Wednesday, December 26, 2012

SkyDrive and the Windows 8 Music App

SkyDrive and the Windows 8 Music App

Problem: Your music library is on SkyDrive and the Windows 8 Music App does not see or manage all of your music – especially songs and albums in M4A format.

I found this when using my brand new Microsoft Surface R/T device. The Music application reported hundreds of songs under: “Unknown Artist”. When I scanned the titles in the folder I recognized almost all of the list and quickly figured out something was wrong. Also, the whole idea of putting your music on SkyDrive is to have it available on my multiple computers, my Windows 8 Smartphone, and my Xbox (which will soon be connected to my home audio system).

The Music application does not recognize many M4A files and might have trouble with some WMA files as well. The M4A file type is primarily associated with 'MPEG-4 Audio Layer'. This format is also known as Apple Lossless, Apple Lossless Encoder, or ALE. It is a new codec designed to provide lossless encoding in less storage space.

How many items does the Music application show on your “Unknown Artist” list?

Just a few, or hundreds? Since the conversion process is one-by-one, you may need to set aside some time if the list is long. I was able to resolve all 600+ songs in about 3 hours (while writing these notes). All you need to do is convert files M4A files to MP3 format, and repost the files to SkyDrive.


All of the images can be clicked for a larger view.
  1. Download and install Format Converter X from the Windows App Store (you may also want the SkyDrive Client - which is a plug-in for Explorer).
  2. Convert non-MP3 files to MP3 – I did this using a fairly powerful laptop with dual monitors so that I could manage the Windows 8 applications and use the desktop version of Windows Explorer. Working on a small screen or on a tablet will take a lot more time.   

    1. Open the Format Converter X application (read and approve licensing)
    2. Click the blue “To MP3” tile
    3. Navigate (Go Up) to your music library
    4. Click the tile for the Artist - which brings up the album(s)
    5. Click the tile for the Album – which brings up the song(s) Click Select All (or click to select individually)
    6. Click “Open” in the bottom right corner, which will open the Format Converter X user interface.
    7. Verify the “From” song and file type
    8. Verify the “To” file type, Quality (I set all of mine to high) and path. I set mine to the local Music library on my laptop, but you can point the converted files to a specific directory. Since I had so many to convert it was easier for me to drag and drop the converted files into their final location, rather than editing the location, artist, and for each entry. 
    9. Click the Convert button, or right-click and Convert All. Format Converter X will do the conversion, and provide a pop-up message when complete. Individual songs take seconds, and an entire album just a couple of minutes.
    10. If you chose the SkyDrive folder for the artist and album, you can simply open the music app and verify that the songs arrived (you may have to wait for the sync process).
    11. If you directed Format Converter X to send the files to your local music file, then select, drag and drop the songs into the proper SkyDrive folder.
      1. Upload to SkyDrive (simple Drag and Drop from Windows Explorer view)
        1. Select Artist folders from My Music (local copy)
        2. Drag and Drop to the correct artist and album folder on SkyDrive
  3. Allow SkyDrive to Sync
  4. Open the Music App and allow the Music App to Sync - you can actually watch the albums as they load.
  5. Verify your MP3 files have completed the SYNC process (Green check mark)
  6. Look for music that is still under “Unknown Artist” – These are likely WMA or M4A files that have not been converted, or that have not been deleted from the Album folder. 
  7. In Windows Explorer - Highlight and delete (or Move off of SkyDrive) the M4A, WMA or other file formats (to save space). Most MP3 files are 20-25% smaller than WMA files, so you get more songs stored in exchange for the lesser sound quality. If you prefer the higher bit rates, or plan to use Media Player, I would suggest dropping the non-MP3 files back onto your local drive or to an USB drive.

What to look for during the process:

  1. What size is the MP3 file? (1 bit = fail, 500-900 bits = fail)
  2. Green check mark = Done with Sync
  3. Blue swirl = Waiting to Sync
  4. Red "X" = Problem (I ran out of space using WMA/M4A formats)
  5. You can correct spelling mistakes from the Explorer window
If you have no files under "Unknown Artist" you are done! Don't be surprised if there are a few stragglers. Many of my Punk rock imports and some of the compilation CDs just will not pull META data. But if you are listening to mainstream recent works, you'll be just fine. Album art is still a bit rough, but I'm only missing a couple from 34 albums, and most of the albums with compilations display album art for the individual songs.

For the old-timers in the crowd (or for those that like the excellent sound quality from a CD)-

Better music from a CD:

  1. Insert the CD into the disk drive
  2. Rip the CD to MP3 format (choose highest bit-rate for best sound)
    1. You can Rip a second time for other formats (WMA, etc.)
    2. Use “Move” command to transfer the album from local folder to SkyDrive
      1. Or, Drag and Drop from Windows Explorer to SkyDrive
  3. Wait for SkyDrive to sync
  4. Open Music App
  5. Wait for Music App to sync

Bottom Line

Ok, so this fix is not fast, but it is pretty easy, and when you are done, your music will all be in one accessible place, in one (or two) formats. Not quite Nirvana, maybe Manic Nirvana.