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iTunes only supports MP4 and QuickTime format video files, so many of the videos you come across on the web can’t be added directly to iTunes or transferred to an iPod, iPhone, or iPad. Luckily, this problem is easy to solve — all you have to do is convert the videos to MP4 files using one of the tools below. Once yo have, you can add them to iTunes and use them like any other file i Tunes supports.

The web is full of poor-quality video converters that try to install adware and other junk Begin The Fight Back Against Toolbar Installer Bloatware! [Opinion] Begin The Fight Back Against Toolbar Installer Bloatware! [Opinion] Recently I had cause to install some free video conversion software and was amazed to find so many attempts to fool me into installing additional software, not to mention attempts to upsell at the end... Read More when you download them. Unlike these other questionable programs, the below options are free, open-source, and won’t try to trick you into installing adware or spyware. They’re also both cross-platform, so they work on both Windows and Mac OS X.

Which Format Should You Convert To?

You should ideally convert videos to the H.264 MP4 video format, which is the most widely supported video format at this point. You could convert the videos to older QuickTime formats instead, but they’d be larger in file size and offer worse image quality.

Because H.264 is the most widely supported format, you’ll also be able to play back the MP4 files using a wide variety of other devices and software including the Roku How To Prep Your Videos For Playback On The Roku 3 How To Prep Your Videos For Playback On The Roku 3 Although I've had the pleasure of using an Apple TV these past few months, I was immediately sold on the Roku 3. You can read more about the product (and whet your appetite) in Danny's... Read More and Android devices. Note that these files usually have the .mp4 file extension, but they may also have the .m4v file extension — either way, it’s an MP4 file.

Unfortunately, there will be some quality loss involved. This is the nature of video compression. We’re taking an existing video and re-encoding it with another codec. This is like taking a photocopy of a photocopy — some information is lost each time. But, as long as you use a fairly high-quality original file, you shouldn’t really notice the quality loss.

If you really care about having the highest-quality file, you should re-rip the source media — for example, instead of converting a DVD to AVI and converting that AVI to MP4, convert the original DVD straight to MP4 with no other format in between.

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HandBrake – Windows and Mac

We like HandBrake for converting video files 2 Tools For Converting Movies For Viewing On a Smartphone 2 Tools For Converting Movies For Viewing On a Smartphone Movie files are generally not optimized for the smartphone. They often take up too much space and may be encoded in a format that the smartphone can't play back very easily. If the movie in... Read More . AVI and MKV are both easy to convert with HandBrake, but HandBrake can also convert DVD videos and a wide variety of other video formats you might come across. You can select your conversion settings in just a few seconds or spend a while tweaking them in detail, whichever you prefer.

The interface can look a bit confusing at first, but it’s actually very easy to use. After installing and launching HandBrake, click the Source button on the toolbar, select Open File, and open your AVI or MKV file.

handbrake-select-source-file

Next, click the Browse button under Destination, choose the folder the new MP4 file will be saved to, and enter a name for it.

handbrake-select-output-file

Under Output Settings, the MP4 container format should be selected by default. HandBrake can also create MKV files, but iTunes doesn’t support those.

If you don’t want to do anything extra, you can now just click the Start button and HandBrake will convert your video to an MP4 file. You can then import the resulting MP4 file into iTunes and move it to your mobile device; everything should work normally.

handbrake-start-converting-to-mp4-for-itunes

If you’d like to set more quality settings, you can click around using the tabs at the bottom before clicking the Start button. You’re free to set a new height and width for the video, crop it, add filters, change the video quality setting, choose a video codec (but you should probably use the default H.264 (x264) codec), choose codec profiles, import SRT subtitle files, and customize audio tracks.

VLC – Windows and Mac

You probably already have the free and open-source VLC media player installed, so why bother downloading another application? VLC is packed with hidden features 7 Top Secret Features Of The Free VLC Media Player 7 Top Secret Features Of The Free VLC Media Player That VLC pretty much plays everything that you throw at it is old news. It is also a media genie when it comes to other things apart from playing movies. We looked at some of... Read More , and a video converter is one of them. Yes, you can use VLC to convert videos 6 Cool VLC Tips & Tricks You Might Not Know About 6 Cool VLC Tips & Tricks You Might Not Know About VideoLan's VLC media player is a real box of tricks and is just as effective on a Windows operating system as it is on Mac or Linux. Those of you who are already using VLC... Read More .

To get started on Windows, click the Media menu and select Convert / Save. On a Mac, click the File menu and select Convert / Stream.

convert-video-to-mp4-with-vlc

Add the media file you want to convert, ensure the profile is set to Video – H.264 + MP3 (MP4), and save the output to a file. You can also customize the conversion profile settings if you like, but this isn’t necessary.

This wizard looks a bit different on Windows, but it’s the same basic process — add a file, choose a codec, select a destination, and start the process. Once VLC is done transcoding the video, you’ll get an MP4 or M4V file you can import to iTunes and transfer to your mobile devices.

convert-to-itunes-format-with-vlc-on-a-mac

Of course, you can use almost any video converter to convert a video file to MP4 format and add it to iTunes. The above options are some of the best, but any video converter will do.

Do you prefer another video converter we didn’t cover here? Leave a comment and share your preferred tool!

Image Credit: Intel Free Press on Flickr

  1. alsen
    April 6, 2016 at 4:42 am

    Gilisoft Video Converter is my preferred tool!

  2. Chris Alderson
    July 21, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    Thanks for WALTR. Works great, really fast, plays avi on iPhone easily. I just imported the video, it saved a lot of time:)

  3. Inna Zueva
    July 14, 2015 at 11:37 am

    I also tried different apps, but I like WALTR the most.. It's a new app with no limits for video&audio formats. It imports MKV to iPhone much more fast and with no need to convert or sync.. It's incredibly easy! Try it out, sure you'll like it!!:)

  4. kkkilll pop
    July 6, 2015 at 12:58 am

    If you know other ways about how to convert avi files on Mac, please feel free to contact us. We are glad to share more great solutions with you!

    • Inna Zueva
      July 10, 2015 at 1:16 pm

      I recommend reviewing WALTR, because it allows you to upload AVI to iPhone on windows without converting it! Efficient and easy!

    • Inna Zueva
      July 10, 2015 at 1:18 pm

      It works on Mac either. What you need is just drag and drop your video without iTunes and sync!!

  5. Bob White
    February 23, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    I don't like to convert videos, it takes a lot of time. I'm using WALTR for Mac exchange ITunes and transfer/watch AVI, MKV, FLAC files withot problem. Give a try!(link: http://softorino.com/waltr )

    • Dominic B.
      April 1, 2015 at 11:35 am

      I never usually trust the comments and the links inside em, but definitely Waltr for Mac is hands down the quickest, easiest method I've seen for syncing music and videos to an iOS device, no iTunes required.

      P.S
      look how fast it can upload MKV files into an iPhone!!! https://youtu.be/HcQosHFpeQI

      • JulietPron
        July 10, 2015 at 1:16 pm

        Yeaaaa, this app is really awesome! i like it really much;) Thank you, guys !!

  6. rocamilla
    July 24, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    MKV (Matroska Video Format) is an open free multimedia container format, usually used to wrap movies with several audio and subtitle tracks. Although some famous players like VLC support it, iTunes doesn't. You even cannot add MKV file to iTunes media library. Until the latest version of iTunes, iTunes 11, it only accepts MOV, MP4, and M4V video format.

    To import MKV to iTunes, converting MKV to iTunes compatible MP4, MOV is the easiest and fastest way with Faasoft's great "Video Converter". After MKV to iTunes conversion, you can smoothly play MKV in iTunes, iPhone, iPad, iPod and Apple TV.

  7. Jay
    May 21, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    I used the( already installed) VLC media player wow it worked great .. i never knew it had a video converter!Thanks it saved me lot of time.

  8. Mike
    May 16, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    Thanks a lot!

  9. Jonathan C
    February 8, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    Most MKVs are H264 Video so I generally much prefer remuxing rather than reconverting it. I use MKVtoMP4, which is a pretty easy tool that automatically remuxes (and re-encodes the audio, if required). I use it because it has batch support. I wrote up a short guide here: http://pcjonathan.tk/2013/04/24/how-to-remux-your-mkv-files-into-mp4-files-with-little-to-no-encoding/

  10. Geoffrey Wilkes
    February 3, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    If it is MKV there is usually no need to re-encode. I have yet to come across one that didn't use 264 codec. Get Subler and it will make it a MP4 or M4v in about 2 minutes. The fact that it adds all the correct metadata and cover image is just a bonus.

  11. Abid M
    February 1, 2014 at 10:06 am

    I am using Gplayer and CineXPlayer to view MKV video with Dual Audio. VLC is also very good app and latest version has quite good features with gesture support.

  12. Abid M
    February 1, 2014 at 10:05 am

    I am using Gplayer and CineXPlayer to view MKV dual audio videos / movies.. This is best so far I have. Just copy video into app by iTunes and enjoy with lots of features..

  13. Aaron
    February 1, 2014 at 9:42 am

    Or you could just download the VLC iPhone app and transfer any video format you want to your iPhone.

  14. Guy
    January 31, 2014 at 10:55 pm

    How is format factory not on this?

  15. Darren
    January 31, 2014 at 10:52 pm

    Great article

  16. Mario Cordero
    January 31, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    AVPlayer - no conversion needed

  17. Ashley
    January 31, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    Try Smart Converter Pro. Simply drag and drop, couldn't be easier. And no I don't work for them, I just use it.

  18. Fred M
    January 31, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    Video to Video for windows does it all and it's 100% free.

  19. likefunbutnot
    January 31, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    Better ideas:

    1. Get a proper mobile device. One that will natively play files in decent formats. In my experience, this is absolutely all of the ones that aren't made by Apple.

    2. Set up a Plex Media Server. If Plex is running on a halfway decent personal computer of some sort, it can easily manage to transcode a couple video streams to mobile clients in real time. A genuinely nice machine (a Core i5, say) can probably handle a dozen or so. Someone with a tiny bit of networking knowledge can even set up Plex to operate over the internet, so you can watch the videos it shares anyplace you have an internet connection.

    Plex is my preferred method for dealing with the poor media handling capabilities of Apple mobile devices.

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