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

 
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 Anonymous22 (not verified) on 1. July 2011 - 20:20  (74630)

You would appear to be in the minority - I wasn't given an option on my install of FF today - the Ask toolbar installed itself w/out asking. Boo FormatFactory!

by MidnightCowboy on 2. July 2011 - 4:18  (74649)

Not so. I checked this out myself and the option is clearly there. I deselected this and no toolbar was installed.

by sbwhiteman on 24. June 2011 - 12:03  (74281)

Same thing happened to me, and on occasion has happened in the past. (It also changes your home page, by the way.)

I have noticed in the past that the FF installer acts differently in different situations. Once I installed on a regular machine and it forcibly installed both the Ask toolbar and some sort of shopping program. But in a virtual machine it did not.

I mention this in case anyone has a different experience.

by J_L on 28. May 2011 - 1:37  (72820)

Freemake Video Converter Beta now includes DirectX Video Acceleration along with CUDA. That's the first time I've heard of it, and certainly looks exciting for non-Nvidia users.
It has plenty of other features as well, and deserves a mention in this article.

by rmadball on 8. May 2011 - 21:05  (71648)

Just to let you know, you should update your cons to iWisoft Free Video Converter. The new version Version 1.2 Build 091127 that I just downloaded no longer connects to the internet when launched. To update you now have to click on Windows Start Menu -> Programs Group -> iWisoft Free Video Converter -> Online Update. There is no Spyware or Adware in this program. Just thought I would give the heads up :P

by Jojo Yee on 9. May 2011 - 2:27  (71661)

Thanks for the info rmadball. Just installed and gave it a try. Though for a subsequent startup, it doensn't connect to the Internet, but for every alternate startup, it still does. Tried on Win7.

by John712 (not verified) on 11. April 2011 - 0:31  (69944)

Big warning regarding iWisoft. I installed it and got a load of unwanted adware and obscure programs.

So if you prefer clean programs, dont install this.

I am dissapointed that this program is recommended on this site without a warning to the readers.

by mr6n8 on 11. April 2011 - 9:11  (69971)

I just downloaded from the link provided here and installed iWisoft and found no adware or other programs installed.

The product is also listed at softpedia as "freeware". If it contained what you are claiming, they would have listed it as "adware".

This was a completely clean install for me. I am not sure where you got your download, but it was not from the link provided here.

by franjo (not verified) on 24. April 2011 - 10:11  (70818)

i also installed iwisoft and found no adware. nevertheless i tried an updated quick converter and am happy with it. try it out. i have since then uninstalled iwisoft for it had some issues on converting to mp4

by MidnightCowboy on 11. April 2011 - 6:47  (69962)

We do try our best but this is an escalating trend with more and more software bundling items like Open Candy and Ask Toolbar. Also, this category currently has no editor. Even so, considering the rate at which these things can change, re-downloading and testing everything repeatedly is just not possible for many of our volunteers.

I always advise Googling the name of your chosen software first followed by "bundled software" which will give a good initial guide. Employing a good third party firewall with HIPS should also alert you to any third party connection attempts, and other programs like WinPatrol will alert to the install of Ask Toolbar.

by Jaikrishna on 13. April 2011 - 2:36  (70081)

Yeah, I see that you people are doing your best to find software without adware.
But as you see, this is not practically possible. We cannot expect a developer to write a good program and provide it for free at all times. He has to earn some $ for the betterment of his company.

I think the better way to tackle this is, creating a thread where you can educate people to install the software without adware. This would give people better software and also promote the developer.

by rKAnjEL on 22. May 2011 - 21:24  (72511)

I don't see any problem with bundled adware (unless it's forced). Almost all installers allow you to NOT install any bundled adware and even if you did by accident you can simply uninstall it later.

Personally, I'm a fan of OpenCandy, I discovered a few useful applications through it.

In any case, developers are people too, they need money like everybody else.

by Faust (not verified) on 26. March 2011 - 3:58  (68583)

I'd like to see a review of freemake (in your to-be-reviewed list). It looks pretty comprehensive and powerful, but I don't have the background necessary to compare with other conversion tools, and it gives off the aroma of malware.

by franjo (not verified) on 24. April 2011 - 10:14  (70819)

i tried freemake. it's a little flaky and unstable. although it is cuda enabled , thefreeware needs some working om its stability

by Duszolap on 28. February 2011 - 8:33  (67185)

It should be noted that many users forgot about quality loss during conversion - there IS some solution to prevent this - you can remux video (change format without re-encoding) I often use Metafox - really simple tool to remux almost anything to mkv format - probably it could save some time and quality to those users who was unaware of such feature - I have to admit that before I got this I was converting many flv videso with noticeable quality loss.

by franjo (not verified) on 22. May 2011 - 22:09  (72516)

i have converted flv files to wav and then to mp3 vbr. i actually noticed a change in quality for the better on the wav file alone. thus i believe that converting to wav (lossless) actually unlocks certain features that are missed by a highly compressed file. to be sure they are digitals and maybe the no of kbps uncovers otherwise unheard sounds.

by Duki (not verified) on 25. February 2011 - 10:15  (67069)

New Xmedia-Recode 2309 Portable is out...
Best video converter ever!

by paedrus on 23. February 2011 - 15:58  (66972)

Hi everyone!

As I was looking for a good all-in-one video conversion bundle, I've come across "Free Studio" (from DVDVideoSoft). It's a one installation for 41 programs.
This Free Studio Manager is divided into 8 sections to bundle free multimedia applications from DVDVideoSoft. The sections are:
YouTube, MP3 & Audio, CD-DVD-BD, DVD & Video, Photo & Images, Mobiles, Apple Devices and (yes) 3D.

I'm testing it and for now, I'm loving it!!
You can find it at: http://www.dvdvideosoft.com

Give it a try.

[Moderator's Note : Removed unnecessary long description with list of all programs from the site. Users can check that out from the given link itself.]

by jinksnyou on 3. July 2011 - 12:15  (74692)

I have been using "Free Studio" for awhile and really like it.
Interface is real simple even a cave man could run it!

by bestknight (not verified) on 12. February 2011 - 16:32  (66266)

Maybe this is a false trigger from Kaspersky - I have been using Pazera Video Converters suite for about a month now, but today Kaspersky Internet Security 11 found HEUR:Trojan.Win32.Generic in 11 instances of the file ffmpeg.exe under the Pazera folder

by MidnightCowboy on 12. February 2011 - 16:41  (66268)

HEUR is a heuristic detection which means it's not confirmed with a signature but "exhibits the type of behavior sometimes associated with malware". Try uploading the file to Virus Total for a combined opinion and/or scan your system with Malwarebytes and HitmanPro.

by bestknight (not verified) on 12. February 2011 - 17:17  (66271)

It seems this was indeed a false alarm by Kaspersky. On new update of the virus definitions, Kaspersky Internet Security 11 presented the message that the previously quarantined files were not infected and suggested to be restored to its original location.

by garth on 4. February 2011 - 18:50  (65852)

This is good and does exactly what it says it does:)
http://www.mp4tomp3converter.net/index.html

by morrig on 17. January 2011 - 15:18  (64721)

Just come across XvidD4PSP,trying Beta version seems quick and stable ,nice easy to use interface.

http://www.videohelp.com/tools/XviD4PSP

by Olaf van Kooten (not verified) on 16. January 2011 - 21:32  (64670)

I always use MediaCoder (http://www.mediacoderhq.com/) and I can recommend it to anyone!

by Ayisha (not verified) on 10. January 2011 - 15:08  (64215)

Unfortunately, I've not been successful in downloading your highly recommended ffcoder. Thanks all the same. Ayisha.

by hangdawg on 3. January 2011 - 2:18  (63719)

i downloaded format factory and at the end of installing there was a opt out of toolbar and homepage change i unchecked but it would re-check itself back after 3or4 times i un-installed it anybody have this happen to them

by rikki (not verified) on 1. January 2011 - 15:07  (63653)

Hi
Check this out!
Can convert from any format to any format
Can burn into disc
Can preview files
http://www.blinksolution.com/2010/12/25/motion-man-open-source-free-video-conversion-tool/

by morrig on 12. January 2011 - 16:53  (64384)

Tried with Format Factory to convert an MKV 3.5Gb's file to AVI high quality,after 7 minutes only 1 percent converted,so using your suggested to convert to Mpeg 4,H264 and converted 10 percent in 7 minutes,so quite speedy,see what the results are like?

by Keth (not verified) on 4. December 2010 - 8:12  (62012)

I tried converting a short video to swf using the iWisoft converter. I wasn't sure if the video is going to loop, but it is. But there is a slight pause before it starts again, which is kinda annoying. Is there a program that can convert video to looping swf without pause between the loops?

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