How to Play any Video Format on Your Mac by@joeywilliams

How to Play any Video Format on Your Mac

Stellar Data Recovery HackerNoon profile picture

Stellar Data Recovery

Professional Tool that Repairs, Recovers and Erase Data from any kind of media storage.

facebook social icontwitter social iconlinkedin social iconyoutube social icon


If you can’t play video files on Mac’s default media player (QuickTime), this article will provide you with alternative solutions to play your video irrespective of its codec.

There are dozens of video file formats used across the internet and more are being introduced all the time. Naturally, not every format is compatible with every media player. Considering this, it's extremely hard to set out common guidelines for playing different video files or codec on a particular OS, for example, Mac. But of course, that doesn’t mean we can’t have a basic framework in place.

Therefore, in this post, we've compiled a list of the most popular video file formats along with instructions on how to play them on your Mac. We'll keep adding more to this list in the future. If there are any formats that aren't on our list, do let us know in the comments below.

Note: Before we get into the specific file formats, please keep in mind that macOS will be able to play most video formats right out of the box. You can double-click on the file to see if your operating system has a default program for it. But still, there are many that Mac’s proprietary applications can't handle. These can be played by other free media players, which we'll talk about a lot in this post.

QuickTime Player Codec Error

QuickTime Player Codec Error

Why can’t QuickTime play certain file formats?

Like other media players, QuickTime evaluates both audio and video codecs within a file when you try to play it. The player won’t play the file if there’s an issue with any codec or if its header information is damaged. For instance, when trying to play AVI files in QuickTime, the player fails to identify the video's Cinepak and ALaw 2:1 codec, and hence is unable to play AVI videos.

To overcome these issues with other file formats we have come up with different alternatives to QuickTime player in the section below.

Key Solutions to Play Video Files or Codec on Mac:

Here’s how you can play different files on Mac systems using different media players.

1.    AVI

Audio Video Interleave, or AVI, is a multimedia container format developed by Microsoft as part of its “Video for Windows” technology in November 1992. AVI files can hold both audio and video data in a single file container, allowing for simultaneous audio and video playing.

How to play AVI files on Mac?

If an AVI file is not playing on your Mac, you should start by installing an alternative media player such as VLC. Here’s how to download VLC for free on Mac:

1. Visit the official website of VLC for Mac and download the installation file which will be in DMG format.

2. Open the DMG file after the download is complete.

3. Locate the VLC icon and drag it into the Applications folder. To create a shortcut, open the Applications folder, find the VLC icon, and drag it to your Mac dock.

4. Now click on the icon to open the VLC application.

To play the AVI video file with VLC, simply drag the file into the interface window or choose Open Media and then browse to the desired file.

2.    MKV

A file with the MKV extension is often referred to as a Matroska Video file. It's a video container similar to MOV and AVI, except it can hold an infinite amount of audio, video, and subtitle tracks (like SRT or USF). MKV is frequently used as the carrier for sharing high-definition videos online, as it supports descriptions, ratings, and cover art.

How to play MKV files on Mac?

If an MKV file isn’t playing on Mac, try converting it to QuickTime-friendly format and then play. You can use any converter for audio and video to do so. Alternatively, you can also try playing it with VLC. Refer to the steps from the previous solution to download VLC for Mac and play the MKV file with it.

There are other alternative media players as well, such as MKPlayer, developed especially for playing MKV files on Mac. You can download the latest version of MKPlayer from the Apple app store.

3.    MOV

The MOV file extension is one of the most commonly used video container formats. It can contain all types of multimedia files, videos, video effects, audio, text, photos, and subtitles. This format's compression technique was created by Apple, but it works on both Mac and Windows platforms. MOV files can be played on gaming consoles and DVD players. The "International Organization for Standardization" has recognized MOV as the basis for the MPEG-4 file format. It’s also ideal for editing in top video editing tools.

How to play MOV files on Mac?

MOV files are video files that work with Apple's QuickTime Player, which comes pre-installed on Mac. A MOV file can be opened by simply double-clicking it once it has been located. The file will open immediately in your default video player, which is Apple's QuickTime Player.

4.    MP4 and MPEG

Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) developed the MP4 standard format, which is widely used for transferring video files over the Internet. MP4 is a type of MPEG file format used for video encoding. The capacity to store subtitles, still photos, and other data alongside digital video and audio sets MP4 apart from other MPEG formats.

How to play MP4 and MPEG files on Mac?

Although QuickTime supports a wide range of music and video formats, some MP4 videos may not be recognized by the application. This is usually due to the fact that your MP4 video may be encoded with an older or specialized codec that QuickTime can’t recognize. If this is the case, you can use Elmedia player to play your MP4 and MPEG videos on Mac. Here’s how you can do so: a. Browse to Elmedia’s official website of and download its Mac version.

b. Once the download is complete, launch the application. Then navigate to the file from the top menu and click on it.

c. Then click on the Open option from the dropdown menu.

d. Choose the MP4 file you just downloaded and your movie will begin to play.

4.    GIF

A GIF (pronounced "gif") is simply an image file with animation. GIFs aren't truly videos, so we call them "animated images." They're more akin to flipbooks than anything else.

How to play GIF files on Mac?

A GIF, or Graphics Interchange Format file, is a basic video with only a few frames that is often used on blogs or memes for looping animations. When you double-click a GIF on a Mac, it defaults to Preview, which displays the individual frames rather than animating them. For seeing the files animating you should open them in Safari, Firefox, or Chrome.

If your multimedia files or codec aren’t working on Mac even after downloading alternative files, try using our ultimate solution mentioned in the section below.

Sure-shot solution: Use a Professional Video Repair Software

If a video file or codec isn’t playing even after downloading alternative third-party software, it's likely that it’s broken or corrupted. As such, without wasting more time, you should use the easiest and most efficient video repair tool out there to fix it.

There are many tools over the internet that can effectively restore videos that have been corrupted by unexpected power outages, interruptions when downloading/transferring, virus attacks, storage drive damage, and OS crashes. Its complex algorithms correct all types of corruption and errors in frames, sound sections, headers, movement, and sliders, restoring the seamless nature of your videos. It’s compatible with all types of video file formats such as GIF, MOV, MP4, AVI, MKV, and MPEG from different devices.


It isn’t difficult to play different video file formats and codec on Mac. You can download plugins for proprietary Mac software or alternative multimedia players. But, to work smoothly, they should be compatible with your macOS and QuickTime version. If not, you can use one of the above mentioned fixes.

react to story with heart
react to story with light
react to story with boat
react to story with money
Stellar Data Recovery HackerNoon profile picture
by Stellar Data Recovery @joeywilliams.Professional Tool that Repairs, Recovers and Erase Data from any kind of media storage.
Read my stories
. . . comments & more!