What good is having a super-compressed MPEG4 video if you can’t watch it on whatever device you choose? Sure, that movie may look absolutely phenomenal in high-def on your computer, but it can be a pain to watch on your home console, or — if you want to cut the cord entirely — on your tablet or smartphone. Luckily, quality video converters have been around for several years, allowing users to convert their precious video footage into a number of desirable formats. And they’re completely free.
Most video converters require the user to upload their files and select an appropriate output setting before choosing a save location within their computer’s directory. The very best pave the way with intuitive features, consistent updates, and a large toolbox of options.
Here are our picks for the best free video converters so you can free yourself from the ball-and-chain formats of yesterday and convert video so that it’s playable on practically any device you choose. Try to keep your videos to only copyright-free content, if possible, and check out our picks for the best media players and best free video editing software if you’re looking to get your inner filmmaker out. If you’re looking to also boost your photo editing abilities, use our guides on effects you can use to make professional photographs and best free photo editing software.
Any Video Converter (Windows/Mac OS X)
The name says it all. Any Video Converter is a fantastic piece of freeware that can handle conversions to everything from DivX and MPEG4, to VOB, and more than 60 other input formats (including 4K video formats), all within an attractive and minimalist interface. The software features user-defined video outputs, as well as batch processing for converting multiple files simultaneously, and saves all converted video to a pre-designated folder for quick access and organization. Aside from the basic conversion features, AVC can also directly extract and convert audio from any given video into a limited number of formats such as MP3, AAC, WAVE and others. Plus, the program can download and convert YouTube and Google videos by simply pasting the specified video link into the download box and clicking a few buttons.
Although conversion speeds leave something to be desired, and the built-in DVD burner is a bit finicky, the resulting video quality is excellent, especially when paired with the barebones editor that allows you to trim, crop, and layer video effects for a more hands-on approach. AVC covers a good deal of format ground – offering conversions for mobile devices and consoles, among other machines – making it one of the most user-friendly and adoptable freemium products in our roundup.
Freemake Video Converter (Windows)
Freemake has quickly risen to become one of the well-respected free converters available for download. Not only does it support hundreds (more than 500 to be precise) of different video formats, it also allows you to insta-download from social media sites, most video sharing sites, physical media, and more. Plenty of devices are supported for quick, intuitive transfers, and 4K resolution is supported.
There’s also plenty of tools to cut and rotate videos, embed videos, auto-convert with subtitles, and other useful functions all packaged together in one of the friendliest interfaces we’ve seen.
While Freemake does a lot right, there are a couple things you should know. First, you’ll need the .NET Framework 4.0 Client Profile for a successful download – Freemake isn’t the only one with such Client Profile requirements, so it’s always smart to double-check this. Also, you’ll want to check for updates, because Freemake is regularly updated to patch problems and include new formats.
Handbrake (Windows/Mac OS X)
Handbrake seemed on its last legs back in 2006 when the software’s initial creator, Eric Petit, seemingly dropped off the face of the Earth. However, software development carried on with a help a few ambitious folk who were driven to update and revise the existing software for a changing world.
The open-source video converter now boasts one of the most expansive software packages for ripping and converting video files for playback on number of popular devices such as iPods, AppleTV, and Android tablets. The interface is sleek and well-designed, with plenty of menu tabs for advanced features, all done in a traditional style that anyone familiar with Windows or Mac OS will be able to understand. However, the HandBrake guide and forums are always available if you need help without having to spend time fumbling with the program.
Handbrake also doesn’t feature any ads or bundled adware – a welcoming touch – but conversion speeds can drag, and the software certainly isn’t light on system resources. Other noteworthy features include an abundance of video editing tools for splicing, adjusting framerate, and adding subtitles and assorted video effects before viewing the results in a live preview window.
Handbrake simply can’t be topped when converting files to MP4 or MKV format, but it also isn’t for beginners unwilling to learn the software.
MediaCoder (Windows/Mac OS X/Linux)
MediaCoder is a capable program loaded with terrific conversion features, if you’re willing to delve headfirst into the software. Whether you want to batch process a number of AVI files to MPEG, or compress files for a reduced memory footprint, MediaCoder can handle it (albeit with a throwback design). QuickSync, NVENC, and CUDA encoding are supported for high-speed work, and multiple types of video can be ripped from video cameras.
You can find additional settings for modifying the output –including those for converting video to grayscale, quarter-pixel, cartoon, or high-quality mode – as well as bitrate adjustments for both the audio and video components of your file. Speed and quality are also grade A, with quick conversion and an emphasis on maintaining the original quality across formats.
MediaCoder is an exceptional piece of software, but it’s geared more towards the tech aficionado opposed to the first-time user trying to make a zippy conversions.
Cloud Convert (Web-based)
Not everyone wants to download a standalone application to fulfill their video converting needs. Luckily, Cloud Convert is one of the best online tools for simple file downloads and conversion. It currently handles 214 different formats that go far beyond video (including docs, images, eBooks and more). Batch converting and folder monitoring are including, and the API allows you to plug in these abilities in a number of applications if you already have a preferred video/audio software hub.
The entire conversion process takes place in the cloud and output settings – like aspect ratio, codec, bitrate, and resolution – can also be tweaked from the Web app’s sparse interface prior to converting the files. Cloud Convert will even automatically email you or drop the resulting file in your Google Drive or Dropbox account in lieu of saving it to your computer.
The Web-based software lacks the speed of standalone programs for Windows and Mac OS X, but it’s more than proficient in converting a range of files without ever deviating from the smooth interface and easily navigable design that have made the software one of the best available.
Convertilla is a simple app and an easy Windows download that’s designed for more casual users. While many of our other picks favor more professional interfaces and options, if you only want a simple converter for a few basic tasks, this one will probably give you the least trouble. It doesn’t cover many formats, but you can still use MP4, FLV, MKV, MPG, AVI, AAC, WEBM, WMV, WAV, and several other of the more popular options – again, ideal for casual users. Specify video size and quality, and you are good to go.
The interface includes a number of “gadget” icons to help you find what you want to convert if you aren’t sure about the format, including options like PSP, iPod, Blackberry, Android, iOS, and more. Convertilla also supports integration with the Internet Download Accelerator to automate video conversion for your common downloads (ideal for mobile or cross-platform work, among other things). We also liked that support for Convertilla has stayed up with the latest versions of Windows – where free competitors tend to leg behind when it comes to OS compatibility.
Online-Convert is one of the most robust free converters available. The streamlined homepage makes the available conversion options immediately apparent, providing a slew of tools for converting video, audio, images, documents, ebooks, and other files. The video component of the site houses options for converting files to FLV, MP4, MOV, and more than 20 other popular formats (including multiple game consoles, a welcome and increasingly common interface option). There are additional options for changing the screen size, audio quality, bitrate, and other making other minor adjustments.
If you aren’t sure about a conversion, you can use the search function in the top-right corner of the page to quickly check if Online-Convert is capable of making your desired switch. If it’s not, the developers invite you to write in with conversion suggestions they may be able to implement in the future.
While most users will experience little trouble uploading and converting video files, the site does require you to opt for a premium membership if you need to upload a file larger than 100MB or simultaneously convert four files at once. Nonetheless, the site is stable, relatively devoid of ads, and provides a wide variety of format options without requiring you to download additional software or unwanted browser extensions.
In today’s day and age, there’s often little room on our roundup for the software that skirts just below the quality bar we set. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a handful of other capable, free video converters worth checking out if you’re looking for something else. Below are just a few of the other standouts amid the myriad of video-conversion software. Some are light on features, some are more robust, but give ’em a look nonetheless.
Do you have a recommendation for a terrific converter not featured on our list? Let us know in the comments below.
Update: This post was updated on 5-4-2016 by Tyler Lacoma to reflect recent software changes. Two new offerings, Freemake and Convertilla, were added. Two older offerings, Format Factory and Clip Converter, were deleted.