What Is an M3U8 File?

How to open, edit, and convert M3U8 files

What to Know

  • An M3U8 file is a UTF-8 Encoded Audio Playlist file.
  • Open one with VLC, iTunes, Songbird, and other media players.
  • Convert to M3U, XSPF, or HTML with VLC.

This article explains what an M3U8 file is used for, which programs are able to use it to play media files, and how to convert one to a different playlist format.

What Is an M3U8 File?

A file with the M3U8 file extension is a UTF-8 Encoded Audio Playlist file. They are plain text files that can be used by both audio and video players to describe where media files are located.

For example, one M3U8 file may give you references to online files for an internet radio station. Another might be created on your computer to build a playlist for your own personal music or a series of videos.

Either way, the effect is the same: You can open the file to quickly and easily start playing whatever it is the playlist points to. If you find yourself wanting to listen to the same songs over and over, you might make an M3U8 file as a sort of shortcut to play those files in your media player.

The file can use absolute paths, relative paths, and URLs to refer to specific media files and/or entire folders of media files. Other information in the file might be comments that describe the contents.

M3U8 files that open in iTunes

There's a similar format that uses the M3U file extension. M3U8 is used to show that the file is using UTF-8 character encoding.

How to Open an M3U8 File

M3U8 files can be edited and read by most text editors, including Notepad in Windows. However, as you can see below, opening one with Notepad only lets you read the file references. You can't actually play any of these music files like this because text editors aren't the same as media player or media management programs.

An M3U8 File in Notepad
An M3U8 File in Notepad.

If you're looking for a good program to open and use M3U8 files, try VLC, Apple's iTunes, or Songbird. Another way to open this file format on Linux is with XMMS, while Mac users should be able to use CocoModX (in addition to some of the those Windows-compatible programs).

Here's an example of the same M3U8 file from above but open in VLC, which will gather all the music files referenced in the text file and load them into the media player for playback.

Music playlist in VLC
Music playlist in VLC.

One quick way you can open the file online is through HSLPlayer.net. However, this website will not work if you have an M3U8 file stored on your computer or some other device. You can only use it if you have a URL to the file and the contents it references are also online.

How to Make an M3U8 File

Some of the same software that can open the file can also be used to create an M3U8 file. For example, if you load a bunch of files into VLC that you'd like to have in their own playlist for easy playback in the future, use the Media > Save Playlist to File option to make an M3U8 file.

Save playlist as prompt in VLC

Another way to "create" an M3U8 file is to convert a different playlist format into this one, such as HTML to M3U8. Converthelper.net might be helpful here.

How to Convert an M3U8 File

If you're looking to convert M3U8 to MP4, or to MP3, or to any other media format, you first need to understand that this format is plain text—nothing more and nothing less. This means it just contains text, nothing that can actually "play" like how an MP4 or MP3 file can play in a media player.

If you do find a converter that claims to save the playlist to a video file format, all it's doing is finding the video from the path described in the M3U8 file, and then running that file through the converter. It's impossible to save this text-based format to anything but another text format.

What you're probably after is a file converter that can convert the audio or video files that the M3U8 refers to, to and from other audio/video file formats, like an MP4 to AVI converter or a WAV to MP3 converter (or any other variation of these types of files).

The only problem with doing this is that sometimes an M3U8 file points to media files that are in several locations at once. This may include various folders on one or more internal hard drives, flash drives, and/or external drives.

If this is the case, we don't recommend manually searching through all of them to find your files. Instead, just download the free program M3UExportTool. It uses the playlist file to identify the source for all the media files, and then copies them to a single location. From there, you can easily convert them with a video or audio converter.

M3U8X is a similar program that should work much like M3UExportTool. You'll need a RAR opener like 7-Zip to open it.

Besides MusConv's M3U8 to M3U converter program, we don't have any download links to dedicated playlist converters, but some of the programs mentioned earlier, like VLC, can re-save an open M3U8 playlist to another format like M3U, XSPF, or HTML, which is essentially the same thing as a conversion.

Still Can't Open It?

If you can't open the file using the methods above, there's a good chance that your file isn't actually in this playlist file format. Some file types use a file extension that looks a lot like it reads .M3U8, so you'd be wise to double-check the file extension.

One example is MU3, used for Myriad Packed Musical Score files. You need to download Myriad's Harmony Assistant or Melody Assistant to open it.

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