How Can I Play Windows Media Files (Wma and Wmv) On a Mac?

Introduction

Apple’s Quicktime movie format (recognizable by its *.mov extension) has become and almost standard for video files. It beats most other video formats in terms of compression and both video and audio quality. The quicktime format, however, is by no means the only format for videos out there. In a world where over 90% of all personal computers run Microsoft Windows it is no surprise that you are bound to stumble over videos in the Microsoft Media File format (.wma and .wmv). How can you play these kind of videos on a Mac?

While there are about a handful of options, two of them are more reasonable than the others for a bunch of reasons: the Flip4Mac Quicktime plugin and VLC Media Player.

Flip4Mac

Flip4Mac is a plugin for Apple’s Quicktime movie player. Being a plugin it will enable Quicktime to play Windows Media Files. This has the advantage of there not being an additional application being installed on your Mac. Also, you will be able to watch (and listen to) Windows Media files in the software you are used to that has the type of user interface you expect when working on a Mac.

Flip4Mac is produced by a company named Telestream which offers five different versions of the plugin (Player, Player Pro, Studio, Studio Pro, Studio Pro HD). While it is reasonable to buy one of the commercial editions (buying software to support developers is always a wise idea) you can do very well with the free edition.

Installation of Flip4Mac is very easy. After downloading the plugin from either the Telestream site or Microsoft (for links see the resource box) open the downloaded .mpkg file and the plugin will be installed.

After installation you will be able to play following additional file formats with Quicktime:

  • Windows Media Audio (.wma)
  • Windows Media Video (.wmv)
  • ISO Mpeg Layer 3 (MP3)
  • ISO Mpeg-4
  • Microsoft Motion JPEG
  • And a few other, less used formats

VLC Media Player

The free VLC Media Player is your second reasonable option. This piece of software is open source, continually worked on by its open source developer community and is probably the most versatile media player in terms of supported formats out there.

Installation is as easy as downloading the dmg file (for a download link see resource box) and then drag and drop the dmg file into your Application folder.

VLC Media Player is a very reliable and versatile media player. There is one downside however: like so many other pieces of software written for all major platforms (Windows, Linux, Mac OS) its user interface does not follow Apple’s guidelines. VLC simply doesn’t look or feel like a Mac application.

Summary

Both, VLC Media Player and Flip4Mac, are very good options if you need to play Windows Media files on your Mac. There is no problem having both of them installed on the same machine. If, however, you prefer to have as little software installed on your Mac as possible, you should opt for Flip4Mac.

Flip4Mac: http://www.telestream.net/flip4mac-wmv/overview.htm
VLC Media Player: http://www.videolan.org/vlc/

Brian Leanza

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