What Is an M4V File?

iTunes stores MPEG-4 video files with the M4V file extension

What to Know

  • An M4V file is an iTunes video file.
  • Play a protected M4V file with iTunes, otherwise use VLC.
  • For online conversions to MP4, MOV, MP3, WAV, MKV, etc., use FileZigZag.

This article explains what an M4V file is, how to open one on any device, and how to convert one to a different file format.

What Is an M4V File?

Developed by Apple and nearly identical to the MP4 format, a file with the M4V file extension is an MPEG-4 video file, or sometimes called an iTunes video file.

You'll most often find these types of files used for movies, TV shows, and music videos downloaded through the iTunes Store.

Apple may protect M4V files with DRM copyright protection to prevent unauthorized distribution of the video. Those files, then, can only be used on a computer that has been authorized to play them.

M4V files in Windows 10 that open with iTunes

A music file downloaded through iTunes is available as an M4A file, while copy-protected music comes as an M4P file.

How to Play M4V Files

You can only play protected M4V files if the computer is authorized to do so. This is done through iTunes by logging in to the same account that purchased the video. Learn how to authorize your computer in iTunes if you need help with this.

These DRM protected M4V files can also be played directly on the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch that purchased the video.

If the file isn't protected with such restrictions, you can play it on a Windows PC or Linux computer with VLC or Miro. Some other ways Windows plays M4V files is with MPlayer, QuickTime, Windows Media Player, and probably many other media players.

M4V open in Windows with VLC
VLC Playing an M4V in Windows.

Opening M4V files on a Mac is possible with some of those same programs as well as Elmedia Player.

Google Drive supports the format, too, and it works from any computer regardless of the operating system.

Since the M4V and MP4 formats are so alike, you may be able to just change the file extension from .M4V to .MP4 and still open it in a media player.

Changing a file extension like this doesn't actually convert the file to a new format—for that, you'd need a file converter (explained below). However, in this case, renaming the extension makes an MP4 opener recognize that the file is something it can open (an MP4 file), and since the two are similar, it will probably work without any problems.

How to Convert an M4V File

You can convert an M4V file to MP4, AVI, and other formats using a free video file converter such as Any Video Converter or MiniTool Video Converter. Check out that list for several other options.

Another option, if you'd rather not download one to your computer, is FileZigZag. It's a free online tool that converts M4Vs to not only other video formats but also audio formats like M4A, AAC, FLAC, and WMA. A similar site that supports this format is Zamzar.

As you read above, you may be able to simply change the .M4V file extension to .MP4 to change the M4V file to MP4 without going through a conversion process.

Still Can't Open It?

If you can't open your file with the M4V openers or converters mentioned on this page, double-check the file extension. You might actually have a file with a different file extension, which could mean that it's in a completely different format.

It's easy to confuse other files for M4V files if their file extensions are similar. M4, for example, is used for macro processor library files, so those should be opened with a text editor.

M files and MivaScript files that use the MV file extension are similar. Just because they share some of the same file extension letters doesn't mean you can open them with an M4V-compatible program.

  • Is M4V better than MP4?

    Overall, both formats are pretty similar, but there are some subtle differences. Some Apple fans and content creators may prefer M4V because it benefits from Apple's FairPlay DRM copy protection, while MP4 is a more open format compatible with a wide variety of devices. While M4V only uses the H.264 video codec, MP4 can use the H.264 codec or the HEVC codec, which has similar quality but is half the size.

  • Is M4V smaller than MP4?

    Generally, you won't see much difference in size between a M4V or MP4 file. But, that's assuming they're both using the same H.264 video codec. If the MP4 in question is using the HEVC codec, which allows for reduced file size, it could be smaller than the M4V.

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