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Best Free Audio-Video Format Conversion Program

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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.

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Comments

by supanut on 4. January 2012 - 9:26  (86519)

The current version of Freemake Video Converter includes an unwanted toolbar, and a Firefox and Chrome plugin.

by Steeleye (not verified) on 4. January 2012 - 13:11  (86533)

FFCoder crashed repeatedly on my 64-bit Win7 machine.

by Steeleye (not verified) on 4. January 2012 - 13:16  (86534)

I hope your review points out that it's necessary to select "Custom Install" in order to avoid the foistware.

by Anupam on 4. January 2012 - 13:23  (86535)

You can try audio converters, specifically for audio conversion. Some of them are :

MediaHuman Audio Converter : http://www.mediahuman.com/audio-converter/

Helium Audio Converter : http://www.intermedia-software.com/products/helium-audio-converter/

I don't seem them mentioned in the article. Dr.Baker, please consider them for the review :).

BTW, Freemake also has an audio converter.

by Anupam on 4. January 2012 - 13:32  (86537)

It should be considered as adware I think, because it includes third-party software now. More so, because it straight away downloads the installer for that program, and that cannot be opted out. I felt it was quite intrusive, and annoying. Bundling is OK, but users should have clear options to opt out of the third party programs, and installers should not just auto-start downloading by themselves. Not good IMO.

But, Pazera's software have been there for a long time, and are quite popular. I wouldn't like them to be left out because of this.

I think portable version would be a better choice.

In any case, people should be made aware of the bundled installer with the setup version.

by rich (not verified) on 4. January 2012 - 21:52  (86562)

@DrBaker, I enjoyed your paragraph about zamzar, partly because your description--including the statement about email--is so similar to what I write to friends who ask about downloading video or audio from youtube. I'd suggest that you add an explanation to that email statement, as to why they have your email address: that zamzar sends you an email containing the link to your download (unlike most other websites in this category, which give you your download link online while you wait). This has its own pros & cons: to me, the two main advantages are that I don't have to monitor the site's progress or even keep my PC running while they process my request, and I could make the request from any computer--including one on which I can't receive the download (such as at a library)--and get the download later (within the 24-hour limit) from my PC; and the two main disadvantages for are that I have to do more work to get the download (going to my email to get the link), and I might not get the download as quickly. A friend told me that zamzar's main disadvantage for him was the initial confusion as to which link in the email was the download link, but that was a one-time issue.

by João Marques (not verified) on 4. January 2012 - 23:36  (86568)

I use Any Video Converter Free and i find it very good. Converts many formats (including rmvb) an also allow to insert subtitles in the movie.

by George.J on 5. January 2012 - 13:18  (86599)

You have to deselect them if you don't want them.

by DrBaker on 8. January 2012 - 3:00  (86792)

Thanks for the great tip about public computers and downloading later on from home. I've added this to the review.

by George.J on 10. January 2012 - 13:50  (86936)

Super Media File Converter - http://www.erightsoft.com/SUPER.html
Another audio-video convertion suite, supports large number of formats
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_free_video_converters

by George.J on 10. January 2012 - 15:51  (86943)

New one: FreeSmith Video Converter
Download+Features: http://www.freesmith.com/free-video-converter.html

Video Converter = YouTube Video Downloader + Video Editor + DVD Burner

by MemphisGuy (not verified) on 14. January 2012 - 15:09  (87168)

BEWARE Format Factory 2.80. I have been a long time user of this program, but the latest update does NOT give you the option to opt out of the toolbar, and it switches your home page to Ask.com without ASKING.

Hijacking the homepage is BAD.

They should change their name from Ask.com to WeDontAsk.com.

Anyway, I strongly recommend lowering the number of stars or removing it from the list. That kind of is unacceptable.

by Nico.K (not verified) on 21. January 2012 - 11:19  (87534)

Have the same issue. I have DVD from a DVR which is 768x576 but iWisoft see it as 352x576. And there is no way to correct it. not even with crop.

by DrBaker on 22. January 2012 - 3:32  (87570)

After testing the current version of Format Factory, which is version 2.80, downloaded from the developer's website and using the "Local" download link (rather than a hosted mirror, although normally these are all identical), I can confirm that I was indeed provided with the option to opt out of the Toolbar install, as well as to opt out of the "hijacked homepage".

Unless I'm missing something here, Format Factory should still be in line with TSA's policies regarding bundled software. For now, I'm going to leave the rating as-is. If another piece of software comes along which is equally powerful and feature-rich but without this rather annoying opt-in/opt-out aspect for the bundled software, I'll definitely vote in favor of the more "pure freeware" alternative.

by DrBaker on 22. January 2012 - 3:37  (87571)

Super is actually listen above (just a one-liner which briefly describes it as a less recommended alternative, mostly if you need to do something very specific as it's got a lot of options.)
It's bundled with OpenCandy, which isn't too good for impressing frequenters of this site.

by DrBaker on 22. January 2012 - 3:48  (87573)

Not recommended. It pops up the OpenCandy license agreement, although I was not able to find the software actually installed in my sandbox afterwards. It automatically checks for an update, and finds a new version. The site it sends you to is a completely different website, and the title of the program itself matches it, which is, low and behold... Any Video Converter! Made by AVC Software according to the website, but made by ANV Software according to the directory created in the Program Files(x86) folder.

There are just way too many inconsistencies with this software for me to even bother testing out its actual functionality. First and foremost, I believe that good freeware should earn (and deserve) the user's trust, since they don't have any future sales revenue to lose if they are not a secure piece of software and the word gets out. Stay AWAY from this one, and I'd say stay AWAY from "Any Video Converter" as well. Mostly I say that because I am not sure how many versions of it are out there and not sure which one is the original, if there even is one.

by DrBaker on 22. January 2012 - 3:50  (87574)

As I mentioned above, I do not recommend this software,

by DDRAMbo (not verified) on 31. January 2012 - 1:11  (88069)

Thanks for the tip.

by Sparked (not verified) on 7. February 2012 - 8:35  (88436)

MeGUI is this choice of most videophiles at doom9. It's difficult to learn but produces the best results due to it's versatility. Your current description is simply misleading and should read "for experts only". In fact I know more than one professional who uses it.

by Anupam on 20. February 2012 - 8:21  (89080)

E-Z Media Converter : http://www.planetalsh.com/download/ezmc.php

Looks good from the screenshots.

by Anupam on 21. February 2012 - 7:58  (89173)

Disappointing, because there are no options to customize the presets. Maybe they will be offered in the later versions hopefully.

by Sir Senor (not verified) on 2. March 2012 - 5:24  (89792)

Do any of these programs convert a video from .f4v format to another widely used format?

by Lisa (not verified) on 6. March 2012 - 8:48  (89986)

As of version 2.9, FormatFactory does not allow to toggle/uncheck toolbar installation anymore. Should be removed from this list.

by Gary 55 (not verified) on 6. March 2012 - 22:25  (90026)

Thats not correct Lisa...deselect all three "ticks" and press next to complete install...it is designed to confuse however , so easy to fall in trap....

by damian (not verified) on 7. March 2012 - 13:44  (90058)

just installed format factory and no problem unticking the extra crap. found it a little frustrating regarding size...med quality put out a file 3x smaller than high.... would like somewhere in the middle between the 2.

I used to use freemake, but had issues getting it downloaded again. there are enough options for fine tuning the output...even making it possible to choose your desired output size. works w hardcoding subs as well, but an unreadable size and no option to change font size. ignores settings within the sub file itself.

check out hamster too. but almost no options at all last I checked.

nice reviews btw.

by Anupam on 22. March 2012 - 8:17  (90969)
by DrBaker on 23. March 2012 - 1:43  (91001)

I love finding out about new Open Source software in this category. Thanks for the tip! I'll be sure to post my thoughts on the page.

by Anupam on 23. March 2012 - 7:14  (91005)

Great! Will be good to hear your thoughts about this.

by DrBaker on 30. March 2012 - 10:30  (91419)

So far, Kiara Encoder is doing a good job of converting my test videos. It's quick, hasn't crashed yet, and has produced smooth output. I'm not a fan of any java-like interface, however it has been functioning well, and is actually quite intuitive.

It's got a large amount of inbuilt presets as well. I think what I like most about it is the utter lack of 'in-your-face' freeware extras. There are no browser popups, no advertisements, no gimmicks. The fact that its open-source is a plus for me. I like software with nothing to hide, even if I don't understand the language it's coded in myself.

I did notice that upon install, it tried to connect to an external IP address. I blocked it with my firewall, but I expect it was some type of automatic version checking. I looked through the preferences/options afterwards and due to it not being a native English program, I can't be sure but I think there is a toggle to turn auto-checking for updates on/off, after the fact.

I'm going to test it a little bit more, and likely add this software to my recommended list.

Thanks for the tip :)

by DrBaker on 30. March 2012 - 10:38  (91420)

I recommend that you try Freemake Video Converter for this. It's got a polished interface, is easy to learn, and support this file format. Good luck!