Hi again folks
First let me say a big thankyou Roy for recommending the bonkenc program, It worked a treat - eventually!
In fact the reason it's taken me so long to post this reply is because I have been busy converting and loading up all of our songs (all 3400 of 'em!) on to the 204. And, as they say, third time lucky!
Please allow me to share my experiences so that hopefully some other novice like me won't have to go though the same arduous process that I have just been through!
Firstly, when you convert files it's worth noting that you need to tell your conversion program exactly what data you require to be carried over during conversion. Bonkenc, for example, has a default setting of "artist, album name, track title". If you want track titles, you need to tell the program to carry this data.
So, 3400 songs later and no track numbers means that if you ever want to hear your albums in their original format you need to start again so that this information is included.
It is worth mentioning at this point that the bonkenc program seemed to randomly reject certain songs on certain albums which caused Windows to shut the program down (don't know why as all our music is from original cds). This necessitated finding the offending album from the "converted" folder and removing it to separate folder for later conversion, removing everything that had been converted up to that point from the "unconverted" folder, uploading the remaining files once again on to bonkenc and rearting the conversion. Sadly this happened several times which was a bit time consuming, but hey at least when I came to convert the files for a second time with the track number info I could leave the program to its own devices as all the undigestable albums had already been weeded out!
Now, when you load music up on to the 204 and update the ArcLibrary, the machine sorts it all into its own little format which goes "Artist Name, Album Title, Track Title" all A to Z and always in that order. That means that if you want to play your music in original track order you must select the "hard drive" option in the "music" folder when navigating on the player and then select the converted music folder that you've dropped in there.
It's worth mentioning at this point that the 204 will only recognise the first 1000 songs in the folder when you try to play music in this way so if you've got more than 1000 songs (3400 for example) they need to be split into separate folders each containing no more than 1000!
So by the time I'd converted everything for a third time I finally had what I was after : a small, easy to use (!!) decent sounding mp3 player with a good capacity containing all of our music (minus my girlfriend's weird Bollywood stuff - not my thing really!)
In short I would say that both the bonkenc program and the 204 are quality products - provided you know what you're doing!
So hopefully this little saga may go some way to providing the more intelligent among you with a bit of a chuckle at all this incompetence and the more clueless among you (like me!) with a few pointers on avoiding daft mistakes!
Thanks once again Roy for your top tip and thanks to everyone for a great forum. Keep up the good work.
Very best wishes