Skip to content

How to play any video, audio or music file

Someone send you an audio or video file but it won’t play? There’s free software that can play any video, audio or music file, pretty much.

VLC is a free, reliable and widely used audio and video player it’s available for Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android and Linux.

You name the format, VLC will handle it

VLC can handle almost any media file you throw at it … well, almost always.

Unlike the in-built video/music players from Microsoft and Apple, VLC supports a very wide range of formats.

Instead of messing about installing codecs and other nonsense, VLC comes ready to use.

VLC supported format list at October 2023

It’ll also play from DVD, Audio CD, webcams, network cameras, DVB (Satellite TV)  and many other acronyms.

I don’t bother checking the VLC compatibility list anymore. Just open the media file in VLC and let it work out what’s needed.

If VLC can’t play the media file, the file is either faulty or the format so obscure that it’ll be hard to find a player.

Choose audio device

A handy option in VLC for Windows is Audio | Device where you can directly choose the speakers or output that will receive the sound. That’s invaluable when you’re troubleshooting audio problems in Windows because VLC lets you choose where the sound goes (i.e. it’s one less possible trouble point).

Audio Track lets you choose what to hear on a multi-lingual video.

The Video and Subtitles menus also have useful options.

View | Always on Top lets you play a video or audio in part of the screen while you’re doing other things.


VLC can handle subtitles, either included in the media file or in another file (e.g .srt). There are features to adjust the subtitle timing, font and position on screen.

VLC’s only weakness is the library management for large music collections.  For that use a dedicated player program. Start with the music player than comes with Windows, Mac etc.  Those players are designed to get people to sign up for streaming services, but can play music stored on your computer or device.

We’ve used VLC for many years, especially for playing videos but also audio files in formats that Microsoft or Apple don’t support. Or just playing an audio file ‘one off’ rather than importing into a media library just for a single play.

VLC for Windows, Mac or Linux

Go to the VLC download page, it should detect your operating system and select the correct download.  Or click on the OS icon to choose another version of VLC.

VLC for iPhone / iPad / Apple TV

VLC for iPhone, iPad or Apple TV go to the App Store

VLC for Android devices

VLC for Android is on Google Play.

Converting WAV to MP3 audio for PowerPoint

Audio tricks and traps in PowerPoint

No nonsense guide to fixing Windows audio problems – speakers

About this author

Office Watch is the independent source of Microsoft Office news, tips and help since 1996. Don't miss our famous free newsletter.