VLC Won't Play a WMV File on My Mac

By David Weedmark

For many Mac users, the VLC Player is the first choice for playing Windows Media Video, or WMV, files. If your VLC Player is unable to open a WMV file, or plays it with video or sound problems, first verify that your VLC Player has been updated and read the error notification to see if the problem can be addressed quickly. If the problem persists, use another media player or convert the file to another format.


If you have not updated your VLC player in a while, the version you are using may be outdated. Check for updates by launching VLC, then clicking "Check for Updates" from the VLC menu at the top of the screen. If your version is out of date, VLC displays the current version and provides details about what has been updated. The update window includes a "Download Now" button so you can install the new version immediately, then try playing the WMV file again.

Error Notifications

An Error Notification window opens when you attempt to open a video in VLC that can't be opened, or one that opens with sound or video problems. Read the explanation of the problem. In some cases, this may direct you to a codec that you need to install, or give you an explanation why this video is not supported by VLC. Codecs determine how a video is compressed to save the file and decompressed to play it. If a link to a new codec is provided, click it and follow the onscreen instructions. If no solution is offered, copy the link at the bottom of the window to report a bug.


In some cases the WMV file may not be playable at all. The file may be corrupted or be a different file format with a ".wmv" extension added to it. This may be the case if you have received the file from an unknown source, such as a file-sharing website. There are a few other free media players available for OS X to play WMV files, including Flip4Mac, available from telestream.net. Flip4Mac integrates with QuickTime Player. If neither VLC nor Flip4Mac can open the file, it may not be playable at all.

Conversion Options

Because playing WMV files on a Mac may be problematic, you can use a free utility program like HandBrake to convert it to an MP4 or other video format, which can then be played in QuickTime or iTunes. Download HandBrake for free at handbrake.fr. There are also free online utilities, such as online-convert.com and convertfiles.com, that allow you to convert WMV files to MP4s without installing additional software on your computer.