Our best free video converters round-up has been fully updated. This feature was first published in February 2012.
MP4, FLV, MK4, MOV – videos come in many different formats, each of which can then vary in a raft of subtle ways.
Which would be just fine if every application and device could handle every possible format, but of course that isn't the case.
And so often you'll find you've downloaded a movie to your PC, phone or tablet, but either it has major playback problems – no picture or sound, say – or you can't watch the clip at all.
Fortunately there's an array of free tools which can import movies, DVDs, even download web videos, then save them in formats you can actually use. Read on and we'll show you seven of the best video converters for Windows around (the final one is actually available on the Mac and for Linux, too).
Freemake Video Converter 4.1.7
Freemake Video Converter is one of the most popular conversion tools around, and it doesn't take long to see why.
The program doesn't just import hundreds of video formats – it can also download clips from YouTube, Facebook and 50+ video sharing sites, or rip DVDs, and even import photos and turn them into a video slideshow.
Export options are even more impressive. You're able to choose a destination format (MP4, AVI, MPG, and many more), a specific device profile (Apple, Samsung, Android, Xbox, and so on), even burn a DVD or Blu-ray with your own custom menu.
Sensible defaults mean you can do all this with the minimum of clicks, and it'll generally work just as you expect.
But if you need more control, there are options to edit or rotate your movie, add a soundtrack, and tweak every aspect of the destination video file: codecs, resolution, frame and bit rates and more.
Freemake Video Converter isn't perfect (you can't drag and drop files to import them, for some reason), but it's very, very close. If you need a versatile converter then try this one first.
Convertilla is a small and simple tool which focuses on ease of use, converting your chosen video with the absolute minimum of hassle.
The interface is compact, stripped back, and very much essentials-only. Drag and drop your target file onto the program, choose an output format, maybe the resolution and quality, click Convert – and that's it. Wait for the file to be converted, then click the Play button to open the destination video and make sure it's okay.
Convertilla can't convert a batch of videos in one operation, and it doesn't have the extras you'll often see elsewhere. There's no video downloader, no editor, no DVD burning, really nothing advanced at all.
Convertilla is supremely easy to use, though – just drag, drop, and click – and if that's what you're after then it could be ideal.
Video to Video Converter 188.8.131.52
Video to Video Converter hasn't been updated for more than two years, which would normally be a very good reason to leave it alone. But surprisingly it still has some powerful tools which might justify the download.
It's a versatile DVD ripper which allows you to select the audio track or particular subtitles you need. You're able to extract and save frames from the video, either as multiple images or a single contact sheet, and everything is configurable down to the finest detail.
You also get tools to join and split videos, as well as a "Commercials Remover" to help remove multiple scenes from a clip (they don't have to be ads).
We're less convinced by the editor – it just didn't work for us – but the program's conversion engine is good, and best of all, there's a portable version available. You don't have to install anything to use it, just download, unzip and run.
TEncoder is a powerful conversion tool aimed squarely at the experienced user. The slightly cluttered interface doesn't try to hide technical details up front, and you can choose codecs, choose an encoder (FFmpeg or Mencoder), set custom encoder options and more in a click or two.
The program isn't particularly difficult to use, though, and it has plenty of features to grab your attention: wide file format support, video downloading, ripping of DVDs, and configurable multithreading to make the most of all your CPU cores.
TEncoder's strong point is its many options for customising your output video. You're able to crop, rotate or deinterlace your movie, adjust the volume, set an audio delay (great if the source is out of sync), hard-code subtitles into the video, even insert an image watermark.
TEncoder's interface isn't as polished as some of the competition, and initially it can be harder to find your way around. But if other tools feel a little basic, and you think that maybe you need something more advanced, it's well worth trying.
Any Video Converter Free 5.8.4
Any Video Converter Free stands out immediately for its attractive interface, which can switch to being a video player or simple DVD burner in a click.
The core feature set is strong, too. The program imports all the main file formats, downloads clips from video sharing sites, and you can export them to a host of PC and mobile device-friendly formats, or burn your movies to a video DVD.
Any Video Converter Free particularly impressed us with its video editor. This isn't just about trimming a few surplus frames – there are tools to rotate your movie, crop it, tweak brightness, contrast and saturation, add text or image watermarks and apply a host of effects (Sharpen, Invert, Equalise, Black and White, Sobel, Cartoon and more).
Other unusual extras include the ability to import DVD ISO images, and normalise the volume of your destination videos.
Any Video Converter Free isn't the easiest to use when it comes to the programs we've picked out here, or the most powerful, but there's a lot to like, and if you need extra editing power then it deserves a closer look.
VSDC Free Video Converter
If you're after serious transcoding power then VSDC Free Video Converter isn't going to be your first choice. It only supports the essential file formats, can't download web video, the video editor is basic and you only get a few export profiles.
Still, the program provides all the core features most people will need, and also squeezes in a few neat extras you won't always find elsewhere.
The preview window is ideal for checking your source movies in the main interface, and a "Split" function can save large movies as several smaller videos, separating them by size or scene markers.
There are buttons to save image frames or your entire movie soundtrack, and the disc burning tool supports both data and video DVDs.
If these sound like functions you'd use – and you don't need the high-end extras you'll find elsewhere – VSDC Free Video Converter could be a smart choice.
FFmpeg is the ultimate in media processing tools, a console-based application which comes packed with functions to convert, stream, filter, encode, decode and play just about every media type that's ever existed.
Okay, having to run it from the command line isn't exactly convenient, but don't be put off – just understanding this one command can get you a very long way:
ffmpeg -i source.mov destination.mp4
The -i switch specifies the source file, and FFmpeg converts it to whatever extension you've specified in the second file name. Use FLV if you need a Flash video for a website, MP3 to extract the soundtrack, GIF to create an animated GIF – you get the idea (see this article for more details on FFmpeg).
FFmpeg isn't a tool for beginners, but if you're an expert user who wants to take full control of every aspect of the conversion process then it's the best option around.
Note that as well as for Windows, this program is also available on Linux and OS X.