Best Free Media Player

  Read this article in Spanish
  Read this article in Chinese


Finding an all-in-one media player used to be impossible. In the past you needed to use several separate programs to play MP3 files, streaming media from Real, Mpeg files, Quicktime movies, CDs and DVD discs, but with the advent of Microsoft's Windows Media Player (WMP), all of these media types could be played in one player. Over a period of time, however, WMP has become bloated and isn't compatible with all of the available file formats. WinAmp, which began as an mp3 player, now plays almost everything, although it uses a lot of system resources and may contain adware if you aren't careful on the installation. iTunes has become more prevalent on many PCs due to the almost universal reach of the iPod, but it also uses a lot of resources and is processor intensive.

So I've done some major research to find alternative media players capable of playing multiple types of media files, including various digital audio and video formats, CDs, and DVDs. They are also easy to install and use and are light on system resources. Not only do these programs replace WMP, iTunes and WinAmp, but they also exceed their functionality.

Check out Tips and Warnings at the end of this article.


Rated Products


A powerful media player provides awesome video and audio quality, supports all modern formats and seamless media playback.

Our Rating: 
License: Free
Very fast updates and fixes, supports almost all media formats, 1000 files seamless playback, supports GPU acceleration, built-in codecs, extensive configuration options, light on system resources and fast startup, auto resume for 200 files,configurable xml skin files.
No help files, default 'automatic' video renderer not the best.
Read full review...

VLC Media Player  

An excellent media player with a highly portable framework and works across different platforms.

Our Rating: 
License: Free
Available on multiple platforms, media converter and streaming capabilities, excellent playback quality and stability, plays Internet radio and TV, great choice for DVD playback, GPU and DSP decoding, support for extensions.
Large download size, Uninstalling can be problematic as it integrates into WMP components, seeking real media files causes short time glitches, many options can be confusing to non-technical types.
Read full review...


Feature rich, easy to use, extremely customizable and available in multiple languages.

Our Rating: 
License: Free
Play damaged AVI files, locked media files and compressed audio albums, Live URL broadcasting support, User friendly interface, Good picture quality and playback, Extensive configuration options, Apply user defined external filters apart from built-in, Plays almost all media files, Strong user base and active forum, Multi-language support.
Lacks a professional web representation, Slower than some media players like VLC, Contains Opencandy, Ask toolbar, Pandora TV Service.
Read full review...


A front-end for award winning MPlayer with extensive features and ease of use.

Our Rating: 
License: Free (Open source)
Great playback quality, Pleasant and colorful interface, Remembers playback position and customizations on close, Online subtitle search and YouTube browser, Light, portable and stable, Karaoke effects, Highly customizable, Shortcuts for nearly every function, Supports nearly every format.
Installer is bundled with OpenCandy. DVD menu's seems experimental, No icon library for supported file formats, No Win7 playback controls.
Read full review...

GOM Player  

Plays flv and other media files with internal codecs and its ability to play some broken media files.

Our Rating: 
License: Free
No extra codec packs are needed, capable of playing broken avi files.
Bundled with OpenCandy (see information link in review text). May not play DVD discs on some systems.
Read full review...


An incredibly small program packs a vast set of features and requires no installation on your PC.

Our Rating: 
License: Free (Open source)
Very fast and lightest, no installation required, extremely easy to use, 64 bit versions available.
No support for syncing music, no picture quality controls.
Read full review...


Provides great picture quality with some neat and creative optimization features.

Our Rating: 
License: Free (Open source)
Smooth and excellent playback, many options to enhance display, H/W acceleration support, includes audio and video equalizer, low on system resources, played almost everything, best for non-techies.
Open Candy installation, didn’t get sound out of a video in rare situations, too simple, confusing and clunky interface, non-ethical marketing: compares various media players on their homepage, some Chinese left in main interface & only Chinese documentation available.
Read full review...

JetAudio Basic  

A very good, solid and feature packed media player for audio and video files.

Our Rating: 
License: Free (Limited features)
Supports all major file formats, customizable interface, good subtitle rendering and video quality, floating bar mode, various extra tools packed inside, music management capabilities, auto-resume all files, internet broadcasting.
Big download, Interface not very user friendly, Registered encoders, decoders and filters on system, Need to tweak for hearing AC3/AAC sound(due to licencing restrictions; method given in full review), Offers 3rd party applications during installation (which you can choose to ignore).
Read full review...

Kantaris Media Player  

An intuitive all-in-one polished media player designed with style.

Our Rating: 
License: Free (Open source)
Awesome interface, Colourful visualization effects, Plays video files inside RAR archives, Online subtitle matching, Organise video library in 3D, watch and play latest movies and songs from Apple movie trailers and
Not as configurable as some other players for those requiring advanced features, Shortcut keys incomplete.
Read full review...


A short addition to players using MPlayer as the core with integration of YouTube and Shoutcast.

Our Rating: 
License: Free (Open source)
Sleek Interface, light on resources,Plays any kind of media file, Automatic subtitle download from, Built-in support for YouTube and Shoutcast,Record files and reads damaged files,Plays online TV and Radio.
Problems with HD media playback (.h264 mkv files), quite a few bugs: setting equalizer and certain menu's pauses video for a moment, files with asian characters doesn't play , associates media files aggresively,Time incorrect sometimes,Help file needs improvement.
Read full review...

Products to be Reviewed

RealPlayer | Light Alloy | QQPlayerMPlayer WW | VSO Media Player | DivX Plus Player | DA Player | Zoom Player Free | FreeSmith Video Player | ALShow | ALLPlayer | AK-Player


Tested & Not Recommended

  • Splash Lite: The Bad: Capture frame, Playback resume and Basic video controls & audio controls only available in the PRO version. Splash Lite just feels like an advertising for its commercial version. No support for URL playback. Doesn't play many files properly. The Good: HD videos playback quality is good, certain broken files plays well.
  • Toolwiz Player: The Bad: Nearly everything. No seeking, no right click context menu, a waste of time! The Good: Plays certain files!

Tips and Warnings

  • Codecs: Some programs reviewed in this article may require additional codecs for expanded functionality. For more information about codecs, including what they do, legal issues and download links, see this article Understanding Codecs.
  • Use Codec Packs At Your Own Risk (especially Mega Codec packs). They are capable of producing software incompatibilities, system crashes and sometimes doesn't let your new media player to play your files properly. In case you want to use one, I recommend using lightweight ones (CCCP, Windows essentials). Read Why Codec Packs Are Bad, Codec Packs Are Evil, Microsoft's Caution.
  • Fake Players: Download media players from reliable resources such as the "Get It" links suggested in our reviews. Many websites are offering fake versions of the player.
  • Video Renderers: This option is useful especially for PotPlayer and KMPlayer. They include a number of renderers and switching between these renderers may give you better image quality.
    • Personally I find that EVR and VMR9 renderless works great for most systems especially for Vista/Win7 (Microsoft.Net 3 framework should be pre-installed in XP to use them).
    • For older systems Overlay Mixer might give better performance and clarity. You need to have Haali Media Splitter installed to use Haali Video Renderer. It doesn't work for old video cards though.
    • MadVR (Madshi) is a newly released renderer and to use this renderer you should install MadVR filters first and have a fairly powerful GPU.
  • Stay Updated: Get beta and stable updates of your favourite media player through e-mail using Altert me! tool at Videohelp.


Related Products and Links



This software category is maintained by volunteer editor George.J., a software engineer just graduated and working in Software Development and Testing unit. Reviewing software and writing articles are one of my passions. Registered site visitors can contact me here.

Back to the top of the article.


Please rate this article: 

Your rating: None
Average: 4.5 (257 votes)


Latest version of MPC-HC released V1.70

Lots of intersting changes, particularly replacing internal filters with LAV filters. More info on their web site. I like and use PotPlayer (new verion just out there as well) but if I was allowed only one media player it would be MPC-HC. Everyone to their own, of course.

Highlights of new version
Security advisory: Due to known buffer overflows in the internal filters of v1.6.8 and below, it is strongly recommended that you update to the new version. More information on which filters are affected will follow soon.
•Replace the internal filters with LAV Filters. LAV Filters are modern open source DirectShow filters based on FFmpeg. They are known to be reliable and fast and overall should be more stable than the old filters. MPC-HC integrates LAV Filters directly and no extra installation steps are required. The embedded version of LAV Filters doesn’t interfere at all with other installed DirectShow filters (including the standalone versions of LAV Filters).
•Support loading HTTP/RTSP/UDP/RTP streams using embedded source filters
•Windows 8.1 support.
•Many more bugfixes and improvements, check the changelog for details.

Just a general comment, I am really pleased with the new version of smplayer.
Also, check out Zoom Player

Thanks for the heads up.. Direct play of video files inside RAR seems pretty useful.
VLC also has that ability. Just open the lowest numbered rar file with VLC and it will play through the whole video within the rar. (#18 on this list) Steve
Few specialized media players has this ability like VLC, PotPlayer, KMPlayer and other media players like Kantaris etc. If your default media player cannot play RAR archies, using RARFileSource which installs itself as a DirectShow Filter can let any media player to play inside RAR contents.
Interesting update for PotPlayer. The latest version (beta) displays video thumbnail previews on the navigation bar. To activate it, check "Display thumbnail previews on" option in F5 > Playback If you are having a low-end system, I recommend you not to turn this feature ON, as it consumes a fair share of CPU. Either wait for the next stable version or apply the beta version on top of the latest stable version.
Latest stable version (1.5.36205) fixes slow opening of video files when thumbnail previews enabled. Update to this version.
"... JuceVLC is VLC with a simple MediaCenter-like fullscreen User Interface ..." (1/45 in Virus Total - possible false positive?): Features: * Big fonts and no system popup dialogs * Browse files and adjust settings using On Screen Display (O.S.D.) * Non mandatory keyboard. The "space-key" allows your relatives to play/pause your video ;-) * Subtitles selection via O.S.D. and synchronization using slider * Keep last and favorite video folders * JuceVLC application uses regular VLC core libraries/plugins * Portable application
MPlayer 2013-02-22 Build 108 is out:

how to do automatic volume leveling

you said its not good to install codec but some media playrs posted include codecs

in kmplayer there is
kmplayer external codec when installing

will installing this change other programs use as codecs

I apologize if i missed it, but i did not see where you listed any mention of blu-ray compatibility, just curious if you tested any of these players for blu-ray playback, and if so which seemed to best suited?

Since I don't have a Blu Ray disk, I wouldn't be able to test the capability of the media players here. Although this article says that PotPlayer has the ability to play Blu-Ray disks natively. This thread shows how to play Blu-Ray disks on VLC 2.0 with a few tweaks.


I've been using The KMPlayer for a couple of years now.... a nice media player that does everything that I require. Every now and again, I get the pop-up window advising me that there's a newer version available.

Yesterday, I followed the latest up-date prompt and downloaded the latest version. What a BIG mistake that was !... Despite unchecking all the nasty boxes that invited me to install a lot of crapware, it just went along anyway and dumped it all on my PC without my permission. It took me quite a while to uninstall The KMPlayer and then painstakingly, get rid of all the stubborn bits that were hiding in the registry.

I then downloaded and installed my old friend from a few years back, VLC media player. All running sweetly now.

This is another good reason why you should be using Sandboxie. I'll test the latest version of KMPlayer soon.

Saw good reviews for potplayer, decided to try it, installed,tried using it twice and it completely froze my recently rebuilt machine. Had to power off to regain access. I understand there is some conversation regarding what is the latest stable version, but what you download should not cause such a drastic issue.
Will probably go back to VLC or GOM.

The latest version is working fine for me and for most others here. So if your system hangs up, then the cause of the problem is internal to your system. It's (PotPlayer 32bit) running fine on my WinXP (32bit) and Win7 (64bit) systems. 1. Did you download PotPlayer from the Quick Selection Guide given in the article? You should install only the 32bit version as the 64bit version is fairly optimized. 2. One of your security programs like your antivirus, firewall etc might be interrupting the program. Try disabling them one by one to see which one is interrupting and whitelist the program. 3. Do not perform updates within the program. Only download it from the links given here.
If you like KM Player, you can give a try to PotPlayer. It's from the same person who developed KM Player. But, PotPlayer is devoid of any such extras, and is excellent.

Media Player Classic Home Cinema has no Repeat/Random Mode.

To randomize, just turn on the playlist (Right Click->View->Playlist) and then right click within the playlist items and hit Randomize or Shuffle. For repeat, go to Options->Playback and select the number of times to repeat or select repeat forever.

Oh, I see. Thank You.
But it still too complicated and uncomfortable. :-(

I admit that, the repeat function is a little cumbersome in MPC-HC, but you should note that this category is mostly for playing videos, and these functions are mainly used only while playing songs. We've a separate category/software here for music management on the site: Best Free Music Player and Organizer

I don't agree. I think any Media Player should include BASIC features for playing songs.
I looked there. This is not the kind of what I want..
Thank You.

For users having latest version of PotPlayer (1.5.33556), the newest beta update has the following fixes. Recommended to update.. Simply install over the top of the latest stable version. Fixed a problem with the latest version of Flash installed Fixed an issue during video capture with Vorbis compression Fixed a problem with the sync in certain situations (audio-video getting out of sync) *Some fixes in Built-in CUDA Decoder

Many thanks for the heads up on the new update, much appreciated. I don’t know that you think and I would like to know, but I’m finding that PotPlayer in comparison to Media Player Classic which I use to use is heavy on the reassures when being used. The memory takes a big hit when I use PotPlayer.

Have a great day and thanks once again.

What's your system configuration?

Thanks for taking the time and providing so much great info. The review was great to read. Following on from the review I have one question to ask. That is can you open 2x Potplayer media players at the same time? I have tried it with other media plays and I have managed to do this.

Your help is very much appreciated.

Many thanks.


Please read this post. There are certain bugs in the latest stable version, so you might have to install the beta update version on top of it.
Thank you for your kind words :) For opening multiple instances of PotPlayer, Right click on the interface and go to Preferences. In the General tab, find the entry for "Multiple Launching", and then click the drop down button next to it and select "Launch Multiple PotPlayer". That's all Have a nice day :D ---George.J (Editor)

Thank you so much for coming back with the answer, very much appreciated.
Following receipt of your reply and using the link where it says (Download here) I have downloaded as advised the latest stable version first named PotPlayer1.5.35161Upd.EXE.

However there is one small problem. It doesn’t provide the option for a 32-bit file. When I install my pc asks me to find the 32-bit option.

The link above named ( provides you with a file called PotPlayer1.5.35238.EXE. I have installed this but when you install the program it shows as Beta option.

Can you also help with this please, all I’m looking for is an up-to-date 32-bit stable version file.

Thanks again for your previous advice and help.