Best Free Audio-Video Format Conversion Program

Other Language?
  Read this article in Spanish
 
In a Hurry?
  Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide
 
Introduction

There are many different audio and video formats out there, and most devices (such as the iPod) and programs (such as Windows Media Player) are only compatible with a few specific formats. An AVI or WMV movie will not play on an iPod, for example, without being converted into an MP4 file first.

There are quite a few programs that will do this for free, with more popping up all the time.  They tend to fall into a few general categories:

  • If you want to convert audio & video easily, with a polished interface, support for virtually all file types including online video websites, and an integrated precision video editor, I recommend that you try our Top Pick.
     
  • If you want to convert without fiddling with any settings, using as few clicks as possible, try our Device-Specific Picks, which are especially suited to quickly setting up a conversion for a portable device.
     
  • If you want to have control over basic settings (such as framerate, frame size, and bitrate), yet still experience a quick, low-frustration conversion where most of the guesswork is done for you and you don't need to be an expert to get the job done, try our General Converter Picks.  Our Top Pick is in this category.
     
  • If you want complete control over every detail of your conversion task, where you have the ability to fine-tune your output using settings that most of us, including the Reviewer, don't even understand, then you may be interested in looking at our Custom-Oriented Picks.
     
  • If you only want to convert audio files, yet you want more audio-specific functionality, then try our Audio-Only Picks.
     
  • And lastly, if you're looking to convert a wide range of file types, from video to audio to documents to images, and you want to do it on the fly, you might want to check out an Online Conversion Website service.  There are sometimes file-size restrictions with these services, but they offer the convenience of being accessible from any browser.

While some are better than others overall, which one is best for you will depend on what sort of program you need.

Note:  If you want to rip video directly from a DVD, click here to view the Best Free DVD Ripper page..

 
Discussion

Device-Specific Picks

Pazera Video Converters Suite Pazera Converter Screenshot is really a package of several separate device converters with a common launcher. Each converter is powerful, with several presets for device, custom tweaking/profiles, multiple-file support, all in a simple text-based interface. If you don't mind the launcher, you could effectively use it as a hybrid converter.

 

Miro ImageFor even easier device conversion, there is Miro Video Converter. With just a dozen device presets and support for only one file at a time, it may not be the best choice for power users. However, its simple interface is 'newbie-proof', and conversion quality is on a par with other programs.

 

Also recommended:

  • XMedia Recode: Like Miro but with a less polished UI.  It supports multiple simultaneous files and more devices.
  • DVDVideoSoft Free: Pazera without custom tweaks; has neat tricks like Youtube downloading and video tweaking. This product is bundled with OpenCandy. See this article for more information. It will also attempt to install a toolbar which you may not want.
  • Handbrake:  A long-time favorite of mine, when I need to convert from just about any format to a nice, no-nonsense iPod/iPhone compatible video (encoded in H.264).  It has a queue, and supports multiple Apple presets including Apple TV.
 
 

General Converter Picks

Freemake Video Converter is the new Top Pick.  The interface is about as polished as it gets, and the code behind the interface is stable, flexible, and powerful.  Using Freemake is a linear, seamless experience with no frustration.

What I do find frustrating, however, is that the developer has now added OpenCandy to their installer.  For more information about this bundled software, I recommend you read this article.  Please see the last paragraph of this review for information on how you can opt out of this.

Now, back to the awesome stuff.  With Freemake, you can convert most any format of video or audio with this handy piece of freeware, along with DVD's, photos, and even web embedded media from sites like YouTube, Google, and Vimeo.  There are lots of presets and quite a few options, giving the software best-in-class capabilities.  The visual cues are easy to follow, pretty much guiding you from start to finish on any conversion task and providing a more user-friendly experience than most other software.

This software can make use of DXVA and CUDA (two methods of hardware accelerated encoding) to boost speeds.  I was only able to use DXVA on my test computer, so you may get faster encodes with your machine.  On my laptop, I had an NVidia card, and Freemake actually displayed a message recommending that I update my video card drivers to make use of CUDA acceleration.  Freemake took 39 minutes to produce its output using an Auto Bitrate setting, with a two-pass encode.  It took under 15 minutes to do a one-pass encode.  Handbrake took 33 minutes using a Constant Quality RF:20 setting.  The quality of all three test encodes was excellent, with no apparent difference from the original.  You won't find advanced encoding settings anywhere in this interface, so if you're looking to fine-tune your output, I recommend moving on to something like Handbrake, Format Factory, or FFCoder.

I would have loved to give this software 10/10 stars, however there was one negative aspect to Freemake Video Converter: the bundled Freemake Toolbar and OpenCandy softwares.  The toolbar is set to install by default unless you choose otherwise on the first page of the install wizard.  To their credit, the Privacy Policies and/or EULA's are easily available for all bundled software. OpenCandy, on the other hand, does not have a checkbox to toggle its install.  Instead, you'll have to roll up your sleeves and install from the command-line if you want to opt out of it.  Here's how:  Hit Start, then 'Run' the install file with the /nocandy switch.  It will still show you the EULA for it, however there will be an option at the very end of the install to 'not install' the software OpenCandy recommends for you.  Even without the /nocandy switch, you can still uncheck the box, but for some reason the switch will trade in the check-box for 2 separate radio button choices (Yes or No).  It's a lot to worry about and go through, but this software really is top-notch in most other ways.

Although their website defaults to an "online installer", they do host offline installers, available here.

 

When iWisoft Free Video Converter starts, it automatically launches your browser for an upgrade check and displays a web page, which I found annoying.  Aside from this, I didn't find much else to complain about.  Its interface is extremely clean, well organized, and easy to use. It has a complete and well-organized collection of presets, and supports making and saving basic tweaks, too. It even has a few pleasant surprises, such as a basic built-in editing suite, with features like cropping, splitting, joining, and watermarking.  In short, this program is an outstanding choice for most device conversions.

 

FormatFactory ScreenShotAnother excellent choice (especially for old phones and DVD ripping) is Format Factory. It has presets for over 100 devices, converts to and from dozens of formats, and allows for advanced tweaking and custom profiles. On the downside, the sidebar-and-popup interface does not provide a linear experience.  You'll find that you can not drag'n'drop into the windows that look like you should be able to, and you have to open & close a couple of windows in order to end up back at the starting screen, where you finally get to hit START.  This being said, once you learn the interface, you'll find it responsive, stable, and easy to drill down to the exact settings you are looking for. Overall, this program is a good choice for power or device users who find iwiSoft lacking.

NOTE:  When installing Format Factory, watch out for the bundled toolbar.  It is installed by default if you don't uncheck the box on the first screen of the installer package.

A portable version of this software is also available at LiberKey, which is a superb portable application manager.

 

 

Also recommended:

  • Ultimate Video Converter: Only handles single files, but simplest converter with both iPod and custom settings
  • SGI's Video Converter: More cluttered than the top two, but has "flatter" interface and more conversion options for power users.
  • YouTube Downloader HD:  This program is a gem in the world of YouTube ripping.  It allows you to copy/paste a YouTube link, choose your video quality, and download it to your computer for future viewing.  In the latest version, you can now choose to have it automatically convert the .FLV file to an iPod/iPhone compatible .MP4 file, or an XViD .AVI for playback on many devices.
 
 

Custom-Oriented Picks

If you need to make complex, custom jobs, FFCoder is the standout choice for its coherence. Like most programs in this review, it has an excellent device preset list, the ability to convert multiple files at once, and a simple, sleek interface. Where FFCoder stands out is its support of highly advanced configuration for each of the dozens of video formats and codecs, down to lighting and rendering settings. Despite a few dependencies (listed below) and a steep learning curve for any tweaks past the presets, this is the best converter for almost any power user, device owner or not.

One of my favorite FFCoder features is the Directory Watch.  You can setup FFCoder so that it monitors a folder for files matching a filename pattern, which will be automatically converted using the selected settings.  It can be a bit confusing to set up, however I found I got the best results when setting the wildcard filename pattern to something other than *.* (such as *.avi).

There were two things I didn't like about FFCoder.  The first is that is always creates Start Menu entries in the Administrator account, regardless of which non-admin account is being used to install it.  This is fairly minor though, contrasted with all the powerful features.  The second drawback is that it seems to be less stable on 64-bit Windows systems every now and again.  I ran into .DLL errors and missing presets, which strangely were intermittent problems.  I've spoken with the author and it looks like many of these bugs will be worked out in the next release.

 

Also recommended:

  • SUPER:  Great for small, obscure tweaks. Has a simple but annoying interface. This program is bundled with OpenCandy. See this article for more information.
  • XVID4PSP: Supports very many tweaks. Impossibly fragmented interface. Solid AviSynth support.
 
 

Audio-Only Picks

Pazera Free Audio Extractor is the audio-only program in the above-mentioned Pazera Video Converters Suite. It supports both video and audio input and output to many formats, and is slightly simpler than some of its sibling programs. Otherwise, it is perfectly identical.

 

 

Online Conversion Websites

Video to Mp3 I was asked to checkout a web site converter for Youtube and Dailymotion videos. This site is set up to convert video to four set formats Mp3(128 kbt/s & 256 kbit/s ), flv, mp4 and 3gp.

This is a wonderful idea, but does it work lets see....

I started the test with an Mp3 convert and WOW finished in a matter of seconds and my result was ready to download. Ok lets check out some of these other bad boy options. Next I selected the Mp4 option and clicked the convert button and nothing. EMMM I thought well it is a video conversion so it will take more time. I waited until the next day nothing. After a full 24 hours still nothing. I reloaded the page and recopied the URL started a new convert. After 6 hours nothing and then my browser crashed ooops. I started a third again after 24 hours nothing. I am not saying it wont work for you as different configurations of bandwidth, browsers etc may be different but don't get your hopes up.

Next up the flv now I was thinking that a lot of Youtube video is in format flv so this should be quick but again after 3 days and 3 tests I had 0 results. At least this time my browser did not crash lol. So without much Enthusiasm I tried the 3gp option and hey what you know it worked first time and quite quickly about 30 minutes.

Having said all this if anyone wants a Youtube video in basic no frills mp3 audio from a Youtube video then this is a viable option and simple to use just copy and paste a Youtube URL into box, choice format and click convert and when it is ready download finished product, easy.

 

 

Zamzar is an excellent website when you're on the run.  It doesn't allow you to customize the encoding settings, however it makes up for that somewhat with its portability and flexibility.  If you have a browser with internet access, you have Zamzar.  If you have any file, you can convert it to any other type of file in the same class.  For example, you can convert video files, audio files, photos (ex: .JPG to .PNG), archives (ex: .RAR to .ZIP), documents (ex: .PDF to .DOC), and eBooks (ex: .LIT to .EPUB).  You can even paste a URL (ex: YouTube) and it'll download the embedded video for you and convert it.  Once the conversion is done, they email you a link to download the finished product.

This email-based file retrieval can be either a pro or a con depending on how you look at it.  It's more fuss than there really needs to be in the process, however it gives you the flexibility of converting a Youtube video from a computer where you can't download the content, such as when at work behind a proxy or at a public library.  When you get home, you can then download the finished conversion immediately using the email link.  I first used Zamzar over a year ago, and to this day I have never received unsolicited email from them.

There is a 100MB file limit for free use, but you can upgrade that to 200MB and get about 5GB of online storage if you want to pay their fairly steep monthly prices.  For most users, the free services are more than adequate.

 

 

Tested and not recommended:


To Be Reviewed:

  • Avanti
  • DVDVideoSoft (re-review)
  • Miksoft Mobile Media Converter
  • Mediacoder
  • Motion Man by Blink Solution
  • MeGUI
 
Related Products and Links

You might want to check out these articles too:

 
Quick Selection Guide

Freemake Video Converter
5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Great interface, very flexible, support for almost every type of conversion, easy to use
Bundled toolbar (you can opt out, but it's a multi-click process) Bundled OpenCandy
http://www.freemake.com
4.1.2
1.21 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows XP/Vista/7, .NET Framework
Pazera Video Converters Suite
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Excellent presets, easy to use, custom profiles
Looks intimidating, separate programs for each output type, no advanced tweaks. Contains unwanted bundled components. Take care to avoid these during the install process.
1.7
21.3 MB
Unrestricted freeware
This product is portable.
NT/98/Me/2000/XP/2003/Vista/7
Miro Video Converter
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Brutally easy-to-use device conversion
Only one file at a time, no profile or generic tweaking, only MP4
3.0
425.09 KB
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows and Mac OSX
iWisoft Free Video Converter
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Simple polished interface, file and preset editing allowed, many device presets
Checks for updates and launches the browser on startup, requires Windows Media Player
1.2.0
8.7 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
A portable version of this product is available but not from the developer.
NT/2000/XP/Vista/7

Portable version available here.

Format Factory
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Stable with many device presets. Supports all video file formats. Rips DVD's & Music CD's. Very powerful software.
Installer is bundled with a toolbar (you are able to opt out), interface is non-linear and somewhat confusing.
3.2.1.0
58.88 MB
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
NT/2000/XP/Vista/7 and 8 (NET Framework)
FFCoder
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Solid preset list, highly advanced tweaks, sleek interface
Dependencies, no installer
1.3.0.3
38 MB
Unrestricted freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
2000/XP/2003 Server/Vista/7
Pazera Free Audio Extractor
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Great presets, supports many input and output formats, easy to use, custom profiles
No advanced tweaks. Contains unwanted bundled components. Take care to avoid these during the install process.
2.8
8.4MB
Unrestricted freeware
This product is portable.
NT/98/Me/2000/XP/2003/Vista/7
Handbrake
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Cross-platform, simple interface, good presets, complete features, video quality is excellent, DVD ripping, subtitle support
No preview window in the Windows version, slow encoding (based on settings chosen), output formats limited to MPEG-4 and H.264
http://handbrake.fr/
0.9.9
13.63 MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Open source freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
MacOS 32/64-bit, Windows XP/Vista/7 32-bit, Fedora 15 32/64-bit, Ubuntu

 
Editor

This software category is in need of an editor. If you would like to give something back to the freeware community by taking it over, check out this page for more details. You can then contact us from that page or by clicking here

 
Tags
free audio converter, free video converter, best audio video converter, top audio video conversion program, free av converter, free av conversion.

Back to the top of the article.

 

Share this
4.091465
Average: 4.1 (164 votes)
Your rating: None

Comments

by Anonymous on 5. June 2009 - 15:52  (23100)

I have to agree. What about Quick Media Converter. It is a very good converter and it covers a lot of different formats. Please evaluate.

by Anonymous on 5. June 2009 - 16:00  (23101)

I also have had problems with SUPER on my 64-bit system. It would take forever to load up. It also would not convert a FLV no matter what I tried. A better media converter is Quick Media Converter www.cocoonsoftware.com. This converter is 64-bit compatible. Loads up lightning fast.

by Anonymous on 6. June 2009 - 23:03  (23212)

I am posting this here cause it seems the likeliest place for this question.
I have some movies, documentaries, etc. (all legal, of course :P) that I want
to copy to blank dvd's so they will play in dvd players for friends that
don't bother with computers. I am looking for a tutorial/free software to
help me do this. I already have a multi-burner and use imgburn to backup data
onto dvd's. Can anyone direct me to an explanation of how to do this?
Thanks in advance for your assistance.

by Jojo Yee on 7. June 2009 - 8:24  (23228)

If you're using Vista Home Premium or Ultimate, Windows Movie Maker is included. Alternatively, give DVDBuilder a try. Just a piece of info, I've not tried them thoroughly though.

by Arithmomaniac on 10. June 2009 - 22:59  (23541)

This article has been rewritten - hope you like it. A DVD converter pick, and more Quick Selection info will follow in the following weeks.

I'm not going to be able to read the whole comment archive, so if I missed anything, just repost the comment.

by Anonymous on 16. June 2009 - 3:05  (23957)

Great article, thank you.

The only thing that annoys me about Format Factory a little, is that it's built in preview/video player turns off windows aero effects when it's running for some reason. Anyone else notice this?

by Arithmomaniac on 17. June 2009 - 2:23  (24019)

My computer's too slow for Aero. Sorry.

by Anonymous on 18. June 2009 - 19:59  (24110)

Yes I realise this as well. Some things just aren't compatible with aero, like a game that I played a couple of months ago which did the same thing. Rather annoying and I hope Format Factory sort it out soon.

by Lambas on 27. June 2009 - 16:53  (24427)

Pazera Video Converters Suite is very cool!!!
and portable = no radish to my registry ....

i love gizmo site!!!
excellent suggestions :))))

thanks very much

by Anonymous on 28. June 2009 - 6:38  (24446)

Maybe it's just me, but it took me awhile to uncover all the format choices in FormatFactory. For example, to make a video Xbox 360 compatible, you have to go to All Mobile Devices!? > Microsoft > Xbox 360.

At first glance FormatFactory appears to have far fewer options than it actually does!

by Anonymous on 28. June 2009 - 7:58  (24447)

What about XMedia Recode?

by Arithmomaniac on 2. July 2009 - 3:17  (24562)

It's not you. That's probably its main weakness.

by Arithmomaniac on 2. July 2009 - 3:21  (24563)

Thank you. I'll give it (and DVDVideoSoft Free) a look by next week.

by morrig on 6. July 2009 - 15:08  (24716)

For some reason VSOConvertx to DVD,is failing to work on Win 7-build 7264,so tried Format Factory.It,s sometime since using this software,but was amazed at it,s speed,53 minutes to convert Avi off 700mb to Vob off 2.3Gb.This usually takes about 2 hours,ok with a professional finish.The quality looked as good.Had tried others free and not and some were taking many hours to do same,with mixed results.So a big WOW,and so what about the Adverts,just forget them!

by Anonymous on 11. July 2009 - 16:05  (24937)

Thank you to arithmomaniac for the rewrite of this article. It reads a lot more up to date and "accurate" with current tools now. Also it is heartening that our comments and testing results are listened to...I didn't think my little adhoc Test Day a month and a bit back would amount to much more than just my mini comment reviews! :)

I notice the addition of the new entry Quick Media Converter...does look interesting. Will have to try it.

Thanks...nice article and info maintenance for this category! Very useful.

by Anonymous on 11. July 2009 - 21:28  (24950)

I tried Format Factory - don't know what has happened but the converted file from WMA to MP3 is ... nothing that can be played. I tried a couple of times: the conversion goes very fast, the result - the same garbage. What is going on?

by Anonymous on 15. July 2009 - 16:18  (25151)

Pazera has 29.7 MB (not 2.6).
Mediacoder is still very buggy, crashed on 2 my PC regularly. I has really many options, but they aren't commented, which makes it difficult to use even for experienced user. Some options have different results than in other video software. It lacks some usual functions – I didn't find WAW output, it is not possible to cut off (for example) commercials from video, it has problem with complex MP4 (other programs have as well). I stopped using it a half year ago, I tried it today but after a few crashes I gave up it.

by Arithmomaniac on 16. July 2009 - 1:50  (25166)

I'm don't know - despite FormatFactory being my top choice, I don't use it very often.

by Arithmomaniac on 16. July 2009 - 1:59  (25167)

Thanks for the size update.

As for Mediacoder, the only usual function you mentioned that it lacks relative to anyone else is WAV output. It's available - it may be in the Extra Codec Pack, but the codec tab is called LossyWAV.

Still right about the bugginess, though.

Arithmomaniac

by Anonymous on 18. July 2009 - 2:33  (25285)

What about Handbrake, has it been tested?

http://handbrake.fr/

Keep up the good work.

by mr6n8 on 20. July 2009 - 15:11  (25436)

I have done quite a few of those conversions with FormatFactory and have not had that issue (just re-checked and still fine).

Did you alter any of the options for the conversion?

by Anonymous on 21. July 2009 - 13:40  (25504)

I've been using Handbreak for a long time now, under Windows and OS X. Before, it only supported a DVD (from disk or from ripped VOB's on hard drive) as input, but now that it supports multiple video formats as input, I've been using it even more often. It is not perfect, but it pretty good. For DVD format input, it is excellent (probably since it's been initially designed for that, so many bugs have been fixed) and have not given me any problems. For video format inputs, that's where I've occasionally had problems. For example, I was trying to convert an AVI to iPhone/iPod Touch format, and for some reason, there is no audio in the resulting file. I tried different options, but it never worked. Mind you, this is the first time I got this particular problem when converting from AVI... I also have converted from MKV to M4V for my iPod Touch (smaller res), or to "Apple TV" (higher res) without any problems.

I'm using it under Windows 7, 64bit version.

MrBabou

by Anonymous on 26. July 2009 - 10:53  (25781)

There is a Portable version of Format Factory 2.0 (the latest version) available from LiberKey - http://www.liberkey.com/appinfo/formatfactory-formatfactorylkl.en

by Arithmomaniac on 29. July 2009 - 15:53  (25954)

Thank you for putting out HandBrake's universal input. I'll try to review it soon.
Arithmomaniac

by Arithmomaniac on 29. July 2009 - 15:58  (25956)

I don't quite understand LiberKey, but launching a LiberKey portable app requires LiberKey (which doesn't count for this page). Am I correct?
Thanks for the tip, in any case.
Arithmomaniac

by Arithmomaniac on 31. July 2009 - 3:53  (26056)

I can't recommend a converter that can't convert to WMV or H.264 stably - that's 80% of all conversions.
Arithmomaniac

by Anonymous on 1. August 2009 - 5:05  (26097)

That's true yes, I thought LiberKey extensions where like paf extensions in that they could be used regardless of what launcher you use them with, but I couldn't figure out how to do so.

I'm just guessing that since LiberKey appear to be the only portable app/suite site that offer a portable version of FF, it's functionality might be impaired somehow as a portable app, or that maybe it doesn't really qualify as one because it writes to the registry, or something?

by Anonymous on 1. August 2009 - 18:30  (26118)

Normally I'm able to find SOMETHING in your suggestions to bail me out of situations where I don't seem to have what I need to do a task - but THIS time I'm getting perturbed at how much TIME I'm wasting due to your suggestions: 0 for 2 so far! XMedia Recode has more than a language problem - it lacks a very key piece in order to actually do ANY REAL work! Although I can go through the process of selecting input files and NUMEROUS parameters in the APPARENT direction of converting some MP3 audio files to iPod-ese, there seems to be NOTHING under the SUN to enable the key button or menu choice to actually "ENCODE!" Pure waste of time. Same should be said for ANYTHING from AVS4YOU (ie MediaCoder) has NO business on YOUR list of FREEWARE, as they are clearly FRACTURED TRIALWARE, trying to take advantage of your site for free advertising.

ALL that I want to do is find SOME way of converting "normal" audio files to crApple iPod format WITHOUT having to load iTunes on my PC. I hate to admit that there's an Apple device in my HOUSE, but it was a gift to a daughter. Grrrrrr - like everything else in my experience w/ Apple Anything - nothing but ANNOYING!

Hostile in Houston

by Anupam on 1. August 2009 - 18:57  (26121)

I believe iPod can play MP3 files quite nicely. Then why do you want to convert them in the first place?
The videos have to be converted to MP4, because thats the format iPods play, but I don't think you need to convert MP3, because iPod can play MP3 very well.

Anupam Shriwatri

by Anonymous on 2. August 2009 - 7:54  (26140)

C'mon are you serious, you just have to:
1. Options-Language-English
2. Choose your files, set parameters and press "ADD JOB" button which is next to "Encode" button.

Gizmo's Freeware is Recruiting!

Gizmos Needs YouShare your knowledge of free software with millions of Gizmo's readers by joining our editing team.  Details here.