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What is an M3U file? How to open one?

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  • 3 min read

MP3 and MP4 are the media file formats most of us are familiar with, but there are many other media formats out there, and a lot of them are rather uncommon to general consumers.

One such file format is the M3U. Unlike the usual MP3, MKV or MP4 files that we see, an M3U file might seem confusing to everyday consumers. 

In this article, we’re going what an M3U file is and how you can play or open one.

Also read: 7 best offline music apps for Android

What is an M3U file?

M3u stands for MP3 URL or Moving Picture Experts Group Audio Layer 3 Uniform Resource Locator. It’s basically a container file that includes text-based files pointing back to the pathnames or locations of particular media files or folders in layman terms.

An M3U file doesn’t exactly contain media. It simply contains references to the actual media. In most cases, this is going to be a playlist. They may contain text playlists that are actually references to a local playlist or link to the audio content in question. 

The format was originally created for the WinAmp application, but pretty much every MP3 player can process it now. Note that M3u files aren’t exclusive to audio either. They can also contain references to video files. 

Also read: How to set up a group session on Spotify?

How to play an M3U file?

Aforementioned, pretty much every MP3 player these days can open an M3U file. Here are some of the most popular options.

  • VLC Media Player
  • WinAmp
  • Groove Music
  • Microsoft Media Player
  • Songbird
  • RealTrimmer
  • Media Monkey
  • iTunes
  • Clementine
  • Media Player Classic

For the purpose of this article, we’ll be using the VLC media player. 

Playing an M3u file using VLC

Follow these steps to run an M3u file with VLC.

Step 1: Download your M3U file and open it with a text editor such as Notepad or Wordpad. Once open, copy the media URL inside the file.

Step 2: Open VLC. and click on Media, followed by Open Network Stream.

What is an M3U file? How to open one? | Candid.Technology

Step 3: Select Network and paste the URL we copied in the first step.

What is an M3U file? How to open one? | Candid.Technology

Step 4: Click Play and you’re good to go. 

What is an M3U file? How to open one? | Candid.Technology

How to convert an M3U file?

Since an M3U file contains only text, you can convert it to another text format such as .txt or .html using a regular text editor such as Notepad or Wordpad.

However, since there’s no actual media in the file, it’s impossible to convert it to a playable media format such as MP3 or MP4.

Also read: How to rotate, flip and transpose a video in VLC media player?

Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah is a Computer Science graduate who writes/edits/shoots/codes all things cybersecurity, gaming, and tech hardware. When he's not, he streams himself racing virtual cars. He's been writing and reporting on tech and cybersecurity with websites like Candid.Technology and MakeUseOf since 2018. You can contact him here: