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 el (not verified) on 10. December 2011 - 9:57  (84756)

First of all, my congratulations for your site. Since I detected it a couple of years ago, I am visiting almost daily, and believe in your recommendations. I am writing this comment, in order to correct a small mistake regarding Format Factory. This application has actually a portable version, included in the application set provided by LiberKey.
Regards, Erich.

by DrBaker on 12. December 2011 - 5:13  (84864)

Great point. I'll add that to the next article update. Thanks!

by Hondoe1950 on 25. November 2011 - 16:32  (83886)

I think it's a real mistake to combine audio and video conversion programs in one category.

I did a lot of research (published on donationcoder.com) about audio conversion programs and found that the programs from accmeware.com (on their links webpage) are literally 3 times faster at converting audio files to other formats than any other audio programs.

And while they ask permission to install RevelantKnowledge on your PC, if you decline, the programs still install.

For any one who regularly converts audio files from one format to another, their programs (e.g. FLAC to MP3 converter, WMA to MP3 converter, WAV to MP3 converter, etc.) are really the only ones to use.

by Anupam on 25. November 2011 - 18:30  (83890)

I personally won't trust a vendor who bundles Relevant Knowledge with their software. Once it installs on a PC, its very hard to remove. That's why I have not used their products, even though I keep seeing them on the download sites.

by DrBaker on 25. November 2011 - 18:50  (83893)

I suggest isolating the initial installation of ANY new software on your PC. I personally use Sandboxie for this (it's free), and I start out with an empty sandbox and install the software into it. Afterwards, I have a look through all the files contained inside the sandbox. If you see unwanted "extras", it's a simple matter of a few clicks to completely erase all traces of the install. If everything looks good, you can do a regular re-install of the software outside of the sandbox.

by Anupam on 25. November 2011 - 19:06  (83894)

That's a good technique :). Thanks for sharing that.

by Oxa on 25. November 2011 - 14:32  (83876)

DrBaker's review of Format Factory is a LOT more annoying than the Format Factory "toolbar" or interface. The interface is straightforward and simple. Click on the icon that identifies what format you're converting from and to, then select your file, and presto, the conversion is done. Nags and ads only occur if you make an effort to get them - by clicking on the ad icons (it's not a toolbar; the actual toolbar has no ads whatsoever). Why anyone would intentionally seek out ads by doing that is beyond me, so I think that criticism of the interface is not valid.

by asi (not verified) on 28. November 2011 - 19:20  (84062)

Been using FF for years and have found it to be the absolute best around for converting audio files. When I first began using FF I got burned a few times because of my own ignorance and failing to take the time to really learn how it works.

Invest the time to understand FF and you'll never regret it. To quote: Nags and ads only occur if you make an effort to get them - by clicking on the ad icons (it's not a toolbar; the actual toolbar has no ads whatsoever). Why anyone would intentionally seek out ads by doing that is beyond me,...

Great program. It's the only audio conversion program I have on my computers and DAW.

asi

by Anupam on 25. November 2011 - 18:31  (83891)

DrBaker has just taken over this category. So, lets give him some time before he updates the review.

by DrBaker on 25. November 2011 - 18:41  (83892)

A re-review of Format Factory is definitely near the top of my list.

by Jaikrishna on 25. November 2011 - 13:22  (83874)

My choice is Freemake's Free video converter. Interface is very easy to use. Can download videos from sharing sites.
Above all that, it uses Nvidia's CUDA technology, which uses my GPU to convert in 25% of the time that other converters require. Also, no bundled software or ads!

by DrBaker on 25. November 2011 - 14:47  (83878)

Thanks for your recommendation. I have been seeing mixed results with Freemake in my testing. While in some cases it is indeed faster, I have noticed that in some cases the quality of the encode isn't as high as you might find with other software. This hasn't been a problem with mobile encodes, however I'm still experimenting with getting good results on higher-res projects.

by Jaikrishna on 4. December 2011 - 13:38  (84359)

Freemake released a new version of their Video Converter which Improved the output quality of lengthy DVD videos(as per the changelog).
So, Please re-review the program and add it into the list soon. We need faster and better conversion!

by Jaikrishna on 25. November 2011 - 15:26  (83879)

Fine. :)
Hope to see this software soon into the list.

by Chela Robles (not verified) on 25. November 2011 - 6:41  (83858)

use zamzar.com as well which I like better but if anyone has any other online converter recommendations similar to ZamZar, please let me know.

[Moderator's note : Commercial software mention and link edited out. Please keep comments to freeware only]

by cnksoft on 24. November 2011 - 10:08  (83833)

Is any software like VCD Cutter, which copy several scenes for the video file and then paste and join sequences as a single file.

by DrBaker on 25. November 2011 - 3:43  (83853)

A good way to do this is to use the iWisoft Free Video Converter. Try adding your source video file, and choosing the EDIT button. Then, trim your video to the first segment you'd like to use, using the sliders and the Trim Tab settings. Hit OK when you're done to save your trim settings. Now, add another copy of your source file to the project and repeat the same steps for your second excerpt. Repeat for each additional section you want to use from your source. When finished, check the "Merge into one file" checkbox, choose your output profile, and start the conversion.

This will accomplish your end goal, with the notable exception that it will re-encode your video. VCD Cutter did not re-encode the VCD's, and so did not lose any quality. There are other more complex ways of doing this for today's modern source video formats without having to re-encode as well, however most people will not notice a quality loss using the method above.

by BDx437 (not verified) on 5. October 2011 - 20:34  (80958)

U could use zamzar.com to convert almost any format to audio or video if u like.

by MidnightCowboy on 6. October 2011 - 6:10  (80983)

Good suggestion. I use Zamzar myself. The full list of conversion types can be seen here:

http://www.zamzar.com/conversionTypes.php

by Goran (not verified) on 1. October 2011 - 16:45  (80704)

I have been using iWsoft Free Video Converter and Freemake Video Converter and like both programs. They are simple to use, output quality is good and they have clean interfaces. But I run into the same problems with both programs when converting mpg films to divx: Playing the video on a dvd player the film stops after about 75 min. The whole videos are there on the dvd though, I can see the rest of them on my computer.
I have Windows 7 and I have tried different burning programs, with the same result, and as I said the complete video is on the dvd.

by Anupam on 21. September 2011 - 18:28  (80054)

Green Free Video Converter :

http://freevideoconverter.us/

Not very good. The profiles are not extensive, and offer less settings. The formats also are less.
Still, its a choice. Maybe it will improve in later versions.

by Anupam on 30. August 2011 - 13:20  (78644)

Audio converter from Freemake :

http://www.freemake.com/free_audio_converter/

by syntax_error on 3. September 2011 - 2:38  (78918)

Their video converter works well.

If only it had a de-interlace setting!

by Corsair (not verified) on 10. July 2011 - 6:49  (75120)

Really need to add Mobile Media Converter by Miksoft to this list. Its brilliant.

http://www.miksoft.net/mobileMediaConverter.htm

I pretty much just use that and Any Video Converter Free. It has seemed to meet my needs so far quite well.

I guess, at the end of the day, you just go with what works for you. I mean - its all freeware at the end of the day so it won't matter if you have a couple of these programs installed.

If one doesn't work one time try another. I haven't run into that issue yet but I dare say if I ever do I know there are options out there I can try.

This doesn't have to be Lord of the Rings. We don't need one application to rule them all.

by Doobie on 5. July 2011 - 0:12  (74762)

I'm really surprised how how inefficient a lot of this software is. Some of them, like FormatFactory), won't clip black bars (last I tried). Others, like Freemake, use constant bitrate encoding, rather than constant quality (without telling you). I've been happy with Handbrake, but when it balked at converting a batch of old mpg1 files, I found satisfaction with FFCoder.

Hilariously, the re-coded videos look better than the originals, in spite of being on average a mere quarter of the original file size. The new files looked much less blocky (obviously, the H.264 decoder deserves the credit).

by Paul_Video_Freak (not verified) on 4. July 2011 - 10:05  (74718)

Just came across this program and have used for a couple of days.

Amazing bit of software.

Avanti GUI is a free front-end for FFmpeg with the option to insert Avisynth as pre-processor.
It can be used with almost all Windows OS builds of FFmpeg. It offers user friendly control over all basic and advanced FFmpeg options. A number of template examples are included. No need to be familiar with Avisynth to use the predefined Avanti/Avisynth pre-processor options. Avanti doesn't installs itself and runs from any arbitrary folder. No adware or internet access.

http://avanti.arrozcru.com/

by Anonymous12345 (not verified) on 23. June 2011 - 21:55  (74268)

The latest version from Format Factory (2.0.7) forcibly installs Ask Toolbar; it does not give the user the option to opt out of its installaion during Format Factory's setup. Was my favorite converter till now.

by Anupam on 25. June 2011 - 8:06  (74318)

It seems like software bundling Ask Toolbar have changed the way how it works. Now, the Ask Toolbar is offered in the final stage of the installation, after the actual software is installed.

I did install FormatFactory on my computer, but Ask Toolbar did not forcibly install itself. I was offered the screen where I could opt out of the install. So, it seems like you are not doing it right.

by Anonymous12345 (not verified) on 29. June 2011 - 4:16  (74497)

Considering I have installed Format Factory before, and that it was a favorite of mine, I can tell you with out a doubt that I did not see the option to opt out of the Ask Toolbar. That is all.

by Anupam on 29. June 2011 - 7:03  (74500)

And I can tell you without a doubt, that Ask Toolbar is optional, and it gives you the option to opt out. I will again say that you are doing something wrong.

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