iTunes is great for managing your video collection, but it only supports a limited number of video types. If you’ve got a bunch of MKV movies to watch, or if you want to add AVI files to iTunes you will need to convert them first.
Fortunately, this is easy enough to do, and you can do it with free software available on Windows, Mac, and Linux. Read on to find out how to add AVI and MKV files to iTunes.
iTunes Video Formats
Can iTunes play AVI or MKV files? No, it only works with MP4, M4V, and QuickTime videos. This is not only annoying if you use iTunes to manage your media files on your desktop, but it also makes it harder to transfer these files to watch on an iPhone or iPad.
The simplest solution is to convert the files to a format that iTunes can work with. But which video format is best?
We’d recommend converting videos to MP4 with the H264 codec. This offers a good balance between quality and file size, and is playable on pretty much every device.
iTunes can also handle H265 (also known as HEVC) files. This format is even more efficient, with much higher quality at much smaller file sizes, and is ideal for 4K movies.
The problem is, H265 is processor intensive so runs on fewer devices. If you’re planning to watch your movies on an iPad or laptop then it should be okay. But if you’ve got something like an older Roku device, or watch movies off a flash drive through your TV’s USB port, they may not work.
The conversion process takes a while, depending on the size of your file, the settings you choose, and how powerful your computer is. It’s best to set aside a couple of hours for the task to complete.
Re-encoding video with a different will result in a loss of quality. But as long as you use a fairly high-quality original file, you shouldn’t really be able to notice it.
Method 1: Use HandBrake
Handbrake is free, open source, and available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It’s also arguably the best program for converting all types of video files.
You can use HandBrake to rip DVD and Blu-Ray videos as well or convert 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.
Convert Videos with Handbrake
The interface can look a bit confusing at first, but it’s actually very easy to use. After installing and launching HandBrake, click the Open Source button on the toolbar and select your AVI or MKV file.
Next, click Preset. Here you’ll find a lot of pre-configured options that let you convert videos without needing to understand the technical details behind the process.
If you’re converting your video for a specific device, like a Roku or Apple TV, then find these under the Devices list. In most cases, though, you’ll want to use the General settings.
First, pick a speed you’re happy with. Very Fast is the fastest and produces smaller file sizes, but will deliver lower quality. Super HQ is the best for quality with the biggest files but could take many hours to complete. Fast is a decent compromise setting.
Then pick a resolution. This should be the same or lower than your original video, not higher. Check that Format is set to MP4.
By default, these settings will convert your video to the H264 codec. If you’d rather use the newer H265, click the Video tab and set Video Encoder to H.265 (x265). You can keep the other default settings.
Finally, click the Browse button alongside Save as at the bottom and choose the folder the new MP4 file will be saved to. Enter a new name for it if you like. Hit Start to begin converting your video.
Once done, you can import the resulting MP4 file into iTunes and move it to your mobile device; everything should work normally.
Method 2: VLC Media Player
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, and a video converter is one of them. The process to use it differs slightly depending on whether you’re using Mac or Windows.
On a Mac, click the File menu and select Convert / Stream.
On the next screen, add the media file you want to convert. Set the Profile to Video – H.264 + MP3 (MP4)—there’s no option to convert to H265 in VLC. You can also customize the conversion profile settings if you like, but this isn’t necessary.
Finally, under Choose Destination select Save as File. When prompted, choose the folder where you want to save your converted video, and add a new name if needed.
Click Save to begin the conversion.
To get started on Windows, go to Media > Convert / Save. Add your video file, then click the Convert / Save button and select Convert.
Under Settings, set the Profile to Video – H.264 + MP3 (MP4), then click Browse to choose where you want to save your video. Finally, click Start to begin the conversion.
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.
Other AVI to MP4 Converters
Handbrake and VLC are both perfect for converting movies and letting you use iTunes with AVI or MKV files. If you’d prefer an even more seamless way of getting these files onto your iPhone or iPad, one that bypasses iTunes altogether, then take a look at WALTR2.
This paid app is well regarded by its users. It transfers files to your device via Wi-Fi and converts any unsupported files in the process. It’s a quick and powerful drag and drop tool, plus it works on both Mac and Windows.
So now you know how to convert videos to use in iTunes, but where can you get the videos in the first place? Our guide on how to download YouTube playlists is a good place to start.