to low.

    I really wish I hadn’t started capitalising CODEC now, it’s been such a pain to type every time.

    Anyway, I hope that helps.

  8. I could argue that the Web Help button is always broken, since it usually has even less helpful info than the unreadable error it was meant to explain.

  9. Tom says:

    Well, I’ve been troubleshooting my codec problem.  Here’s a little more I’ve tried and learned from:

    I attempted to play a video with mplayer2.exe (which actually runs media player 6).  In administrator mode it plays and in the file->properties->advanced it says the codecs installed AND in use are Windows Media Audio 9 and Windows Media Video 8.  

    As a non-admin I did the same and it gives me an error, but then plays the video without audio.  In file->properties->advanced it now shows Windows Media Audio 9 as NOT being installed.

    So now I’m trying to find why that is…

  10. rude gui says:
    • Do you want more help [Yes/No]?
    • Yes.

    • You can’t have it, ha ha.

    And you wonder why people hate ms.

  11. Tom says:

    Well, I thought I’d add this in case anyone else it curious or Raymond happens to read and something to check clicks in his head.  I tried playing the videos from two other accounts with administrator rights, one that was there from long ago and before I (re)installed WMP9 and one I just created moments ago.  The videos will only play for the original/first/primary administrator account, and the symptoms appear the same – the Windows Media Audio codec doesn’t work in any other account.

  12. Neal says:

    Ditto, the same problem and symptoms but after much frustration and inspection I managed to fix it.

    The problem on my end was that [HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftActiveMoviedevenum] contained entries for all devicesfilters when logged in as administrator but for only a few of them with any of the other accounts.

    Note that device manager showed all filters installed in all accounts and this was after a reinstall of media player, directx, and all audio drivers.

    My fix (which is not necessarily the correct one) was to log in as administrator, export that key and its subkeys, then log in as the other users and import them into the registry.

    Why these settings aren’t syncronized between all accounts I don’t know but I suspect they should be.  

    Oh, this also caused a crash and generated an error report if you ran Media Player, went to tools, options, devices, and checked the properties for the speakers/audio.

  13. Luci Sandor says:

    Both Google Talk (the new IM from the cool Behemoth) and the newest MSN Messenger cannot cope with cutting the internet connection all of a suddden. Both also offer solutions to the cryptic error message they threw through … "web help".

  14. Norman Diamond says:

    The problem of some MS tools working under some administrative accounts but not working under other administrative accounts is a familiar one.  I don’t know if any of these match Tom’s problem but they might.

    First thing to notice is that the exact account name "Administrator" consists of characters from a very limited set, no non-ASCII, no blanks.

    On a Japanese Windows system if an administrative account has a Japanese name, some MS tools get confused.  Some tools can be made to work by moving the user’s temp folder or "My Documents" folder to a different location which doesn’t include the user’s account name and has only ASCII characters.

    Some MS tools get confused if a pathname has blanks.  Of course this means that "Documents and Settings" might be a problem from the start, but it might not be if a short name like Docume~1 works.  Some tools might not figure out short names for account names, I’m not sure.

    A different reason relates to permissions.  It is possible for a disk drive’s root directory to grant permissions to some administrative users but not to others.  Of course this isn’t for security purposes because administrative users can always take ownership, but nonetheless such settings are possible.  Some MS tools get confused if they’re prohibited access to a disk drive that they weren’t supposed to use in the first place.  In some cases they will obediently proceed to not use the drive that they weren’t supposed to use, but only if they’re given permission to use the drive that they won’t use.  (In cases where the drive which shouldn’t be used is the C drive, I think I’ve also had problems with some non-MS tools.  In cases where it’s the D or later drive, I’ve only encountered it with MS tools.  Your experience might vary.)

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