How to Play Windows Media Video (WMV) on Mac OS X

by Tom Harrison in mac os x

OS X doesn’t play Windows Media Video out of the box, but there are some quick downloads you can grab in order to watch WMV files on your Mac.

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I recently made the switch from PC to Mac and everything is great, but one thing I am missing is Windows Media Video. Is there a way to play WMV on a Mac?

Yes it is possible to playback these types of files on a Mac. OS X doesn’t come with the software you need by default, but there quite a few downloads that can get the job done. A plug-in called “Flip4Mac” gives Quicktime the ability to play WMV files, VLC is a stand-alone cross-platform media player that can understand your Windows Media Video files, and if all else fails there is an old version of Windows Media Player for Mac OS X.

Flip4Mac

Windows Media Components for Quicktime go by the name Flip4Mac. This add-on will give Quicktime the capability to playback WMV videos. It’s distributed for free on Microsoft’s site:

Flip4Mac Home Page

Installation Instructions

  1. Download and open the Flip4Mac DMG file from Microsoft.
  2. Double-click the Flip4Mac WMV.mpkg file to launch the installation wizard.
  3. Click your way through the wizard’s screens, agreeing to the Terms of Service and choosing where to install. You will need to enter your administrator name & password at one point.
  4. The installer will let you know when it’s done, at which point you can hit the “Close” button.
  5. If Quicktime is open, quit the application then open it back up.

You will now be able to watch WMV files in Quicktime. Make sure to eject the “Flip4Mac” installation volume — hit the “Eject” button next to its name in the Finder sidebar.

Embedded Video

Installing Flip4Mac also makes it possible to watch streaming WMV videos in your web browser. There is no extra configuration necessary in order to make this happen. Just quit your browser after installing the plug-in, the start it back up and revisit any site containing a video you wanted to watch. It should play without a hitch.

Flip4Mac & DRM

One caveat of Flip4Mac is that it cannot play WMV video that uses Windows Media digital rights management, so some videos may not be accessible even though you’ve installed Flip4Mac.

VLC media player

VLC is a stand-alone media player like Quicktime and Windows Media Player. Many people prefer VLC because it is available for many different operating systems and is an open source software project supported by many dedicated programmers across the world.

All versions of VLC support the various formats you’re used to opening in Windows Media Player: WMV (video), WMA (audio) and ASF. You can get VLC from the VLC media player for Mac OS X download page.

There are a few different options on this page:

  • 32 & 64 bit releases for Intel Macs (what most people have now)
    • The “32/64 bits Intel Mac” version should work on most computers.
    • Macs from 2006 or newer are 64 bit.
  • The “Power PC” version is for older Macs dating back to the time before Apple switched from Motorola to Intel chips.
  • Web plugins for Intel and PowerPC Macs, for viewing Windows Media Video embedded in web pages.
  • Older VLC releases for previous releases of Mac OS X.

Once the .DMG file is downloaded double-click on it, wait for a Finder window to open, and then drag the VLC icon to your “Applications” folder.

Make VLC the Default Media Player

If you like VLC enough to make it your default media player, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click on any media file. If you don’t have a two-button mouse, hold the “control” key while clicking.
  2. Select Get Info.
  3. Expand the Open with: section.
  4. Choose VLC from the drop down menu.
  5. Click Change All…

Window Media Player for Mac

There used to be a version of Windows Media Player for Mac OS X, but it’s outdated and no longer available. Flip4Mac and VLC are much better options than this, so it should only be a last resort. Plus, it isn’t known to play well with recent versions of OS X.

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