AAC File (What It Is & How to Open One)

How to open and convert AAC files

  • An AAC file is an Advanced Audio Coding file.
  • Open one with a media player like iTunes or VLC.
  • Convert to MP3, WAV, M4R, etc., online with Zamzar or FileZigZag.

This article explains AAC files, including how to open one and how to convert one to a different audio file format.

What Is an AAC File?

A file with the AAC file extension is a MPEG-2 Advanced Audio Coding file. It's similar to the MP3 audio format but includes some performance improvements.

Apple's iTunes and iTunes Store use Advanced Audio Coding as their default encoding method for music files. It's also the standard audio format for many other devices and platforms.

AAC files that open with iTunes

AAC files can most definitely use the .AAC file extension but they're more commonly seen wrapped in the M4A file container, and therefore usually carry the .M4A file extension.

AAC is also short for some terms that have nothing to do with this audio file format, like Acer America Corp. and advanced access control.

How to Play an AAC File

You can open an AAC file with iTunes through the File menu. On a Mac, use the Add to Library option. For Windows, choose either Add File to Library or Add Folder to Library to add the AAC files to your iTunes Library.

Another way to play AAC files with VLC, Media Player Classic (MPC-HC), Windows Media Player, MPlayer, Audials One, and likely many other multi-format media players.

If you need help opening the one in the Audacity audio editing software, see their guide on how to import files from iTunes. You need to install the FFmpeg library if you're on Windows or Linux.

Be sure to review the Audacity privacy policy before you download and use it, to ensure you’re comfortable with its terms.

If you find that an application on your computer tries to open the file but it's the wrong application or you'd rather have another installed program open it, you can change file association settings on your Windows PC to edit which app opens AAC files.

How to Convert an AAC File

If you have it installed, converting from AAC to MP3 with iTunes is easy and convenient. But that's not the only program that supports conversions, and MP3 isn't the only audio format you can change the AAC file to.

You can also use a dedicated free audio converter. Most of the programs from that list let you convert one to MP3, WAV, WMA, and other similar audio formats. You can also use a free audio converter to save the file as an M4R ringtone for use on an iPhone.

FileZigZag is one way you can convert AAC files online on any other operating system, because it works through a web browser. Upload the file there to be given the option to convert AAC to MP3, WMA, FLAC, WAV, RA, M4A, AIF/AIFF/AIFC, OPUS, and lots of other formats.

Zamzar is another free online audio converter that works like FileZigZag.

Some songs purchased through iTunes may be encoded in a particular type of protected AAC format, and therefore can't be converted with a file converter.

Still Can't Open the File?

The AAC file extension shares some of the same letters as the extension found in other file formats, but that doesn't mean the formats are related. If this happens, you probably won't be able to open the file in any of the programs mentioned above.

Some examples of this include AC (Autoconf Script), AAE (Sidecar Image Format), AAF, AA, AAX (Audible Enhanced Audiobook), ACC (Graphics Accounts Data), AC3, and DAA.

  • How do you convert music files to AAC format?

    You can convert songs to a different file format with the Apple Music app or iTunes for Windows. On a Mac, go to Apple Music > Music > Preferences > Files > Import Settings and choose AAC. In Windows, go to iTunes > Edit > Preferences > General > Import Settings and choose AAC.

  • Which music format is better: AAC or M4A?

    AAC encoded audio files can have a variety of extensions including .m4a. Even if the file extensions are different, the files types are identical and should sound the same.

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