How to Convert AVI and MKV Files to Add Videos to iTunes

Andy Betts Updated 12-09-2019

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 AVI, MKV, or MP4? Video Filetypes Explained and Compared Why do so many video formats exist? It's confusing! But don't worry, we are here to help. Here's everything you need to know about video formats, containers, and codecs. Read More ?

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 The 11 Best Tools for Ripping DVDs and Blu-rays to Your Computer Here are the best tools for ripping DVDs and Blu-rays so you can digitize all of your media without any hassle. Read More 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.

handbrake presets

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.

handbrake convert to h265

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 7 Top Secret Features of the Free VLC Media Player VLC should be your media player of choice. The cross-platform tool has a bag full of secret features you can use right now. Read More , 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.

convert video vlc mac

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.

convert video vlc windows

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.

convert avi mkv with 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 The 5 Best YouTube Playlist Downloaders to Grab Videos in Bulk Want to watch YouTube videos offline? These YouTube playlist downloaders let you download entire YouTube playlists quickly. Read More  is a good place to start.

Related topics: File Conversion, Handbrake, iTunes, Video Editor, VLC Media Player.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Kerryling Lee
    October 23, 2019 at 3:42 am

    I'm using another alternative tool, called DRmare Video Converter, which can easily convert AVI, MKV, M4V, and other video files to common video and audio formats.
    And then it's easy to transfer converted videos to iTunes without touching the original video files.

  2. daveclark966
    October 13, 2018 at 7:47 am

    i recommend another alternative: use Avdshare Video Converter to batch convert AVI, MKV or any other video format to iTunes without loss of quality.

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

    Gilisoft Video Converter is my preferred tool!

  4. Anonymous
    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:)

  5. Anonymous
    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!!:)

  6. Anonymous
    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!

    • Anonymous
      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!

    • Anonymous
      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!!

  7. 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.

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

      • Anonymous
        July 10, 2015 at 1:16 pm

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

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

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

    Thanks a lot!

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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..

  14. 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.

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

    How is format factory not on this?

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

    Great article

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

    AVPlayer - no conversion needed

  18. 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.

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

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

  20. 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.