How do you distinguish when a noun is used as a noun attributive rather than being in possessive form and vice-versa?

"hotel windows" or "hotel's windows"
"car radio" or "car's radio"

I know it would probably be better if I avoid using possessive form for inanimate objects altogether and use the "of" phrase, but let's pretend that you had to choice one of the two: noun attributive or possessive form.

Thanks you
MeathawkI know it would probably be better if I avoid using possessive form for inanimate objects altogether and use the "of" phrase
That's right.
Meathawklet's pretend that you had to choose one of the two: noun attributive or possessive form.
Then use the noun attributive like the guideline says.
Meathawk"hotel windows" or "hotel's windows""car radio" or "car's radio"I know it would probably be better if I avoid using possessive form for inanimate objects altogether and use the "of" phrase
Not really. Most of the time the compound noun is what you need. (You're calling it 'noun attributive'.) If I were you, I would start there, with the compound noun, then change the first term to the possessive form if it's animate, and change to an of-phrase construction if you end up with two abstract nouns in a row. This is not a rule. It's a guideline. And it doesn't always work, but it's fairly reliable for producing acceptable English.

Examples:

1 the hotel windows. hotel is not animate. Neither hotel nor window is abstract. Leave it as is.
2 the president assistant. president is animate. Change to the president's assistant.
3 the hunger feeling. hunger is not animate. Both hunger and feeling are abstract. Change to the feeling of hunger.
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Combinations where the second term is a part of the first term usually go in category 3.

3a the table edge. > the edge of the table.
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Combinations where the second term is a measurable or observable property of the first term can often be expressed as either category 1 or 3.

the ascent rate / the rate of (the) ascent
the impact velocity / the velocity of (the) impact
the leaf color / the color of the leaf
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Here are a few more examples of various kinds.

the committee's findings, the side of the building, the work surface, the surface of the earth (but also the earth's surface), the top of the mountain (but also the mountain top), the flower garden, David's brother, the depth of the water (but also the water depth), his cousin's car, the edge of the cliff, the temperature of the gas (but also the gas temperature), the back of the chair, her teacher's mustache, the brightness of the light, the fireman's hat, the bottom of the barrel

Some expressions are fixed by tradition. Some have become idioms. These don't necessarily conform to the guidelines above. my heart's desire, land's end, escape velocity, gas pressure.

For more on this topic, see the following links.

Inanimate object/abstract noun possessive
The ambiguity of the possessive case
Noun Compound, Of phrase or Genitive case
Using possessive
Using apostrophe or "of" to show possessive

CJ