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What is an M3U File? What is it for and how to open one

June 27, 2022

Most of us have probably already replaced their collection of CDs, cassettes and vinyl records with one of the digital music playback formats, with all the advantages that this change brings. Putting aside the old discussions about the quality and feel of listening to music in one format or another, the truth is that digital formats are much more comfortable and they always will be.

One of the greatest advantages of listening to music in digital format, be it Mp3, WAV, FLAC or any other, is the possibility of creating playlists that allow us to create all kinds of compilations, mixing artists, genres, vintages or songs at our taste. In this article, we will learn a little more about what is an m3u file and what benefits can we get from playlists.

You can also read: How to Open a BIZ File

Index of contents

  1. What is an m3u file?
  2. What is the M3U for?
  3. Advantages and disadvantages
  4. How to open an M3U file?
    1. Step 1: Restore Winamp
    2. Step 2: Make sure you have the latest version of Winamp installed.
    3. Step 3: Link the playlist files to Winamp
    4. Step 4: Make sure the M3U is not damaged.
  5. How can I convert an M3U file?

What is an m3u file?

M3U playlist files were originally created for the legendary winamp, but they soon spread to other players as they had a number of advantages. Basically an M3U file, which is short for “MPEG Version 3.0 URL”, is a plain text format that contains information about the location of a particular music file.

This allows players that support the M3U format, such as Windows Media Player, iTunes, and VLC, to download the file and play its content from the location specified in the file.

In those M3U files we can include tracks from different sources added by us or automatically by the player itself, which means we can create all kinds of compilations without having to duplicate tracks or create new albums.

What is the M3U for?

An M3U file is a great tool for all users who have a large music collection, since we can create compilation albums or compilations that contain the best songs of our favorite artist, the best songs of the decade, or the best songs of a specific music style. In fact, the possibilities of the M3U format are endlessonly limited by your imagination and your taste.

Another advantage of the M3U format is that it allows us to create all these compilations without having to duplicate the songs, cluttering up our collection, and without having to take up a lot of disk space. The best thing is that creating a playlist is very easy. The first way is with our usual player. You’ll probably find an option to “Create a playlist” or something similar.

In any case, we first need to list all the songs we want to put on the playlist. Next, we highlight them all and right-click or use the menu option to click on the corresponding item. Next, a playlist is created that you can access whenever you want to listen to the music it contains.

Advantages and disadvantages

The main advantage of M3U files is that they create a playlist that you can access at any time. Being very light files, they are easy to share or exchange between different devices so that you can play the content on other devices or your contacts can also access them easily.

This is especially interesting when playing onlineespecially live. For example, if we want to watch a television channel from another country, we can save the corresponding URL in our browser’s bookmarks.

If we want to watch this TV channel from another computer and the bookmarks are not in sync, we don’t know what the URL is. With an M3U file we simply open it and play the desired channel in the player, or open the content with a text editor and copy the URL directly.

What is the biggest advantage is also a disadvantage. The convenience of having a specific list of desired content means that you cannot change the actual location of this content without editing the M3U file, otherwise the files will not play. The same goes for online content: any URL change requires a list change.

How to open an M3U file?

There could be many reasons for problems opening M3U files on your system. Please note that all problems with file types having an M3U extension can be solved by the users themselves.

The procedure is quick and does not require the intervention of a computer expert. We have put together a list of tips to help you resolve problems with M3U files.

Step 1: Restore Winamp

If you’re having trouble opening and maintaining M3U files, it probably means your computer doesn’t have the necessary software to support them. The obvious solution is to download and install winamp or one of the suggested programs: iTunes, RealPlayer, Windows Media Player.

At the top of the page you will find a list of all programs grouped by supported operating systems. If you want to download the Winamp installer in the safest way possible, we recommend that you go to the website of radionomy and download it from the official repositories.

Step 2: Make sure you have the latest version of Winamp installed.

Still unable to open M3U files with Winamp installed on your system? Make sure your software is up to date. Sometimes software developers introduce new formats instead of those already supported by new versions of their applications.

If you have an older version of Winamp installed, the M3U format may not be supported. The latest version of Winamp should support all file formats supported by previous versions of the software.

Step 3: Link the playlist files to Winamp

If you have installed the latest version of Winamp and the problem persists, select Winamp as the default M3U control program on your device. The process of assigning file formats to the default application may differ in detail depending on the platform, but the basic procedure is very similar.

Change the default application in Windows

  • Right click on the M3U file and select open with.
  • Tap Choose another app, and then choose Other apps.
  • Finally, select Look for another app on this computerpoint to the folder where Winamp is installed, check Always use this app to open M3U files and confirm your choice by clicking OK.

Change the default application in Mac OS

  • In the drop-down menu that appears when you click on a file with an M3U extension, select Information.
  • Go to “Open with”. when it closes, click on the header to display the available options.
  • Select the right software and save the settings by clicking Edit All.
  • Finally, you should see the message This change applies to all files with the M3U extension. Click Next to confirm your choice.

Step 4: Make sure the M3U is not damaged.

If you have followed the instructions in the previous steps but the problem persists, you should check the affected M3U file. If the file is inaccessible, there could be several reasons for it.

1. Check the M3U file for viruses or malware.

If the M3U is indeed infected, it is possible that the malware is blocking the program from opening. It is recommended to check the system for viruses or malware as soon as possible or use antivirus software on the Internet. If the scanner detects that the M3U file is dangerous, follow the instructions of the antivirus software to neutralize the threat.

2. Check if the file is damaged or invalid.

Did you get this M3U file from someone else? Ask them to resend it to you. The file may not have been copied correctly in the data warehouse, which is incomplete and therefore cannot be opened. If the M3U file was only partially downloaded from the Internet, try downloading it again.

3. Check that you have the correct permissions.

Some files require high access rights to be opened. Log out of your current account and log into an account with sufficient permissions. Then open the file in media playlist format.

4. Check that your system has enough resources to run Winamp.

On some operating systems there may be enough free resources to run an application containing M3U files. Close all running programs and try to open the M3U file.

5. Make sure your operating system and drivers are up to date.

Updating your system and drivers will not only make your computer more secure, but also may help with Media Playlist Format file problems. Outdated drivers or software may cause the device needed to support M3U files to fail.

How can I convert an M3U file?

As you have seen in the previous section, an M3U file is just a text file. This means that it cannot be edited or converted to MP3, MP4 or any other readable format. The only thing you can do with an M3U file is convert it to another playlist format.

You can convert M3U to M3U8, XSPF or HTML using VLC opening the M3U file in the software and then using Media>Save Playlist in File…. to select the format in which it should be saved.

Convert M3U to PLS with the free app Playlist Creator. It can be downloaded as a portable installer. You can also convert the M3U file to text if you just want to open the file with a text editor to see what files it refers to. Open the M3U file in the above text editor and save it in TXT, HTML or other text format. Another option is to rename the extension to .TXT and then open it in a text editor.

Technically, this is not converting the M3U file, but if you want to collect all the audio files referenced in the M3U file and copy them to one folder, you can use the M3UExportTool. Once you have collected the files, you can convert them to the format you want with a free file converter, for example, MP3 to WAV, MP4 to AVI, etc.

You can also read: How to Open a VCF File