In short, something that just does what one would expect such a program to do. (Just convert it so it works on my mother's media player!)

  • By "free" I mean free-as-in-beer. I'm okay with closed source as well as ad-supported programs.
  • By "lightweight" I mean a program designed to convert, not a full-fledged editor like Audacity.
  • By "all-in-one" I mean a program that can convert to and from most common formats like MP3, M4A, WAV, FLAC, automatically introspecting containers like AVI and detecting codecs.

For Windows 7+.

10 Answers 10

up vote 70 down vote accepted

Handbrake is one of the best free (and open-source) video converters around. It's fast, powerful, and simple. It's also quite good at converting audio.

It's a good match for you because it's...

  • Free (Zero Cost and FOSS)
  • Very lightweight - it does nothing but convert stuff
  • Extremely feature-filled - you can tweak every aspect of conversion
  • Simple and straightforward
  • Keeps metadata and allows you to edit metadata before conversion
  • 3
    It also provides direct conversion from a DVD! – Fractaliste Aug 8 '14 at 9:32
  • 3
    Very good option, but a drawback is that it can only convert to a very few destination formats. It can read from many others as input, though. – Alejandro Sep 6 '15 at 17:55
  • And it's very slow (at least on my PC), that's the reason why I'm currently using the commandline tool avconv... – wb9688 Jan 7 '16 at 7:27
  • @wb9688 have you tried comparing the time between Handbrake and avconv when using identical codecs and bitrates? I'd be super interested in hearing the results. – dotVezz Jan 7 '16 at 16:33
  • Only unencrypted DVDs though (you can use MakeMKV for that, among others). @wb9688 there is a speed slider under the [Video] tab. However the faster you go the less compression and quality; just set it to run a batch job over night. – matt wilkie Feb 6 '16 at 13:34

ffmpeg would do this, and I've had excellent luck with the winff front end to it. It'll give you the commands should you want to do it manually, let you batch stuff out, or strip out the audio. It also has a sane set of common presets for things you want to do

WinFF UI with Output Details tab selected

  • +1 for ffmpeg. Cross platform, fully customizable, supports just about any format that exists and you can do pretty awesome stuff with it like cropping the picture or the audio, concatenate and/or extract excerpts from multiple audio and video tracks etc. Winff is an okay frontend but IMHO it's worth it to use the CLI for this program. – Johnride Feb 8 '14 at 5:26
  • 2
    Oh, absolutely. I do like the frontend for the ability to batch things, and to walk you through the settings initially when you're still learning how to use ffmpeg. Also, it was an excuse for a screenshot ;) – Journeyman Geek Feb 8 '14 at 5:28

I like Format Factory. It supports a very wide range of formats and media types.

Its features include:

  • Fast and light, it does nothing but convert software.

  • Supports a wide range of formats and media types.

  • Supports batch converting.

  • Supports skins.

  • Is free as in beer.

Screenshot of Format Factory

I'm not sure if it supports FLAC, though...

  • 2
    I use it as well, but the interface sucks big time. – Mohammed Joraid Feb 6 '14 at 8:40
  • 2
    It tries to install no less that 4 adwares... (Ask toolbar, Ask search engine, Comodo Dragon browser, and another one I forgot). Works pretty well otherwise, but it doesn't seem to support VBR output. – Thomas Levesque Dec 22 '14 at 15:08
  • @Thomas Yeah I noticed they had added more of those recently.. Just decline then all. – Seth Dec 22 '14 at 15:19
  • 1
    One of the best possibilities IMHO. – Zoltán Schmidt Jul 6 '16 at 10:15

I personally use VLC, it's a free and open-source media player that supports a lot of video and audio formats, and it can also be used for streaming or conversion even though it's UI isn't the most intuitive for conversion.

Basic how-to:

  • On the main VLC window, press Ctrl+R or go to File->Convert / Save, this will open the file selection dialog.
  • Click Add and select the file you want to convert, finally click Convert / Save, this will open the conversion dialog.
  • Select the target profile from the drop-down menu or click the Tools icon to create a custom profile or set advanced encoding options, and enter the destination file's path into the Destination file box or click Browse to use a file selection dialog to set the path.
  • Finally, click on Start to start the conversion. VLC will look like it's playing something while it's actually converting. Once the "playback" stopped, it means that the file is ready.
  • 3
    Although I daily use VLC to listen music, I reproach it for not keeping meta-data when converting... – Fractaliste Feb 4 '14 at 22:39
  • 5
    I like VLC's playback features but I've never managed to figure out its conversion methods. I always give up in frustration. – Simon East Sep 18 '15 at 14:33

Freemake is a good looking, powerful video converter. It is a quality alternative to paid products.

Freemake UI with 3 example videos

Freemake Video Converter - Video Editor window

  • 2
    I've tested it and it works fine. It provide a very large amount of format. Just be careful when you install it, a lot of advertising ads are proposed. – Fractaliste Feb 24 '14 at 13:22

I'm going to answer this by recommending gstreamer. You're probably going to hate this answer, because it technically satisfies your requirements, while not being GUI-based. But that's okay, because someone else may find that this is the best tool for the job for them.

Basically, if you get a build of gstreamer with all the codecs enabled, it supports an enormous variety of file formats. You can use the built-in program gst-launch (variously gst-launch-0.10 or gst-launch-1.0 depending on the version you have) to build custom-tailored "pipelines" that will take almost any imaginable source media and transform it into almost any imaginable destination media.

The best part about this setup is that it's so flexible. Many GUI-driven media programs have the drawback that they implicitly expect or assume certain details about input files, and if the input data doesn't satisfy those conditions, it errors out. With gstreamer, you just do a little tweaking to your pipeline and you're off to the races.

The gstreamer SDK is a new binary build of gstreamer that provides gst-launch (among other things) across various platforms, and you don't even have to compile gstreamer yourself anymore. It is a powerful software development tool in its own right, but you can do almost any conversion you could imagine (or even live video/audio capture from a webcam/mic) through gst-launch alone. It's really a swiss army knife.

The debugging information it provides is incredible, too. You can use the decodebin element along with the -v switch (for verbose) to get a huge amount of information about how gstreamer is attempting to demux and then decode your input data, which can give you deep insights into just how the source media is structured. If the source media was produced via some consumer electronics device, this can be extremely useful to figure out just what the input file consists of, and you can then either use gstreamer directly, or some other tool, to process it into the desired form to work with it further.

There are many sites on the web if you google that will provide example pipelines to get you started, but the general format I like to use is:

gst-launch -v somesrc ! somedemuxer ! somedecoder ! someprocessing ! someencoding ! somemux ! somesink. Let's enumerate these in order:

  • somesrc: A source -- where the original input data comes from. For instance, filesrc, which reads data from a file.
  • somedemuxer: A demuxer -- most, but not all, media comes muxed in some sort of container format. For instance, you can have Ogg/Vorbis audio and Ogg/Theora video muxed together in a Matroska (mkv) container. The demuxer "removes" the container, exposing its internal streams of data, which are still encoded.
  • somedecoder: A decoder -- this is, for instance, a Vorbis decoder, or a Theora decoder. You can use the built-in tool gst-inspect to get a list of available plugin elements, and to inspect the properties of individual elements. There are also online docs for each.
  • someprocessing: Typically, after you have decoded the encoded input data (audio, video, or both) into a raw data type (which is basically a stream of integers or floating-point numbers; for instance, one of audio's raw data types is PCM), you can perform some processing on it. Processing may be required to change aspects of it (change sample rate, resolution of video, FPS, etc.) or it may be required to satisfy the requirements of elements further down the pipeline.
  • someencoding: Typically, after you have decoded and processed the raw data, you'll want to encode the raw data (audio, video, or both) into some compressed format, whether it's lossless compression like FLAC audio (for the best quality), or lossy compression like MP3 or H264 (for the best file size).
  • somemux: Now that you have the raw encoded bits in their compressed format, you'll want to put them into some kind of container. Containers are nice because they can contain metadata, such as "Title", "Author", "Copyright", "Album", "Year", etc., as well as data about what audio and video codecs were used to encode the data. Muxers also make it easy to mix and match various data formats. There are a few container formats that are extremely flexible and will let you pack almost any encoded format into them; Matroska is one such example, where you could theoretically put Ogg/Vorbis audio and H264 video, or VP8 video and FLAC audio! The possibilities are endless, and it really depends on what you'll be editing/viewing it on.
  • somesink: This is the final destination of the file. Since you'll primarily be performing conversion from one file on disk to another file on disk, you'll almost always use filesink location=C:/.... here, mirroring the filesrc location=.... at the beginning of the pipeline.

Gstreamer is much simpler to learn and master than writing C code or anything that complex, but it provides a powerful framework for power users to handle audio and video streams in extremely flexible ways.

Xmedia Recode

General

  • Freeware
  • Easy to use
  • Portable version available (11 MB small)
  • Uses ffmpeg (among others)
  • Windows only

    enter image description here

Functions

  • Video / Audio Conversion: XMedia recode can convert almost all known audio and video formats

    3GP, 3GPP, 3GPP2, AAC, AC3, AMR, ASF, AVI, AVISynth, DVD, FLAC, FLV,H.261, H.263, H.264, M4A, M1V, M2V, M4V, MKV, MMF, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, TS, TRP, MP2, MP3, MP4, MP4V, MOV,QT, OGG, PSP,RM, (S)VCD, SWF, VOB, WAV, WebA, WebM, WMA and WMV.

  • Convert Blu-ray / DVD

  • Nvidia CUDA: Supported Nvidia NVENC H.264, Supported Nvidia NVENC HEVC / H.265 Nvidia GPU driver 347.09 or higher
  • Convert for countless devices: Select a predefined profile (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android-Tablets, Sony PSP, Amazon Kindle, Smartphones Blackberry, Wii und DS, Cowon, Palm, Android, HTC, Xbox360, Nokia, iRiver)
  • Creating chapters: You can automatically create chapters. Chapter from DVD / Blu-ray is taken over automatically
  • Importing Subtitle: You can add up to 32 subtitle tracks
  • Direct Stream Copy: Copies the audio stream or video stream into the target format
  • Edit Video: Color correction, Cropping, Denoise, Delogo, Deblocking, De-interlacing, Flip Image, Start Time, End Time, Resolution, Rotate Image, Sepia, Sharpness, Padding, Video fade in / fade out
  • Audio extraction: Extracts audio tracks from DVD, Blu-ray and video files
  • ID3 Tag: Edit ID3 Tag, Adding album covers
  • Batch processing

A command line utility called mencoder, part of the mplayer suite, can do this: it can convert any format (audio, video or both, and even subtitles) that the mplayer utility itself can play, into many other formats. It's relatively easy to use (basically: you sort out the options you need only once, then just throw input at always-the-same command line) and, as it's designed for conversion only, does just that job but does it well.

Try Total Video Converter, though it's called Video converter it can most well be used to convert audio files.

Feature Set:

  • Free
  • Supported Audio formats, mp3, ac3, ogg, wav, aac
  • Supported Video formats, mp4, 3gp, xvid, divx mpeg4 avi, amr audio
  • Video to Audio
  • CD Riping
  • CD Burning

And So much more

  • 4
    This does not appear to be "Free" on the website you linked to? The standard Windows version is advertised as $29.96? – MrWhite Jan 16 '15 at 20:38

Online-Convert does this. Just upload your video, then download it again. This is platform agnostic and has worked very well for me, although it does take a while to upload the videos.

protected by Community Sep 2 '15 at 4:51

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