In only a few years, our computers have gone from just practical text-based machines to full-fledged multimedia entertainment extravaganzas. These days, chances are your computer doubles as a full-fledged media player with music, videos and even full-length movies.
But, there's just one problem. Depending on where some of your music or videos came from, there's a good chance that your computer might not be able to play every file.
That means that sometimes your home videos, like baby's first steps, graduations or weddings, just won't play on your computer. That can be irritating, especially when you want to show them off to friends and family, but hang on.
This is a problem because in the wars over formats, some music players and video cameras record their files using software that's unique to one brand or another. Sure, QuickTime and Windows Media Player come preloaded on most computers, but unfortunately, they don't play every file type.
Now you could hunt down and install players for every single format you might ever want to play. But who wants to go to all that trouble?
There's a way that you can watch all of your home videos and play movies and music to boot. All you need is a program that can handle nearly every media format.
And don't go reaching for your wallet, yet. One of the best ones is absolutely free!
Remember these three letters: VLC.
VLC is a free, open-source media player that plays almost every audio and video file format in existence, plus CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray. And you can trust VLC because it has been around since nearly the dark days of the internet, way back in 1996.
VLC even handles webcams and streaming content and can convert media from one format to another. Not only is VLC powerful, it's lightweight. There isn't an overabundance of flashy features and useless add-ons.
It runs fast, and there are no ads, which makes it perfect for any audio or video file you need it to run. It's also really simple to use.
To run a video or audio file, you can drag and drop a file into the open VLC program or open it under the Media tab. The player buttons are simple and are easily accessible at the bottom of the VLC window. When DVDs or Blu-rays start up, you can choose to play them through VLC for a better viewing experience.
To download the program, navigate to the VLC player home page using my blue link buttons below. Or click here to visit the VLC download page.
For Windows users click the big orange "Download VLC" button and select Windows. If you use a Mac, click the orange "Download VLC" button and select Mac OS X.
Your download should begin immediately. When the download is complete, open and run the installation files. Choose a language to continue.
Be sure to read the Terms and Conditions before continuing. Remember, you should always read the fine print when downloading anything to your computer!
During installation, you'll see a list of options in checkbox form. Scroll down to see an area called File Associations. By default, VLC will tweak your computer settings so it's the default media player for every media file (every media program tries to do this).
If you prefer to use iTunes or another program for audio, uncheck the audio option. You can uncheck video as well if you're just testing the program. You can also check or uncheck specific file types to associate with VLC, but most users won't need to go that far.
We recommend using the default installation settings. Once the download is complete, VLC Player will run automatically.
You can select a file or disc to play by clicking "Open" in the VLC toolbar and choosing your media. You can also right-click on a media file and select "Open with VLC," or just drag and drop files to the VLC window. Now you can watch videos or listen to music and audiobooks in almost any file and format.