Microsoft has never offered a really great media player for Windows users. If the file format is unusual, or worse, the file has DRM, the pre-installed Movies & TV app won’t play it. Don’t even think about trying the classic Windows Media Player.
With that in mind, you’ll need to install a top-quality media player that’s capable of playing any type of file you throw at it. You also don’t have to pay to get this privilege, as here are 7 of the best free media players for Windows that you can install today.
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When the Movies & TV app isn’t playing your content, the first free media player most Windows users will download is VLC Media Player. It remains one of the most famous and arguably the best media players available for every platform, including Windows.
Rarely, VLC can’t play media files, except for encrypted or corrupted files. It can play local media files, as well as handle internet live streams and play content from other local sources such as digital TV receivers.
VLC can also help you convert video files from one format to another, save YouTube videos for offline playback, and record your own videos using the webcam. If you are a music lover, you can use VLC to play music with your own VLC music playlist.
Kodi has a bit of a bad reputation in some places, thanks to the third-party add-ons scene in the works, but it’s one of the most functional and best free media players for Windows 10 users. .
From humble beginnings on the original Xbox, Kodi has grown into a big-screen entertainment platform, capable of playing music, video, live TV and more from a single interface. The user interface is designed for TVs, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be used on PCs.
Like VLC, Kodi is capable of playing pretty much any media file you throw at it. It can handle network-attached storage devices with ease, allowing you to stream your movie and TV catalog over your local network.
Third-party add-ons, as we mentioned, further extend Kodi’s functionality, allowing you to play content from other sources online. Not all of this is related to piracy, with add-ons available for playback on Netflix and YouTube.
With a name like Media Player Classic, you could assume this media player has been around for a while. In fact, MPC-HC (HC stands for Home Cinema) is a fork of the original, with extra features and bug fixes.
Simple, fast and easy to use, MPC-HC is a lightweight alternative to other free media players, especially on lower-resource Windows PCs.
Don’t worry about the old look, as the MPC-HC is one of the most capable media players out there. Like VLC, it handles regular and unusual media files, with playback for DVDs and live streams.
It’s also customizable, with skins and plugins that can extend the functionality even further.
One downside of MPC-HC is that development has stalled, which means no new features or fixes as of 2017. However, it still runs fine on Windows 10 and remains one of the best. the best media player, especially for old PCs.
We are pleased to announce that VLC is not the only working, open source media player in development, thanks to MPV. MPV is another fork project that takes the best of the older MPlayer and mplayer2 projects, adding new features and skins in the process.
In fact, MPV does not have many interfaces. The media controls are hidden during playback, although they will appear if you hover over it. You also cannot access any settings. To play files, simply drag them to the open window.
This may not appeal to all users, but it’s certainly a different approach. MPV has other standout features, including a number of third-party scripts that add additional functionality to the software, allowing you to customize how MPV plays your content.
As for playing your favorite media files, MPV just works—it can play pretty much any type of video format, including streaming and local streaming.
Free, although not open source, PotPlayer is a good alternative to other media players for Windows. This entry from the Korean company Kakao is a highly customizable player, with some unusual features also added.
PotPlayer is lightweight, uses hardware acceleration to improve playback performance, with the ability to play back most common video formats. It also supports local TV receivers, including DVB-T and DVB-S.
Unlike the basic MPV interface, PotPlayer is extremely customizable, with many different skins and a large number of settings to allow you to adjust the way PotPlayer plays your files. PotPlayer has also been used to play some corrupted media files, although your own experience may vary, depending on the file.
With so many settings, PotPlayer can be a bit confusing for casual users, but it can be a good choice for proficient Windows users.
Plex is more than just a simple and free media player, so don’t expect it to be a similar VLC alternative. It’s a hybrid server and media player, allowing you to store your media files and stream them to other Plex players.
It is one of the highest rated multimedia systems available for Windows 10. Plex features include discounted Tidal music playback, ad-supported movies, and various add-on apps to Play media from online sources like YouTube.
Plex can handle playback of most popular media files, but if you’re streaming high-resolution content, you’ll need to host your Plex media server on a high-powered PC.
If you want to organize your movies and TV shows in a single place, Plex lets you do this, adding helpful thumbnails and descriptions to your content for better organization.
AllPlayer may not be as famous as some of the other best media players, but it won’t be discounted. It calls itself the best media player for subtitles, and that’s not too far from the truth.
Not only are subtitles well supported in AllPlayer, but this software will search and automatically download subtitles for the media content it recognizes. It also supports popular media formats, including high resolution files in 4K.
If you are hearing impaired, AllPlayer makes watching your video content a simple process. Visually impaired users can also take advantage of AllPlayer’s voice synthesizer to read subtitles, allowing you to watch movies in a foreign language.
Development on AllPlayer is in the works and includes remote control apps for mobile devices.
Media playback on Windows Made Easy
Installing a good, free media player should be one of your first tasks when set up a new Windows PC. Players like VLC and MPV will handle most file formats, but you can use an entertainment suite like Plex or Kodi instead.
VLC users can also use VLC with Chromecast to enjoy their videos on the big screen.