Product Support


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What are the main features of this model?

The WS-500M is a combination digital audio recorder/mass storage device/music player. Its built-in flash memory can store 2 GB of data, which equates to more than 544 hours of voice recordings in LP mode or up to about 500 songs in music mode.

The WS-500M can record and play files in the WMA (Windows Media Audio) and MP3 formats. (MP3 recording requires a free firmware download.) These files are natively supported by Windows Media Player, which means Windows computers do not require additional software to play the files. Macintosh systems can play MP3 files natively and can play WMA files via additional optional software.

The recorder supports VCVA (Variable Control Voice Activation) to minimize “dead air” time in lengthy recordings. Up to 16 index marks can be inserted into recordings to bookmark important sections for quick reference. The recordings made by this device are compatible with the Dragon NaturallySpeaking® voice-recognition program.

In music mode, the WS-500M offers a graphic equalizer and SRS WOW XT technology to permit customization of the sound space. Support is built-in for Microsoft Corporation’s DRM9 digital rights-management technology.

As a Mass Storage Class USB device, the recorder can be used to transfer files from one computer to another. Its USB connector is built-in, so it can connect to most computers without a separate cable. (A USB extender cable is provided for convenience.) To expose the connector, slide the connector lever in the direction of the arrow.

The microphone jack accommodates accessory microphones in place of the built-in stereo microphone.

The recorder is bundled with one AAA NiMH battery (BR401) that can be recharged in the device through a computer’s USB port.

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How much recording time is available in the WS-500M?

The length of the potential recording time available is one of several audio file properties goverened by the selected quality mode. A higher-quality data file saves more detailed information and creates a larger data file that uses more memory space. A lower-quality recording makes a less-detailed data file, so the memory goes a lot farther.

The table below shows the maximum recording times possible (assuming there are no other files saved in the recorder).

Quality Mode Maximum Recording Time
Stereo XQ Mode 34 Hours 50 Minutes
Stereo HQ Mode 69 Hours 40 Minutes
Stereo SP Mode 139 Hours 25 Minutes
HQ Mode 139 Hours 25 Minutes
SP Mode 274 Hours 10 Minutes
LP Mode 544 Hours 55 Minutes

The different quality modes save the digital record of the recording with different levels of faithfulness to the original sound. The Stereo XQ Mode is recommended for music, drama or interviews that may be made for broadcast. Stereo XQ (Extra-high Quality) Mode makes a very detailed digital record of the sound and uses a very wide frequency range and high bit rate that uses up the available flash memory very rapidly. Lower-quality modes, such as SP (Standard Play) and LP (Long Play), make a less-detailed digital record of the sound because they use a narrower frequency range and lower bit rate that uses up the available flash memory much more slowly. These modes would be useful for audio note taking and for recording lectures, seminars and other events when  large capacity is more important than high audio quality.

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Which computer operating systems support the WS-500M?

The WS-500M is supported by Windows® 2000 Professional, Windows XP Home Edition and 32-bit and 64-bit editions of Windows XP Professional and Windows Vista™.

The WS-500M is supported on Macintosh® Mac® OS X operating systems from 10.2.8 “Jaguar” through 10.5 “Leopard.”

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How is the recorder turned on/off?

The [HOLD] switch is the recorder's on/off switch.

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How is recording volume controlled?

The WS-500M always records at a 100% volume level to prevent accidentally recording with the volume set too low.

The recorder has two microphone sensitivity levels:

  • Dict is a low-sensitivity level used for dictation and up-close recording.
  • Conf is a high-sensitivity level that can record surrounding sounds. It is useful in conference or lecture situations when the speaker is not near the recorder.

Microphone sensitivity is set in the recorder's menu.

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How is playback volume controlled?

The playback volume is controlled using the [+] (plus) and [-] (minus) buttons on the four-way rocker switch on the recorder's face. [+] increases the playback volume. [-] reduces the playback volume.

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Can the playback speed be controlled?

The WS-500M provides for playback speed control. It may be desirable to use Fast Playback to run through recordings of meetings or Slow Playback to review a language lesson. Setting up the recorder for the playback speed mode is done in the recorder’s menu in the Play Speed option.

The Slow Playback settings are: x0.5 Play, x0.625 Play, x0.75 Play and x0.875 Play.

The Fast Playback settings are: x1.125 Play, x1.25 Play, x1.375 Play, x1.5 Play and x2.0 Play. X2.0 Play may not be available if a high-quality recording mode is used that has a high bit-rate and high sampling frequency, in which case the maximum playback speed will be x1.5.

The speed must be selected and preset in the menu. During playback, selecting Slow Play, Fast Play and Play is done by pressing the [OK] button. The speed mode in use is indicated in the upper right corner with an arrow.

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Does the WS-500M display in languages other than English?

The recorder's display language can be changed. Models sold in North America have the following display language options: English, Français and Español. The language can be selected and set via the LCD > Sound Menu.

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How is the flash memory shared by voice folders?

The WS-500M has 2 GB of flash memory. A small amount of the memory is reserved for the "overhead" - firmware and system files needed to run the recorder. The remaining free memory is shared among the six folders - Folders A through E and the Music folder - plus any files that may be saved to the recorder when using it as a mass storage device.

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How are dictation and music files erased?

To erase a selected file, first press the [INDEX/ERASE] button. Next, press the [+] (plus) or [-] (minus) button to select File Erase, and then press the [OK] button. On the next screen, use the [+] (plus) or [-] (minus) button to select Start and then press [OK] to delete the file. Choose Cancel at either screen to exit without deleting the file.

To erase all files in a folder, first select any file in the folder and press the [INDEX/ERASE] button. Next, press the [+] (plus) or [-] (minus) button to select Erase in Folder, and then press the [OK] button. Next, press the [+] (plus) or [-] (minus) button to select Start, and then press [OK] to erase the contents of the folder. Choose Cancel at either screen to exit without erasing all files in the folder.

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I want to clear my recorder of all the loaded files. How do I format the recorder?

The recorder should only be formatted using the internal FORMAT function found in the recorder's menu. Formatting using the computer may corrupt system files needed to run the recorder, so computer formatting is not recommended.

Note: When the recorder is formatted, music files with DRM might not be able to be transferred to the recorder again. If voice and music files have been loaded onto the recorder and the intention of formatting is to delete the voice files, the recommended procedure is to erase individual files or to erase the contents of a voice file folder. Files can also be safely deleted (not formatted) using a computer.

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What is DRM?

DRM (Digital Right Management) is technology embedded in files to prevent unauthorized duplication of the files. DRM is commonly used to protect music and video content.

Under U.S. copyright law, any voice, music files and CDs downloaded from the Internet without rhe copyright holder's permission may not be reproduced, distributed, publicized/re-publicized on the Internet or converted to WMA or MP3 files for the purpose of commercial business or sale.

A WMA file may be provided with DRM for copyright protection. DRM restricts a user's ability to copy or distribute music files that are distributed (ripped) from a music CD or that were downloaded from music distribution services. To transfer a WMA file with DRM to the recorder, you need to use appropriate methods or programs such as Windows Media Player. Copying DRM-protected music files from online music distribution services to a portable device such as this recorder may be restricted.

The WS-500M is compatible with Microsoft Corporation DRM9 but not with DRM10.

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What does WOW do in the MUSIC Mode?

WOW is audio technology that uses the scientific principles of psychoacoustics to create a psychological impression of the music player's sound space.

SRS 3D (Sound Retrieval System) enhances the surround sound effect. The expansive feel and clarity of the sound can be increased.

TruBass gives the impression of bass "punch" in earbuds without using a subwoofer. The low-frequency range can be adjusted to make it richer.

Both effects have HIGH, MIDDLE, LOW and OFF settings.

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What does the EQ function do in the MUSIC Mode?

The EQ (Equalizer) function is a graphic equalizer used to further customize the recorder's sound space. EQ allows the user to select several audio environments that creat variations in the emphasis of various frequency ranges. The options are Off (default), Rock, Pop, Jazz and User. The User option allows the user to select a frequency band using the [<<] (Rewind) and [>>] (Fast Forward) buttons. The band options in User are 60 Hz, 250 Hz, 1 kHz, 4 kHz and 12 kHz.

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What is VCVA?

Variable Control Voice Actuator (VCVA) is a function that sets up the recorder to record only when sound is detected at a preset level. This extends the recording time by not recording "dead air" or background noise that can use up memory.

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What are Index Marks?

Index Marks are tags that can be inserted while recording or during playback. They are used to skip forward and backward in recordings to pre-selected points. Up to 16 Index marks can be added to a single file.

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What is Voice Recognition?

Voice Recognition technology enables an application to “listen” to the playback of an audio dictation file and convert its contents to a text document. The WMA files created by this recorder are compatible with Dragon NaturallySpeaking&reg; 8 Preferred (and later) and IBM ViaVoice Pro USB Edition 10 (and later).

Voice-recognition programs must be trained to understand individual speakers. The applications can create accounts for individual speakers who have read prepared text under controlled conditions into the digital voice recorder used with the applications. A transcriptionist can make corrections to the text, and these can be incorporated by the voice-to-text software to “learn” how the dictator speaks. If users correct their own text files, they can also learn to enunciate words so that the software can better understand their speech patterns and increase the accuracy of the text-file conversion.

Voice Recognition performs poorly in meeting or lecture situations because of the presence of untrained voices and varying acoustics that will confuse the software.

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How can the blind and visually impaired set the time and date in the WS-510M?

The WS-500M has built-in audio cues that can help the blind or visually impaired users set the time and date.

When the recorder is set in the Time & Date menu, the four-way keypad is used to set the hour, minute, month, day and year variables. Each variable has a baseline value, and pressing the PLUS (UP) and MINUS (DOWN) buttons on the keypad will ascend and descend the values, respectively. When the PLUS (UP) button is pressed, the recorder issues a high-pitched beep. When the MINUS (DOWN) button is pressed, the recorder issues a low-pitched beep. When the baseline value for any variable is reached from either direction, the audio cue for that value becomes a chirp. Once a baseline value has been identified, setting the time and date becomes a simple matter of counting beeps.

The baseline values for hour, minute, month, day and year are, respectively, 12 AM, 00, 1M, 1D, and 2009Y.

Setting the Time and Date

  1. Turn on the recorder and then press the [MENU] button.
  2. Press the PLUS (UP) button on the four-way keypad to select the Device Menu.
  3. Press the [>>] (RIGHT) button once to enter the Device Menu. Time & Date will be selected by default.
  4. Press the [OK] button to enter the Time & Date menu. The first variable to be set is the hour. Press the PLUS (UP) button or MINUS (DOWN) button until the recorder chirps instead of beeps. The chirp means the hour> variable has been set to its baseline value of 12 AM.1
  5. Press the PLUS (UP) button the number of times necessary to arrive at the correct hour value. Remember: The baseline value for hour is 12 AM. Therefore, the first 11 button presses represent AM values. It may be quicker to press the MINUS (DOWN) button and count backward from 12 AM if the correct time is a PM value.
  6. Press the [>> ] (RIGHT) button to move to the minute variable. Press the PLUS (UP) or MINUS (DOWN) button until the recorder chirps instead of beeps. The chirp means the minute variable has been set to its baseline value of 00.
  7. Press the PLUS (UP) button the number of times necessary to arrive at the correct minute value. If it would be quicker to count backward to the minute value, the MINUS (DOWN) button can be used to arrive at the correct minute value.
  8. Press the [>>] (RIGHT) button to move to the month variable.2 Press the PLUS (UP) or MINUS (DOWN) button until the recorder chirps instead of beeps. The chirp means the month variable has been set to its baseline value of 1M, representing January.
  9. Press the PLUS (UP) button the number of times necessary to arrive at the correct month value. If it would be quicker to count backward to the month value, the MINUS (DOWN) button can be used to arrive at the correct month value.
  10. Press the [>>] (RIGHT) button to move to the day variable. Press the PLUS (UP) or MINUS (DOWN) button until the recorder chirps instead of beeps. The chirp means the day variable has been set to its baseline value of 1D, representing the first day of the month.
  11. Press the PLUS (UP) button the number of times necessary to arrive at the correct day value. If it would be quicker to count backward to the day value, the MINUS (DOWN) button can be used to arrive at the correct day value.
  12. Press the [>>] (RIGHT) button to select the year variable. Use either the PLUS (UP) or MINUS (DOWN) button to select a year value. The baseline, 2009Y, is defined by a chirp.
  13. Press the STOP button (center button on the right side of the recorder) to set the time and date settings and close the menu.


1To use a 24-hour clock (e.g military time), press the [LIST] button while the cursor is on the hour or minute variable.

2To change the order in which the month, day, and year variables are displayed, press the [LIST] button while the cursor is resting on any of those variables.

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What software is needed to manage the recordings on a computer?

Because this recorder is a Mass Storage Class device, Windows® and Macintosh® operating systems treat it as an external drive. Files can be transferred between the recorder and the computer using standard drag and drop or copy and paste techniques. No additional software is needed to transfer the files.

Windows and Macintosh platforms can play recordings in the MP3 format using native applications such as Windows Media® Player or iTunes®.

Windows platforms can also play recordings in the WMA (Windows Media Audio) format using the same native applications. To play WMA recordings on Macintosh platforms, it is necessary to download a program that supports the WMA format.

Telestream Inc.’s Flip4Mac® WMV Player, also known as Windows Media Components for QuickTime by Flip4Mac, enables WMA file playback in Apple Computer Inc.’s QuickTime™ Player as well as QuickTime-compatible media players. (Upgrading to QuickTime Player Pro will also enable editing of the WMA files.) For more information, please review these pages maintained by Microsoft and Telestream.

The files created by this recorder are also compatible with the Olympus Sonority family of audio software: OLYMPUS Sonority, OLYMPUS Sonority Plus and OLYMPUS Sonority for Editors: Music. These applications offer a variety of archiving and editing functions, including joining and splitting files and converting recordings into other audio file formats,¹ including those used by popular voice-recognition programs.

OLYMPUS Sonority Plus can be purchased online directly from The Olympus Store. After installing the Plus software, the music-editing plug-in can be purchased by clicking on a link on the software's welcome page.

¹MP3 files created by this recorder can be imported and exported into OLYMPUS Sonority. OLYMPUS Sonority Plus is required to convert files from other formats into MP3 format.

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How do I download files from the WS-500M to a computer?

Slide the USB plug out of the recorder using the control on the left side of the device. Listen for it to snap into place. Connect the recorder to a computer running a supported operating system. The LCD will display a Please Wait prompt while the connection is established. This may take a few moments

On a Windows® platform, the recorder appears in My Computer as a hard disk drive named WS500M. On a Macintosh® platform it appears on the desktop as a drive named WS500M.

On a Windows computer, the files are accessed by double-left-clicking on the drive in My Computer and then double-left-clicking on a folder to display its contents. On a Macintosh computer, the files are accessed by double-clicking on the drive icon, which will open a window on the desktop screen, and then clicking on a folder to display the files.

In either environment, files can be transferred using the operating system's standard copy and move procedures (e.g. drag and drop, copy and paste).

The recorder should not be disconnected from a computer simply by pulling it out of the computer's USB port. Any device that uses a USB port to interface with a computer should be disconnected by first shutting down the USB connection between the device and the computer in order to prevent files from being corrupted.

On a Windows platform, use the Safely Remove Hardware option found in the Taskbar. Be sure to close any files before starting the procedure.

On a Mac, drag the drive icon on the desktop to the Trash icon, or use the EJECT function. Wait for the icon to disappear from the desktop before disconnecting from the USB port.

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Can I rename files in my recorder while it is connected to a computer?

It is not recommended. The recorder’s file-management software may not be able to find a renamed file.

Ideally, files should be renamed prior to syncing with the recorder. Use the computer's file browsing program (My Computer or Windows Explorer on Windows systems and Finder on Macintosh systems) to rename the source music file before adding it to the Windows Media Player Library.

Never rename a file in the recorder’s flash memory. When the recorder is connected to a computer, the computer’s browsing program displays the contents of the recorder’s flash memory. The Sync List window of Windows Media Player’s Sync tab is also connected directly to the flash memory of the recorder. Renaming a music file using any of these methods may corrupt the file and render it unusable.

To change the name of a file after it has been synced with the recorder, do the following:

  1. Rename the file on the Windows Media Player Library tab (not the Sync tab).
  2. Connect the recorder to any free USB port on the computer.
  3. In Windows Media Player, switch to the Sync tab and sync the renamed file. This will place a second copy of the file on the recorder.
  4. Safely disconnect the recorder.
  5. Use the recorder’s menu to navigate to the original file and delete it. The renamed version will remain.

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Can the WS-500M be used as a USB flash drive?

Yes. Because the WS-500M is a Mass Storage Class device, its built-in flash memory can be used like a USB flash drive to transfer data between computers. Text files, graphics, music and images form one system can be uploaded into the recorder's memory and then later downloaded to another system. The two computers do not need to be running the same operating system, but they do need to support the USB Mass Storage Device protocol.

The recorder uses native operating system drivers to interface with each computer. To the operating system, the device appears as an external hard drive. Double-clicking on the "drive" that represents the recorder causes the recorder's contents to be displayed in a window within the operating system's file-browsing application (e.g. My Computer for Windows&reg;-based systems, Finder for Mac&reg; systems). Files are transferred to and from the device using the operating system's standard copy and move procedures, such as drag and drop and cut and paste.

The data occupies space on the recorder's flash memory. Therefore, after uploading data to the recorder, there will be less capacity and recording time available the next time it is used to record audio. Files imported into the device will not be displayed on the LCD screen or in the menu because the device only recognizes files it creates. The recorder is only aware that "other data" is taking up space in its memory.

While the recorder is connected to a computer, files that were imported into the device may be safely removed by using the computer's file-browsing application to delete files from the "drive" displayed on the computer screen. However, files should not be removed by using the computer to format the "drive" that represents the device. Formatting the device this way may corrupt the device's firmware, rednering it non-functional.

Note: Virtually all commercial operating systems now have native support for the USB Mass Storage Device Class protocol, and older operating systems such as Windows 98 SE and Mac OS 8.5.1 can support it through third-party drivers. However, if the operating system does not support the file format of the transferred file, it will not be able to open or run the file.

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Can I save my audio files to an audio or data CD?

Yes, audio files from the WS-500M can be burned to audio and data CDs. When deciding which format to burn, here are some factors to take into account:

  • AUDIO CD - An audio CD should be playable in a portable, home or car CD player. Check if the burning software writes the CD using the Red Book audio CD standard, which is used in commercial audio CDs (PCM, 44.1 kHz sampling frequency, 16-bit, 2-channel).  An open CD may not play on audio CD players, so the CD must be closed by formatting. CD-RW discs are not recommended for creating audio CDs because some players cannot read that media.
  • DATA CD - Data CDs are suitable for archiving audio files for playback on a computer. CD-RW discs can be used for data CDs. The CD can be left open.

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    How can I transfer a recording from another device into the WS-500M?

    Analog sound files can be imported and exported to other audio devices using a male/male patch cord with 3.5 mm plugs on each end. Olympus makes a patch cord -- the KA-333 Compaticord (item # 145122) for this purpose.

    To import a file into the WS-500M, put one end of the KA-333 into the microphone jack of the WS-500M and the other end into the earphone jack of the other device. Press [REC] in the WS-500M and then [PLAY] in the other device.

    To export a file from the WS-500M, put one end of the KA-333 into the earphone jack of the WS-500M and the other end into the microphone or input jack of the receiving device. Press [PLAY] in the WS-500M and [REC] or download in the receiving device.

    The jacks in the WS-500M have a maximum input voltage of 10 VDC. Higher voltages may damage the recorder.

    Note: The KA-333 Compaticord is available for purchase from Olympus’ online store. Click here to order.

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    Will using an accessory microphone with an extended frequency range improve the quality of my recordings?

    The frequency response of the WS-500M's built-in stereo microphone is 80 to 20,000 Hz, while the frequency response available through the microphone jack is 50 to 19,000 Hz. Therefore, it is possible to improve the quality of recordings that contain frequencies between 50 and 80 Hz by using an accessory microphone that is capable of recording those frequencies. However, at the opposite end of the register, the recorder will cap the frequency response at 19,000 Hz even if an accessory microphone may be able to capture higher frequencies. Therefore, if recording an audio signal containing frequencies between 19,000 and 20,000 Hz, the best quality will be achieved using the built-in stereo microphones.

    Be advised that the different quality modes further modify the detail of the saved file data by saving some frequencies and discarding others. This is how the recorder is able to vary the potential recording time and use the built-in flash memory more efficiently. Regardless of the frequency response available to the microphone, the recorder will only save frequencies that fall within the range used by the selected quality mode. For the widest possible frequency response, use the ST XQ (Stereo XQ) quality mode.

    The table below shows the overall frequency response in the different quality modes:

    Quality Mode Overall Frequency Response
    Stereo XQ Mode 50-19,000 Hz¹
    Stereo HQ Mode 50-15,000 Hz
    Stereo SP Mode 50-9,000 Hz
    HQ Mode 50-13,000 Hz
    SP Mode 50-7,000 Hz
    LP Mode 50-3,000 Hz

    ¹ When recording via the built-in stereo microphones, the frequency response is further restricted in the lower register to 80 Hz.

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    How do I charge the NiMH battery that comes with the WS-500M?

    The AAA NiMH BR401 battery that comes with the WS-500M can be charged inside the recorder while the device is connected to a USB port on a computer via the recorder's built-in USB connector.

    To charge the battery while it is in the recorder, slide out the USB connector and, while pressing the [STOP] button, connect it to the computer's USB port.

    Below are some details about charging the battery:

    • The battery cannot be charged when the computer is not turned on or while the computer is in a standby mode.
    • The recorder should be connected directly to the computer, preferably to a rear port where the USB current is more likely to be highest. The bundled USB extension cable may be used to more conveniently connect to a rear port. Do not connect the device to a USB hub, as hubs split up the current to the USB ports.
    • If Cannot charge is displayed, it means the wrong type of battery (such as an alkaline battery) is in the recorder. The bundled NiMH battery is the one that must be used.
    • Charging the first time may take approximately three hours. The recorder will display the approximate charging time. When charging is completed, the time display changes to .
    • The battery cannot be charged unless the temperature is between 5°C and 35°C (41°F to 95°). If the display shows , the temperature is lower than 5°C (41°F). If the display shows , the temperature is higher than 35°C (95°F).
    • If the battery is new or hasn't been used in a month, it is recommended to fully charge and then discharge the battery two or three times in succession. This process, known as "forming" the battery, will provide the best resulys. After forming, the battery power can be topped off during computer sessions.

    Extra BR401 batteries (Item #147423) can be purchased from the Olympus Store by clicking here. If you want to charge spare batteries without using a computer, the B90-SU NiMH Quick Charger and Battery Set (Item #200899) can be purchased from the Olympus Store by clicking here. Note: The set ships with AA batteries.

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    How long does the battery last?

    One AAA alkaline battery will power a WS-500M for approximately 21 hours in the LP recording mode.

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    Is there an AC adapter for the WS-500M?

    An AC adapter is not available for the WS-500M. When the recorder is connected to a computer, the computer's USB port powers the device. It is also possible to recharge an NiMH rechargeable battery inside the WS-500M while the device is connected to a computer via a USB port.

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    While recording a file, the battery ran out. Now I can't find or play the file. Why?

    When a recording session begins, a file is created to contain the incoming audio content. This file remains open throughout the session until the recording is manually stopped. If the recorder lasts longer than five minutes, the recorder will save the audio content at five-minute intervals.

    If the battery runs out during a recording session, only the portion of the recording that has been saved will be available for retrieval. For example, if a recording session is interrupted by power loss at the 37th minute, the audio file of the recording will contain only the first 35 minutes worth of content. The remaining two minutes worth of content is not available because it was never saved to the file. In the case of recordings that are shorter than five minutes, the entire recording will be lost because the file is not able to close due to the lack of power. 

    It is crucial to change the battery once the battery indicator shows only one hash mark of power remaining. Removing the battery while the recorder is in use may also corrupt a file.

    Put the [HOLD] switch in the HOLD position when changing batteries to retain the Time & Date settings.

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    My recorder freezes and I get the following error message: "Cannot find the system file. Connect to PC to delete the necessary files." What is the problem?

    If the recorder has been used as a mass storage device to transfer data, the data may have exceeded the capacity of the flash memory and the header for the last file may be incomplete. Data must be deleted to restore operability.

    Connect the recorder to the computer. Use the file-browsing application (My Computer or Windows Explorer in Windows operating systems or Finder for Macintosh operating systems) to select the drive that represents the recorder and click on [Properties]. The display shows the amount of Used Space and Free Space in the recorder’s memory. Note how much space needs to be freed up, and then exit the Properties view. Double-click on the drive that represents the recorder and delete files until sufficient free space has been created.

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