The Best Free Video Editors For Windows

Video has become an incredibly common part of everyday life. People take videos on smartphones, upload them via YouTube, and share them on Facebook.

You’d think, then, that free video editors would be common, but it turns out the selection is limited for anyone not blessed with Mac OS X (and, as a result, access to iMovie). Here are the five top choices for Windows users.

Windows Movie Maker

Introduced originally in 2000, Windows Movie Maker’s peak popularity came with its release as Windows Live Movie Maker in the Windows Live Essentials software suite. Movie Maker’s development has been slow as of late, with the latest full release still carrying the name “Movie Maker 2012″, but it’s still an excellent choice.

windowsmoviemaker   The Best Free Video Editors For Windows

WMM’s best feature is its ease-of-use. Video editing can be a bit confusing by nature, but WMM at least doesn’t force the user to download new codecs or browse open-source libraries. It’s a complete package from the moment it’s installed, and its linear editing interface is nearly as straightforward as iMovie.

There’s also a fair selection of features. You can add titles, introduce transition effects, add audio and adjust the volume and fade of audio, both in your video clip and in the attached audio track. File support is very broad and videos can be saved in resolutions up to 1080p.

You can download Movie Maker directly from Microsoft’s website.

Lightworks

lightworks   The Best Free Video Editors For Windows

If you’re looking for a more serious editor, give Lightworks a look. This tool has been around since 1989 (that’s 25 years) and has been used to edit many professional movies you’ve probably watched and enjoyed, like Pulp Fiction and Braveheart.

As you might expect, this professional-grade editor comes with a professional-grade learning curve. This is a non-linear editor, which means it is not based on a simple A-to-B video timeline. That makes advanced edits easier, but thoroughly confuses newbies. Add tons of effects and multi-cam editing and you’ve got one heck of a nut to crack. If you manage it, though, you’ll be able to create videos of higher quality than most other free editors.

The free version, unfortunately, comes with a few caveats, the most problematic being a lack of 1080p output. Free users can only output at 720p, which could be a major turn-off. If that doesn’t bother you, though, Lightworks is a solid choice.

Avidemux

Avidemux is a free, open source video editor also available for Linux and Mac OS X. The software was originally released several years ago and has been updated consistently, with the latest coming about six months prior to this article’s publication.

avidemux 612x500   The Best Free Video Editors For Windows

This program represents a half-step between very serious software, like Lightworks, and a basic video editor like Movie Maker. Non-linear editing is supported, subtitles can be added, and the software’s file format lets users save all the settings associated with a project, which can be re-applied to another project. Scripting is available through the GUI or directly through a command line. Virtually all major video and audio formats are supported for input and most are supported for output, though WMV and QuickTime are absent.

You can grab Avidemux from the developer’s website, which includes a link to a wiki and forums that will help you become familiar with the software.

YouTube Editor

You don’t have to download software to make basic edits to a video. YouTube has its own web-based editor that is simple but handy – if you’re intending to upload to YouTube, of course.

Any video you upload can be edited regardless of format and resolution. The editing process is linear, so it’s similar to iMovie and Windows Movie Maker, and the video and audio tracks can be edited individually.

youtubeeditor1   The Best Free Video Editors For Windows

One of the most useful features this editor offers is access to YouTube’s library of Creative Commons videos and music. You can put them right into your video without downloading them. There’s a small selection of transitions and text options, though not enough for anything close to professional editing.

The biggest downside, of course, is the fact you can only edit YouTube videos. Theoretically you could then re-download them for use elsewhere with a YouTube video ripping tool, but at that point you’d likely be better served by Movie Maker.

VSDC Free Video Editor

This appropriately titled editor is another solid choice for people who want a semi-professional option without having to pay a professional price tag. A non-linear editor, VSDC allows for advanced editing techniques. The software also supports a very broad range of video and audio effects like color correction, blur reduction and volume correction.

vsdcvideoeditor 536x500   The Best Free Video Editors For Windows

Though still confusing for the novice, the basic interface of VSDC is a bit easier to grasp than that of Lightworks, thanks to a front-end that mimics the Microsoft ribbon interface and has a more conventional workflow.

One nice extra that may elevate VSDC above the free version of Lightworks is video output support for 1080p at 30 FPS, which is much better than its competitor’s 720p limitation. The installer is also a rather compact 26 megabytes, about three times smaller than Lightworks. On the downside, though, the installation process (which include’s CNET’s downloader) prompts the user several times to install adware – be wary of these requests!

Conclusion

These five video editors represent the best Windows users can download today. Of them Movie Maker probably has the widest appeal, but Avidemux and VSDC Free Video Editor may also please amateurs looking for something a bit more capable.

What’s your favorite free Windows video editor? Let us know in the comments.

Image Credits: video editing Via Shutterstock

35 Comments - Write a Comment

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Tom W

I was just recently thinking about looking for free video editors. I think that VSDC and Lightworks looks good, but I think I’ll try VSDC first, simply for the higher output resolution.

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Gg

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Fuad R

Thank u so much for this post :D

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Ivan

Windows Movie Maker is pretty good.
However – IT IS VERY UNSTABLE. It constantly crashes (I tried on different systems) which makes it a serious pain to use. What a shame…

Matt S

I kind of agree on this. It hasn’t crashed on me,, but there’s always some niggling little bug. Like, on my PC, I always have to save a project, then re-open it, then export it to the final format. If I don’t, it errors out saying that a file in the project is open elsewhere. And is always does that at the VERY END of the export process, which can take an hour for a large video.

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Sharon V

I am looking for a video editor that will allow me to separate audio and video files will any of these do that

Matt S

You can use Audacity to get the audio from the video.

Rumbo

Sharon V
If all you are looking for is a tool that will extract audio from video files, then you might look into AoA Audio Extractor from AoAMedia. They have a free tool that will extract audio from just about any video file. I use it a lot especially to extract audio from YouTube videos that really have no video, just audio. It’s free but they also offer a paid more advanced version. Hope that helps.

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Xoandre

I have been using WMM since its first iteration. Certainly, it has many flaws, crashes often – causing you to lose any unsaved changes – and is slow as hell, but it works well enough.

I would say the only major thing missing from WMM is the ability to zoom and crop. Overlaying text is limited to title cards, subtitles, or scrolling credits. However, there some legacy “effects” which are completely useless (like the Hue Cycle effect, which cycles through the rainbow of hues once and stops).

For slideshows of photos, it is great. For editing anything longer than 5 minutes of footage at a time, it loads each clip very slowly (sometimes even slower than real-time — being a 15 minute clip that takes 20 minutes to load into the program).

I would suggest that you SAVE after every change you make to the project, or you will lose your changes when it crashes. And it will crash. Multiple times. And then it will refuse to load the project until you have rebooted your PC.

However, i still use WMM. It is effective and – having tried using the other Editors listed in this article, WMM is the most intuitive and easiest to use. Most of the others have no tutorials or explanations, and knowing where or how to start is a problem if you have no pointers.

Matt S

I’ve run into the slow loading issue too. It seems to be related to format. When I use .mp4s then always take forever to load in, but .avi loads almost instantly.

Amadeoz

I agree with these comments. WMM is a good editor to learn the basics. Ifyou, after a dozen short movies, want a better one, invest in one of the more advanced, semi- professional packages like Cyberlink’s PowerDirector, Pinnacle Studio, magic or Vegas. Just make sure to have a comprehensive format converter handy.

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the doors

Excellent, easy in use prog which enables to perform professional video editing for free. Both professional video editor and amateur can use it because the prog has a wizard assistant. A 100 % advantage is that you can work with transparent videos. Previously I used After Effects option when I worked with videos from envato website, but now I can do it with a help of VSDC – excellent news!!!

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John W

iMovie is not a blessing if you don’t use “Apple approved” file formats. Same applies to Final Cut Pro.

All the above are OK for one (1) family holiday video and one (1) Christmas video. That is two (2) videos a year max. Beyond that they will drive you nuts in one way or another.

If you intend to do video even only once a month I urge you to buy something. Sony Vegas is frequently on Amazon and ebay for less that 20 UK pounds. It might save your life.

Finally, if you’re going to do a lot of video on a PC and need to keep your sanity for other purposes you must take the time to learn how to use the software. We are all professional video viewers from the age of 3. If your video is even the slightest bit not as good as broadcast TV your children will instantly be able to tell you it is crap.

Oh – and get a very big hard drive and lot’s and lot’s of RAM on a 64bit system.

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Alessandro Zamboni

I would like a simple video editor that permits me to put a soundtrack on a video, in a loop. Which one is the best? Thanks so much and see you soon!

Matt S

I think any of these would work…though I’m not aware of a specific loop feature, you can always just add the track to the video multiple times for the same effect.

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Rafael G

And what about Blender 3D? it’s Open Source and it has a video compositor built in.

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A&L

Can any of these reverse a clip and change the speed

Ethan H

Yeah, I use lightworks for all my (semi-professional) video editing and it has all those features. It’s a little bit of a learning curve though – took me bout a month to realise it’s full potential. Also, I would recommend audacity for sound editing – it’s free.

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Peter F

Thankyou for this post. I’ve been using windows movie maker for years and am ready for something a bit more grown up. Lightworks is something I’ve seen before so I think I’ll take the plunge!

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Col. Panek

OpenShot is a great editor, simple and fairly powerful, and it’s being actively developed. KDenLive is competent. PiTiVi I’ve used in the past… it’s OK. AviDemux has a learning curve and the options for formats are confusing, but I’ve used it to transcode European home movies. Cinelerra I haven’t tried. All are open source, no-adware. I run them mostly on my 4 year old Ubuntu E-Machines system with 2 GB ram.

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pmshah

@ Sharon V

A very simple way is to use MkvToolNix. All you do is open your file in MkvMergeGui and rip it to an mkv file if not alraedy in mkv container. Then open this mkv file in MrvExtract Gui and check mark the component/s that you want extracted and you are done. Once in a while you may come across a stubborn one that won’t extract properly. You could then try your luck with MP4Box of tXmuxer.

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pmshah

So far as quality is concerned I think Avidemux is the best of the lot. Only problem with it is that it is slow, hasn’t been updated in quite a while and uses mencoder rather than ffmpeg. I use ffmpeg based encoders like Handbrake or Video2Video for reducing the bit rate of very large files. These however are not very good for changing image size in which case I use Avidemux. Where I live electric power supply is not very stable and quite often I have had to restart the process from scratch. In this case I came up with my own solution. First I would take the original video file and rip it with mkvmergegui breaking it down into several parts., i.e a 6 gb file into 6 parts. Then convert each part with avidemux at the same settings. Once this is done I would then combine the 6 converted files with mkvmergegui to get a single file. Even if I have power loss during the process I would have to restart only a single 1 GB segment and not the whole 6 GB process. This has worked for me every time.

pmshah

@AJNorth

Thank you for the update. I will most certainly try it out. Actually I don’t do any editing in real sense. I just reduce the file size to manageable level for viewing on my tablet when I am making 6 hour one way train journeys twice a month. What I really liked about Avidemux is auto trimming and sharpen filters.

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Rob Halper

Another excellent and inexpensive editor is Adobe Premiere Elements, which you should be cable to purchase for less than$100. It’s also a good starting point if you want to upgrade to the full version. A lot of Mac editors are starting to use Premiere following the demise of Final Cut 7!

Matt S

I may upgrade to that if I ever get more serious about putting up YouTube videos…

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Nash J

Windows Movie Maker works for me. It was easy to use. I am thinking about Adobe premier though which cost but I think that might be an option.

Alessandro Zamboni

Thanks Matt and Nash, I will try at first the free tools from this page, then in case I will look to some paid tools!

See you soon,
Alessandro

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Tito

What about Videopad Video Editor? It has quite a few plugins, comes with 1080p output and seems pretty easy to use.

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Dave E

AV S Video Editor is excellent, give it a whirl, its so easy to use and does a great job. Its also free if you don’t mind a watermark, and the full version is great value for money.

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mr.G

Just she’ll out a few bucks and buy Adobe Premiere.

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AJ North

For a substantially more trustworthy download site for VSDC Free Video Converter — and much more software — than CNET’s Download.com (since their acquisition by CBS, Inc.), one might look to Softpedia.com — http://www.softpedia.com/get/Multimedia/Video/Encoders-Converter-DIVX-Related/VSDC-Free-Video-Converter.shtml .

Not only do Softpedia not “wrap” any software they offer, but when the source providing it does, an explicit advisory is posted in red to warn the user. Also, whenever possible, Softpedia provide a clean (or “lite”) version of the software (such as Piriform’s CCleaner, for example).

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Kyle S

Thanks for the recommendations! Perfect timing for some upcoming projects.

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Pris

When I was a kid I used to do a lot of stuff in Movie Maker, when Windows XP was around. Then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked.

No, but seriously, I have Windows 7 on my laptop, and because I’m studying media and stuff, we have to edit videos too, (we learn final cut at college but im not a mac user at home) so I thought I would use WMM as a quick editing tool. And then I hated it.

Where did the timeline went!?? It was so easy to use, that even when I was a child I could learn it! I could cut very precisely, and have a library etc. but with the new look, it just loads very slow, I have to upload ALL my clips on the story board instead of a library to organize in folders and cut them there and then drag them on the proyect. Don’t make me even talk about editing the music.
Just editing a very quick 2 minute video can be a pain for me.

I then knew about Adobe Premiere but my free trial expired :(
So all my video editing shall be at school..for now

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Tom W

I’ve been using VSDC for a few weeks now, and there seems to be a lot of little bugs that get in the way when I’m trying to use it. The most puzzling is that it won’t let me create a video with a custom resolution of 1600×900, I can only do 1600×896 or 1600×904.

I installed LightWorks today, and it looks like it could be very good. I haven’t had time to edit anything properly yet, so I don’t know if it has all of the features that VSDC has.

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