Best Free Audio-Video Format Conversion Program

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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

 
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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 Anonymous on 20. February 2009 - 4:34  (16404)

Just tried FormatFactory and I'm impressed. Converted a .vob file to .swf - which WinFF can't do - in a few minutes. Didn't seem to be doing anything at first then jumped from 0% to Completed. Quality seems fine. Thanks for the tip.

by freeconverter on 18. February 2009 - 10:57  (16260)

All these freeware are nice, but can not convert some kinds of FLV videos. As I know, Leawo free FLV Converter can perfectly convert all FLV videos downloaded from most video sites.

by ernestoch on 20. February 2009 - 4:13  (16402)

Both FF and Mediacoder can convert FLV files. No need for a specialist.

by Anonymous on 8. February 2009 - 18:08  (15604)

Doesn't do video, but RentASoft Image Converter is an excellent image converter....even does Icon files.

by Anonymous on 7. February 2009 - 20:04  (15570)

The latest version of Super is considered a threat by AntiVir whilst the previous versions didn't have the same problem.
So, I uninstalled it and tried FormatFactory which is MUCH simpler and with a very nice interface. Cheers.

by mr6n8 on 7. February 2009 - 20:20  (15572)
by Anonymous on 18. January 2009 - 4:21  (14131)

Before I read the reviews I had downloaded, installed and used MediaCoder. I had some flv files and wanted them converted to mp3. I expected to get thoroughly beat up trying to do this but the software worked very well and was relatively easy to use.

by Anonymous on 25. January 2009 - 6:24  (14644)

I was thoroughly disappointed-was required to download firefox and even then got errors and couldn't figure out how to convert mp4 to mp3.

by Anonymous on 17. January 2009 - 9:48  (14064)

I would have to say, I have tried most of these programs, the best I have found is not on this list and is called Handbrake. By far the easiest user interface I have seen, and available on all OS too.

by Anonymous on 25. January 2009 - 6:25  (14645)

It's only a video, not an audio converter, right?

by Anonymous on 19. January 2009 - 8:02  (14186)

I second that opinion. Handbrake has created flawless conversions (DVD to encoded video) time and time again - it also converts to mkv (with chapters) effortlessly. This is coming from someone who is not a video conversion guru.

While Super seems great in screen shots, it has failed to deliver acceptable results time and time again (agian, this coming from someone who is not a video conversion guru).

by Anonymous on 13. January 2009 - 13:14  (13814)

Super is powerful, but the UI is horrible and it's quite slow

by Anonymous on 25. January 2009 - 6:26  (14646)

Thanks for that comment. I won't even go there. Having enough trouble as it is.

by okrick on 4. January 2009 - 19:27  (13115)

I tried Super on some VOB files. It kept getting errors but didn't indicate why.

Formatfactory converted the files to mp4 without errors. Also the settings were far, far simpler than Super. It even defaulted to 640x480 while Super defaulted to a much lower quality 320x240. I turned it on for an overnight conversion and it was done with the five files in the morning so I can't speak to speed.

Also Formatfactory correctly identified just the video files. Super did not. I didn't know what the .bup and .ifo files on the dvd were for so I tried converting them with Super. Formatfactory filtered those out when I was selecting files to convert. Apparently they were unnecessary.

by Anonymous on 7. December 2008 - 23:05  (11604)

I have had a problem converting a digital video clip taken with a Kodak camera that uses Quicktime mov. format. I have tried Media convert,Zamzar, Prism, AV6 converter...none of these will convert this file into an avi file that my slideshow software will accept.

So I wondered if I upgraded to Quicktime Pro....does anyone know if it will convert files into avi format? It just mentions mpg and a few others, not avi.
I have already wasted $49 in upgrading my Wavepad, and it is useless in this situation.

If anyone knows anything about Quicktime Pro...I would appreciate knowing it.

by Anonymous on 17. November 2008 - 21:40  (10633)

Any Video Converter is also incorrect... No support for Win 95-ME.

by Anonymous on 17. November 2008 - 21:36  (10632)

That is incorrect...Media Coder is not supported in Win 95-ME.

by Anonymous on 16. January 2009 - 19:41  (14018)

honestly, can/should any computer _still_ running 95 be used to convert videos. I can't even imagine how it must take!

by Anonymous on 17. November 2008 - 21:11  (10630)

Quick Media Converter

by Anonymous on 17. November 2008 - 6:03  (10593)

Hello - I would like to know if you guys can give me your opinion on this: which program (free or not) do you think is best for downloading videos. A program that will rip videos from the countless sites out there, YouTube, etc, etc, etc. The overall best program for this task.

by Anonymous on 9. January 2009 - 14:44  (13489)

Hi,

I've tried many programs, and the best I've found is Orbit Downloader:

http://www.orbitdownloader.com/download.htm

Open orbit, click on Tools and click on Grab++.

Than go to just about any site, start the video, and it will grab it.

Open Orbit and select the video you want and click download.

It works better than any other free streaming video downloader that I've

found.

Good Luck!

by Anonymous on 15. December 2008 - 11:02  (11920)

if you use firefox,you can use the downloadhelper addon,i use it.or use the free program from ashampoo called clipfinder,open program and you get a list of most of the video sites like youtube.you can set it to search all sites at once or just your fav. site.davy

by Anonymous on 17. November 2008 - 21:28  (10631)

Wanta' do it fast and correctly? I use FDM (free download manager) and get them all in their native format (whatever form they download in IE .flv, wma, whatever.. FDM allows me to choose and download several at one time or at any time I choose then I use one of a million viewers designed to read those files (see the best free Media Viewer) on this site. Then I decide what to keep and throw out later.

Advantage to this is that ripping the native format from the site IE YouTube, etc, gives you the unmodified clean unconverted virgin file off the site. Afterwards you can view, dither, modify, tweak, or otherwise change the video if you want to add enhancements. If you don't want to alter the video at that point you will still have a fine viewer and be viewing the cleanest possible video since you only convert it once to view it.

by Anupam on 17. November 2008 - 7:55  (10599)

If you are using firefox, then DownloadHelper and Sothink Webvideo Downloader for firefox work well for me. Orbit downloader also captured videos from the video sites with its Grab+ plugin.
Other free programs are also available to download videos from the video sites like youtube. You can search on any freeware site. I dont remember the names right now, as i use the firefox extensions, or orbit downloader for the purpose.

Anupam Shriwatri, India

by Anonymous on 1. November 2008 - 3:55  (9915)

Used Format Factory to convert few flv files and it was able to convert some files which were not able to be read by vlc player and another flv player which I can't remember the name.This alos has a very easy to use interface.

by Anonymous on 23. October 2008 - 20:59  (9537)

I used media coder at one point, however when I tried to convert for my phone, it gave out some error about codecs not being found. SUPER on the other hand is my all time favorite and will remain my all time favorite.

by stoffie on 20. October 2008 - 8:38  (9365)

Downloaded and tried out Super, and I'm sold (figuratively speaking, since it is freeware of course *ahem*).

I've tried a number of tools to convert .mpg's to .avi's and they all flopped in one way or another, but Super does it! Select audio and video formats, drag 'n drop, out pops the converted file. I'm a fan. This is a definite one for the media toolbox.

Next up are the .flv's ...

Thanks to Gizmo's and the forum posters. Without you I would still be sifting through the 90% of junk out there which doesn't work.

Cheers.

S

by RickeeBoy on 16. October 2008 - 3:53  (9188)

Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggggggggggggggggggg,

Hi there

Downloaded Super to use it but then got into problems with Trojans.

So here's why -
I currently run XP, Antvir, Sunbelt Firewall ( Windows Firewall off )Avast( Only email enabled ) Threatfire and a weekly scan using SAS, A2, Avast + Avast Virus, Panda, with Secunia, ----- Yes all the s/w you Guys recommend. ( I use torrents )

Anyway, everytime Avast scans the Super Prog file I get the following msg immediately from Avira Antivir - ( and it always has 3 trojans inside the app )
Virus or unwanted program 'TR/Crypt.PEPM.Gen [trojan]'
detected in file 'C:\Documents and Settings\Rick Mather\Local Settings\Temp\_avast4_\unp116300642.tmp.
Action performed: Deny access
It also changes to TR/Crypt.XPACK.Gen [trojan] and the numbers change every time.

So I'm deleting the Application Super and hopefully my Trojan may disappear but ???

Any advice would be good as I've been chasing this for a while and most friends say I shouldn't be running 2 different Antivirus apps, but you Guys advise this -

Next step is getting a Geek in.

Gizmo - I obviously use your site religiously so - Many Thanks

RickeeBoy

by Anonymous on 10. October 2008 - 19:13  (9015)

Can someone tell me how to copy a dvd with super and make it compatible with mp4 on my player? I am getting confused on where the files go and how to move them.

by morrig on 23. September 2008 - 14:59  (8195)

What's going on with the FormatFactory install,I had previously used Super to see flv file from Youtube,then opened Avs to burn to dvd,so seen that this could do it in one,so first download was less than 1mb and when tried to extract it stated corrupted file,so downloaded from another sight,16mb file that's more like it,extracted ok but when ran the install, Windows said no do,tried with Admin right'a still no joy,cannot remember having this problem before.
Forget all what I wrote for a I am thee stupid one,noticed a security issue early evening when my partner was on the computer so hoicked up a level of the Comode firewall from training to pc clean mode and even when prompted by firewall not quick enough to catch install hook,all ok now back to training mode.
I then decided to try AVC,wow very easy to use,within a minute of starting dragged and dropped file from desktop ,selected dvd and directory to and started,an excellent tool that can do a lot more as well.

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